Here is a photo diary of our first venture into the southern hemisphere: New Zealand! Even though the trip was intended for work, I managed to get a glimpse of what the country has to offer and none of us came back disappointed.
Day 1: Auckland city tour
I started off by getting on the hop-on hop-off bus which covers all the tourist spots in the city. First stop was the Parnell Rose Gardens. Beautiful roses in all colors!
Given my time constraints (I was in Auckland for a conference, so time for sightseeing was limited) I just saw the next two stops from the bus. The Auckland Museum and the Holy Trinity Cathedral:
Next stop was the Parnell Village. This area has several art galleries, fancy chocolate stores and restaurants. My first bite in NZ was this Eggs Benedict, which honestly was just mediocre. Next I was off to the Sky Tower! This was the best part of Auckland. Amazing 360 degree view of the city from 220 meters (720 feet) above the ground!
The observation deck has 1.5 inches thick glass even on some parts of the floor, giving a view straight down to the ground. You see those crazy folks in orange suits? They were doing the SkyWalk, which is a walk all around the edge of the Sky Tower. This looked so cool that I HAD to try it out! Unfortunately there were no spots available for a SkyWalk that day, but I did manage to sign up for a SkyJump instead. That is exactly what it sounds like: a controlled free fall from the same level where you see the folks doing their SkyWalk (192m or 630 feet). In other words, 11 seconds of adrenaline-filled joy! 😀
Here is a view of the tower after I landed:
That was the perfect way to end day 1.
Day 2: A trip to Waiheke island
A 45 mins ferry ride from Auckland brought us to the real beauty of New Zealand, Waiheke island. Lush green fields and clear blue waters in the view!We hiked up to Mudbrick vineyard for lunch:
Of course we had wine! But we also tried some of their local champagne, which was delicious. The food was just as delicious! This vineyard is a must-visit for everyone!
The rest of day 2 and all of days 3 and 4 were spent at the University of Auckland attending the conference. The conference had arranged a fancy dinner by the bay at Okahu restaurant on day 4:
Sightseeing resumed for one final day on day 5, which was undoUbtedly the best day of the trip!
Day 5: Waitomo caves and Hobbiton tour
We rented a car and drove down south to Waitomo caves (2.5 hours from Auckland). Although there were three caves here, we only had time to see one. We picked the most popular one: the Waitomo Glowworm caves. These caves are thousands of years old, with gorgeous stalactites and stalagmites inside!
The most spectacular thing about these caves are the thousands of glowworms that live in them! A boat ride through the pitch dark parts of these caves gave us a breathtaking view of the glowworms, shining like stars in the sky!
A happy bunch of friends:
Next stop was Hobbiton. Even though I’m not a big LOTR and Hobbit fan, I thoroughly enjoyed this tour!
That was the end of Day 5 for us. The next day we had a delicious Italian meal at La Bocca restaurant in Parnell Village before heading off to the airport. This amazing chocolate cake and coffee combination was the best way to bid adieu to New Zealand!
For anyone visiting New Zealand: I would suggest not to spend more than 2 days in Auckland. Be sure to take a ferry to Waiheke island and drive off to see the Waitomo caves and Hobbiton. If you get a chance also visit Rotorua, which is a place not too far from the Waitomo caves famous for fun activities like sky diving!