After more than three weeks in New Zealand, Mr. GeoK was fairly comfortable driving on the “wrong” side of the road – or so he thought! As we approached the outskirts of Auckland via State Highway 1 (SH1) mid-afternoon on a Wednesday, traffic volumes picked up significantly. Tackling one lane bridges and roundabouts in New Zealand’s small towns and countryside was one thing, but dealing with multiple lanes of merging traffic from the “wrong” side of the road turned out to be a little stressful. We were all happy to surrender the keys to our rental car at the Auckland Airport and then catch a shuttle to Viaduct Basin on the harbourfront, where we settled into our hotel for our last night New Zealand.
In the early evening we ventured out to explore the waterfront on foot. Visual highlights included:
- an impressive array of yachts moored along the basin, including the Emirates Team New Zealand America’s Cup entry;
- The Cloud on Queens Wharf;
- the original Ferry Terminal Building, completed in 1912; and
- the pedestrian walkway along the waterfront, which passed several busy restaurants with outdoor patios, the Voyager New Zealand Maritime Museum, a couple of small parks and some interesting sculptures.
We eventually reached Queen Street, the major commercial thoroughfare in Auckland’s CBD. Since we were getting pretty hungry by that time, we were content to window shop as we made our way up the hill to Durham Street West, where we quickly found our dining destination: KUSHI Japanese Kitchen & Bar. Very reasonably priced, with excellent sushi, sashimi and teriyaki, this was one of our boys’ favourite meals on the entire trip…so much so that we returned for lunch the next day!
We were intrigued by the little brochure at our table describing the Japanese Drum Performance every Friday night at 7:30 and lasting for just 4 minutes 20 seconds. I tried to find a video of the weekly event somewhere on the interwebz, without success. If you know of a link, please share by leaving a comment.
It was growing dark by the time we walked back to our hotel, so we returned to our hotel via the same pedestrian walkway, stopping several times to compose twilight photographs (just click on any photograph to view a larger version).
Back at our hotel, we took full advantage of the sliding glass doors opening onto a micro-balcony to do a bit of night photography.
Thursday morning, after carefully packing all the things that you can’t take through airport security into our soon-to-be checked bags and turning all our luggage into the care of the hotel for the day, we again set out on foot.
Along Queen Street we did a little souvenir shopping and then we headed to Albert Park for some photography and to search out a couple of geocaches.
Our overall impressions of the central business district of Auckland? It seemed pretty easy to find green spaces and the waterfront walkways allow easy viewing of open sky, something not always possible in the heart of a city with > 1 million people. We found the area to be quite pedestrian-friendly. Yes, there are lots of souvenir shops, but it was also relatively easy to find a good-sized grocery store. Auckland struck us as a “high energy” city, particularly vibrant around the post-secondary institutions a short distance up from the waterfront.
Most important to K, we found a Movenpick ice cream shop just across from the Ferry Terminal Building. Since we haven’t been able to find Movenpick ice cream anywhere it Canada, he was happy to indulge in one last scoop, bringing our fantabulous 25-day New Zealand vacation to a most enjoyable close.