Four seasons in Auckland

This is a journal of my time in Auckland, from April 2002 to April 2003, visiting on a one-year working visa. It's my aim to "do" all of Auckland, and see the rest of New Zealand during time off work, in the year.

Four seasons in Auckland

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Janeight on October 2, 2002

So many things, so little space! Hiking up Rangitoto and crawling through the lava caves, and numerous walks up the Mounts (including One Tree Hill) to get magnificent views of Auckland, horse riding along Pakiri beach, go-karting, getting cultural at Auckland museum, shopping, shopping, and more shopping, nights out at the harbour and karaoke bars, meeting great people in hostels, America's Cup, seeing the All Blacks at Eden Park, Waiheke Island, New Zealand's only theme park, meeting lots of animals, and tons more! Phew!${QuickSuggestions} Auckland City has various special offers on activities in and around Auckland - for instance, the SuperSaver ticket lets you into Rainbow's End, Kelly Tarltons, Sky Tower and get a ferry across to Rangitoto for $60, and you can buy it at any of those four attractions. Plus, you also get a free visit back to the one you enjoyed most! Bargain! ${BestWay} Just about any way you fancy, although, if you're not a lover of hills, I wouldn't suggest bicycle, as there are lots of hills and old volcanoes (now refered to as "mounts") about. Using a car is fine, and there are plenty of car hire firms around that vie for your custom with offers from $30 per day (although you do generally need to hire the car for a minimum amount of days - usually about 3 weeks to get this deal). Otherwise, taxis arene't extortionate if you're feeling like splasing out, or the bus is always a good option - there are quite a few "multi-stop" bus passes you can get, and a trip to the Tourist Information office will sort you out with timetables and street maps.

Ardmore Flying School

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Janeight on October 13, 2002

I got to Ardmore Flying School not quite sure what to expect - all I knew was that I'd booked an Introductory Flying Lesson, and I honestly had no idea what that involved (apart from the obvious!).

A group of us went together, and we got there and met Elisse, one of the pilots. She took me out to the plane - a two seater Cessner - and the lesson began. First of all, I helped with the in-depth pre-flight checks, including checking fuel, wings, etc., and then we climbed into the plane. More pre-flight checks followed, and Elisse was very thorough and explained to me exactly what we were doing and why the whole time. Then, we started the engine and the exciting part began!

I got to taxi down the runway, which was really good fun! Then, Elisse took over while we took off, but got me to put my hands and feet on the controls, so that I could feel what she was doing. Once we'd got to a reasonable height, Elisse explained about the controls, banking, etc., and then I took over the controls to carry on the ascending. The whole time (apart from concentrating madly) I kept thinking how weird it was knowing I was in control of the plane!

We flew around, and Elisse told me some information about the local area, as well as more flying facts. Then, she showed me what it was like to be in a plane with engine failure - by cutting the power! To my amazement, we glided for ages, which would have given us plenty of time to look for an empty field to land in if necessary. After flying around for a while longer, we headed back to the airfield, where we flew around patiently waiting for a space to land. Once on the ground, I took the controls again to taxi back to the base, then after a few post-flight checks, it was all over.

It was an amazing hour, one which I would happily do again, and it was definately $45 well spent!

Ardmore Flying School
Ardmore Airfield, Papakura
Auckland, New Zealand

Rainbows End

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by Janeight on October 13, 2002

Rainbows End is the biggest theme park in New Zealand. But having said that, don't go there expecting huge sizes - Disneyland it isn't!! What you will find is a fair-sized, clean theme park with mostly average rides, and a couple of really good ones.

The rollercoaster is quite long, with a couple of good corkscrew turns in it, and the pirate ship is just as you would expect it. Other rides include mini golf, dodgems, go-karts, log flume, bumper boats, gold rush train, and the two big rides there - Fear Fall (you are sat on a bench, hoisted up 600 feet, and then dropped to the floor very quickly!), which is a really good ride, and not as scary as it sounds - also, when you're at the top, you have excellent views of Manukau for the couple of seconds before you fall!!

And also the Motion Master - basically a big simulator of a spaceship, which was really good fun and very well done. There are plenty of places to buy food, but if you want to take your own, leave it in the car and get your hand stamped so that you can go out to the car park and get back in again - much easier than carrying it with you all day.

Rainbow's End
Corner Great South and Wiri Station Roads
Auckland, New Zealand, 1702
+64 (0)9 262 2030

Rangitoto Island

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Janeight on October 13, 2002

To get to Rangitoto, there are a couple of ways - some places do kayaking tours, or you could charter a boat to go across, or you could do what I did (probably the most popular and easiest way) - catch the Fullers Ferry across. It leaves from the ferry building at Downtown, and costs $20 per person, or you can pay $49 to include a train ride on the Island, to get you up the majority of the big hill. But, if you're energetic enough, walking is far better, as there are some spectacular views on the path up. There are a couple of things you need to take with you - water, obvious, I know, but it does get incredibly hot on the island very quickly. Also, food - there is nowhere at all to buy anything on the Island, camera (you'll be pig-sick if you don't get any photos) and a torch, if you want to explore the lava caves. The walk varies the whole time, which makes it fairly easy, as there are lots of places which allow you to catch your breath! It is well sign posted there, and you get a map when you buy your ferry tickets at the ferry building in Auckland. We did the two main walks - to the lava caves and the summit, which are both well worth it, and to do these we caught the 11am ferry out and the 2pm ferry back, which gave us plenty of time. The lava caves are interesting, and you can crawl in one side and out the other, and the summit gives wonderful views of Auckland and the surrounding areas, and also of the Hauraki Gulf.
Rangitoto Island
Hauraki Gulf
Auckland, New Zealand, 1020
+64 (0)9 979 2333

Auckland Zoo

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by Janeight on October 8, 2002

Auckland Zoo is a good size, with a wide range of animals to see. It opens 9:30am - 5:30pm all through the year, but closes at 5:00pm during the winter months. There are plenty of opportunities to see animals and birds being fed, and there is a set time table for this - the first feed is at 9:45 am, so it's best to check the table as soon as you get there, so you don't miss out.

The animals are divided into sections - you can go to the Penguin Shore, which involves going into a tunnel to view the penguins swimming around, and to the Pridelands, where you can see giraffes, lions, ostrich, white rhino, and zebras. Hippo River is good, and we saw them wallowing in their mud pools. There is also a Rainforest area, where you can see masses of monkeys, and a tarantula for the braver people!

The best part for me was going to the Kiwi and Tuatara House, where they keep the two endangered native species of New Zealand. It's dark and quiet there - just how the creatures like it! And, I spent ages watching the kiwis snuffling around the ground - very cute! And, as with all zoos, there is the inevitable souvenier shop (at least get a postcard picture of a kiwi, as you can't take them in the house), and a cafe, which sells good food, and is pretty reasonable, too.

Auckland Zoo
99 Motions Road
Auckland, New Zealand, 1022
+64 (0)9 360 3800

Kelly Tarltons

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by Janeight on October 8, 2002

Kelly Tarltons isn't big, but there is a lot there. Be prepared for long queues to get in, though, and lots of children, especially if it's the weekend or school holidays, and don't think "we'll go there today, as it's wet and cold", as everyone else in Auckland thinks that too!!

The first exhibition is part of the Antarctica display, which is an exact replica of Captain Scott's hut in 1911, which he and his team used during their doomed attempt to be the first to reach the South Pole. Everything is very carefully laid out, with the sights, sounds, and smells that Scott and his crew would have experienced.

In contrast, there is also a display on the Scott Base 2000, which highlights the many, many differences and progressions which have been made in exploring over the years.

Then, it's onto the Antarctic landscape, which is where the penguins are. You take a ride in a Snow Cat, and drive around the edge of the penguin's area. There are times that you can see them being fed, but that is more luck than judgement, and, we were lucky enough to see a baby one!

Once you climb out of the Snow Cat, you move onto the Underwater World, which is a big tunnel with a moving walkway, so you can stand and be carried around the viewing point as you look around you, and over you, to see the many types of marine life that is in there, such as stingrays (I never realized how big they grew to!!), moray eels, and even sharks! There are also smaller displays of reef life, fresh water life, and other types as well, displayed in tanks of varying sizes, all with information panels about what you are seeing.

At the end, by the souvenier shop, there is the "Changing Room", which is a discovery center aimed at children, but we enjoyed it just as much!! There is a shallow tank with hermit crabs and starfish in that you can pick up and touch (but follow the directions on the wall very carefully, so you don't harm them), and other hands-on displays you can play with.

Kelly Tarlton's Antarctic Encounter & Underwater World
23 Tamaki Drive
Auckland, New Zealand, 1005
+64 (0)9 528 0603

Auckland Maritime Museum

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by Janeight on October 20, 2002

Auckland Maritime Museum isn't the most exciting of museums, but is definately worth a visit if you have a spare couple of hours - it's relatively cheap to get in, and gives a good insight into a very important part of Auckland's history. One advantage that the Museum does have, is that the exhibits are both indoors and out, and the outdoor ones are on water and dry land! This makes a nice change, and encourages people to visit even when the weather is nice, as you're not "indoors looking out" the whole time. There is a vast range of exhibitions, displaying maritime equipment, original drawings and documents, models, paintings and photos, artifacts recovered from wrecks, and either actual vessels or replicas.

The main and most interesting exhibits include the Polynesian and Maori vessels - there are drawings to demonstrate how and what they were used for, as well as replicas of the vessels themselves - this gives great insight into a traditional way of sailing for both recreation and for survival.

Also, there is quite a large Settlers and Immigrants exhibition, which is interactive - you first go through a display of the type of cabin accomodation the "Mr Average" and his family would have lived in for months to reach New Zealand, and then what the "Mr Wealth" and his family would have enjoyed to reach their destination - no prizes for guessing which I would have preferred to travel in!! In this particular exhibition, there are also some computers with databases of all known people who came across to New Zealand, and all the details that are known about them, and we had great fun looking up our family names to see if our ancestors had, at some point, made the crossing for a new life. There are also a couple of walk-through displays of various parts of ships - the Captains' Office was one that I liked, and there are also some vessels of various descriptions that you can walk on and around (gives ample opportunity for the typical camera-pose with the ships' steering wheel!).

These are just some of the more interesting exhibitions, others include Whaling and Sealing, Lifeboat Services, Voyages of Discovery and Commercial Shipping. And, don't forget the outdoor exhibits of ships and boats, and also the working Steam Crane which gives daily demonstrations. For times of cruises, demonstrations and some of the many special activities and events that happen there, the website is really good, with up-to-date information -

Auckland Maritime Museum
Quay Street
Auckland, New Zealand
+64 9 373 0800

Auckland City Museum

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Janeight on October 3, 2002

To go around the whole of the museum, you need a good couple of hours. To stand, and look, and learn about all the many different cultures represented in the museum, you need to plan to up your visiting time by a few more good hours!

The ground floor is basically the cultural exhibits, which are excellent for learning more about the islands around New Zealand, and about the inhabitants of this country - it made me feel quite ignorant when I realised how many islands there are, and how much the culture on each one differs - no two are the same, and a lot of people from these islands have made New Zealand their home. A huge part, naturally, is dedicated to the maoris, and you can see typical examples of war canoes and meeting houses - indeed, one of the meeting houses you can go inside, to admire the amazing carving and decorations, and throughout the exhibits there are detailed articles giving insight and understanding to their beliefs, customs, and ways of life.

Taking the stairs up to the next floor, is a huge Natural History exhibition, and the first thing you see is a sprawling display of stuffed animals. Now, stuffed animals have always given me the creeps, but I thought that I might at least get to see a kiwi this way!!

On this floor, there is also a wonderful marine life exhibition, with models of dolphins, whales and the like, complete with 'whale and dolphin tunes' playing in the background.

This floor also houses the environmental exhibition, whose aim it is to demonstrate the bad things happening to this world, and how we can prevent them. It is very interesting, detailing things from global warming, to saving the kiwi. There is also an extensive library which you can use for research.

And lastly, the top floor pays tribute to all those who lost their lives in the war. There is a beautiful stained glass window, and names of soldiers up on plaques. Also, there is an exhibition of the Concentration Camps and the torment the Jews went through in World War II. This is incredibly moving, with tape recordings of speeches from people who actually survived the camps.

And who can forget the coffee shop and gift shop - important aspects of a museum visit! The gift shop, while being a little bit on the expensive side, does have very good quality gifts and souvneirs - no tack here!!! - and some really interesting books about the country, both fact and fiction.

Auckland Museum (Tamaki Paenga Hira)
Auckland Domain
Parnell, Auckland, New Zealand

So you want to live in Auckland?

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Janeight on October 16, 2002

This entry isn't so much a travel diary, but more of a guide on getting started in Auckland, as it occured to me that some people reading this may be thinking of doing the same as me - using Auckland as a base to travel from. So, here's some of the things I found out about getting settled in Auckland.

First off, jobs. I know that on a Working Holiday Visa, you don't really want to think of work, but if you're like me, you'll need finances before seeing New Zealand. So, grab yourself a phone book, and start by introducing yourself to as many agencies as possible. Agencies are your best bet for work, as a lot of firms are reluctant in taking on people on visas, even if you say you'll be here for a year. If you want to try for a one year contract, The Herald comes out daily, and has a big employment section, but the best days for jobs are Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. When working, you also need an IRD number. You can download the forms from the Inland Revenue website here, fill them in, and fax them off (mark them "urgent" and they get through quicker!). You can work without an IRD number, but then you go onto emergency tax code (bad move!). If you do use an emergency code, you can try claiming back any excess you have paid before you leave.

Accomodation - there are loads of hostels to choose from, which are the cheapest option, and, while you're getting yourself sorted, it's often worth asking around for jobs at the hostels - you won't get cold, hard cash, but a lot of hostels do offer free accomodation in exchange for work, such as cleaning, reception, kitchen work, etc. So, if money's tight, at least you don't have to worry about paying rent for a while.

As far as permanent accomodation goes, it is often tough finding somewhere in Auckland. There are plenty of flat-shares and accomodations out there, but also loads of people looking. Again, The Herald has property sections everyday, although Saturday is the really big day for it - be prepared to get up early, though, as a lot of property goes straight away (sometimes even by 10am!).

Any equipment you need, household, camping, or other, can be found quite easily if you buy Trade and Exchange, which comes out on Thursdays and Saturdays (Thursdays are the best), or you could try Cash Convertors - there are a few stores, all listed in the phone book. Both places are also good for getting rid of stuff when it's time to go home.

If you need transportation, there's a couple of options - backpackers often sell their cars through notices in hostels, look out for those. Or, the Trade and Exchange has a motor section, but my preferred way was at a car fair - there's one at Ellerslie Racecourse every Sunday, and it has an AA van there who will do free checks on vehicles before you buy them. You don't legally require insurance for your vehicle here, although it is advised to as you are liable for any damages you cause - shop around, and take proof of no-claims with you to get the best deals.

Anyway, then, with all of that done, you are free to start a new life, and have a complete adventure - enjoy!!

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