As we often do when we visit a new city, today we took a hop-on hop-off bus tour. We boarded the Auckland Explorer at the SkyCity and Sky Tower stop, just around the corner (uphill, of course) from our studio. According to their flyer: “At 328m, the Sky Tower is the tallest man-made structure in New Zealand and offers breathtaking views for up to 80 kilometers in every direction. Travel up the glass-fronted lifts to one of the three spectacular viewing platforms, or for more thrills and excitement, SkyWalk around the pergola at 192 metres up or SkyJump off the Tower! SkyCity also hosts a casino, two hotels, and over 25 restaurants and cafes.”
The first stop, at which we did not offboard, was at the Ferry Building that we’ve already visited. According to the literature: “This structure serves as an active ferry terminal with ferries departing to Devonport and various Hauraki Gulf islands on a regular basis. The building itself is made of sandstone and brick. Directly across from the Ferry Building is the Britomart Transport Station and Queen Street, Auckland’s main street. Also across the road is the Downtown Mall, a small shopping mall including a large pharmacy and food court.”
The next stop was at Bastion Point Lookout and we did get off there. According to the literature: “Bastion Point offers fine views out over the Hauraki Gulf and Waitemata Harbour. A popular destination for kite fliers, Bastion Point lives up to its name and has the remains of WWII-era lookout bunkers and gun emplacements. Michael Joseph Savage Memorial Gardens, dedicated to the Labour Party legend and Prime Minister of 1930, are worth a visit. If you wish to visit Mission Bay Beach there is a path that will take you down the hill to Mission Bay.”
After visiting the Memorial Gardens, we walked down the steep path to Mission Bay (knowing that we would not have to walk back uphill but, rather, along the waterfront to re-catch the bus). Mission Bay is a lovely beach community with the usual retail and eating establishments. After checking menus as we walked along, we chose to eat at Portofino, an Italian restaurant with an excellent lunch menu featuring lots of seafood. I enjoyed a prawns and scallops salad while Bob relished his grilled calamari; I had a glass of white wine and he drank some pear cider (Bob has recently become very fond of hard ciders). Then we walked along the waterfront for about 30 minutes to catch up with our bus in front of its next stop, at the Kelly Tarltons Sea Life Aquarium.
The next stop was the Parnell Rose Gardens, at which we did not offboard because it was raining, but we did take some great pictures from the bus. Following that was a stop at Holy Trinity Cathedral at which we also did not stop. Then the bus stopped at the Auckland Museum, which we decided to visit another day when we had more time.
We did get off at the Parnell Village stop, to walk around a bit and get some coffee. Parnell is New Zealand’s oldest suburb and is famous for its galleries, cafes, restaurants, and boutique-style stores. We found a coffee shop, enjoyed some lattes, and walked around until it was time to catch the bus (which was the last one of the day).
The Explorer offers two routes. What we took today was the Red Circle; the other, called the Blue Circle, goes to seven other locations around the city—we will check that out on another, as yet undetermined, day. We offboarded the bus at SkyCity where we had boarded, so had only a short, slightly hilly walk home.
A little bit of dinner excitement: Bob decided to cook the beautiful lamb loin steaks that we had bought at the World Market the day before. Since there was no grill available (his default choice), he decided to pan braise it in olive oil, and to boil the asparagus we bought to go with it. All was going well and smelling really good when the smoke alarm went off! I was sure the sprinklers would go off also, but we opened the doors (entry and balcony) and turned on the stove fan soon enough to avoid what could have been a major problem. Then came a knock at the door and a man carrying a fire extinguisher came in—apparently the smoke alarm is wired to the building operations! Fortunately he was not needed, but I guess it was nice to know that there are emergency procedures in place here.
When the excitement died down, we enjoyed our lovely dinner with a bottle of Pedroncelli Mother Clone Zinfandel we’d brought from home—a great match and fine ending to a busy touristy day.