With so many Kiwi friends and acquaintances in the UK I was half expecting to find Auckland empty, with a sign at the airport reading “Gone to London – Back soon”. But I can report that Auckland is definitely buzzing and full of people going about their business. Flying in, I had my nose pressed to the window to catch my first glimpses of the country…and what I saw was a huge beach with breaking rollers, and then a massive bay with numerous inlets and countless little pleasure boats and dinghies whose owners were enjoying a sunny Saturday morning. This, I gathered later was “West Auckland”.
The city sprawls (in a good way) across the isthmus that separates the Tasman Sea from the South Pacific Ocean. From above, houses are nestled amongst the pleasant mix of green hills and blue water; and it looks idyllic.
Our Airbnb was in the suburb of Grey Lynn. The guest area was the downstairs of a 100 year old wooden house, with a deck overlooking a sloping garden full of fruit and vegetables that we could only dream of growing in England, such as avocados and cherimoya.
Our hosts, Don and Christine, are the type of people that makes Airbnb the game-changer for the travel industry that it has become; friendly, helpful, and interesting. One morning Don popped down with a ripe avocado for our breakfast, fresh from the garden. He then proceeded to make us coffee from the big old espresso machine that he bought second hand hand has been refurbishing. Absolutely lovely people.
So, on to Auckland itself. As mentioned, its position couldn’t be nicer. Nestled between the green hills (cones of extinct volcanoes), and surrounded by water in every direction. The Asian / European mix of its people makes it feel cosmopolitan. In the suburbs people passing in the streets nod and say hello. There are buzzing bars and restaurants down by the waters edge, and trendy Shoreditch-like areas such as Ponsenby where you can buy craft beers at extortionate prices.
From talking with Don and Christine we discovered that there are many many day’s-worth of things to see in the area. We picked a day trip to Waiheke Island, a 40 minute ferry ride away, drawn by the prospect of wine-tasting visits to the many vineyards on the island.
As a mark of the friendliness of people here, a 15 minute chat with a woman on the ferry resulted in her offering us a lift up to the top of the hill to a vinyard so that we would only need to walk back later.
Back in the city, we picked up our rental car for the next 10 days of our stay in North Island, and drove up to Mount Eden, for spectacular views of the city.