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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Jafaland

It's getting to be tourist season, so I thought I would post a few paragraphs on things to do in Auckland. [Note: I have not spent very long on this post, it is mostly a composite of a few emails exchanged with previous guests.] Auckland is not the greatest city in the world for tourists, and for many, it's probably a lot like visiting Los Angeles (and never leaving downtown). I find I like Auckland better the farther away I get from Queen Street.

1) I'll assume you've already done the stuff like walked around Queen Street and the Viaduct.

2) Explorer Bus $40 a day; I thought it ran for 14 hours, but it's only until around 4PM. It will probably stop at your hotel, or you can pick it up at the ferry building (across from the hotel). Feel free to make as many stops as you have time for. I'd highly recommend the following: Stop at the Auckland (War) Museum ($10 suggested donation). Walk across Auckland Domain (park) to the Winter Garden (or whatever it's called in German). Stop at Parnell Village (one of many Auckland suburbs, worth a walk around). From the satellite bus (which you pick up at the Auckland museum: Haven't been to Eden Gardens, but the description looks promising. Stop at Mt Eden (very good view of the city, and no walking required), You might enjoy a stop at MOTAT (museum of transportation and something--$14 eeeh...)

3) Auckland Discovery Pass. $15--good until 5AM the day after you buy it; You could do most of the Explorer Bus with this pass, but it would require a whole lot more planning. You can buy the pass at the Ferry building, on any bus, or probably a bunch of other places. (Buses are one of the few places that will need cash, but they do make change.) For starters, go to the I-site (information centre, they're all over NZ) in the Ferry building. Pick up a free "walking tour" guide for Devonport, then jump on the Ferry to Devonport, an old (and expensive) town on North Shore (which is the city across the bridge from Auckland). They leave about every half hour and run until midnight. The pass is good on the other North Shore ferries, but I don't know what there is to do once you're there (the ferries are for commuters who work in Auckland); the island ferries are more expensive, and not free with the pass. Walk around Devonport...the guide includes a trip up Mt. Victoria (more of a hill, really) for the best view of Auckland possible. Visit the free Navy Museum if you're not bored of Devonport yet. From the Devonport ferry station, you can take the 813 bus to Takapuna (which is the down town of North Shore), take a quick walk around, it's not very impressive. Catch one of the many Hibiscus Coast buses (looks like 893, 895, 898, 899 all stop there; about every 30 to 60 minutes). If it's been raining, it's a beautiful and green ride. We've been as far as Orewa Beach (about 50 minutes from Takapuna); this far north looks a lot like Hawaii. There's a very long beach with a hardened (dirt) path, and a few blocks of town (good place for a lunch break). There are several beaches farther up if you want to keep riding, but I haven't been to them. Probably a good idea to go back on the bus you came on (to get back to Takapuna), but anything going south will get you back to Auckland without more than one transfer (the bus driver will help you). From Takapuna, you can retrace your steps to the Devonport Ferry, or just catch a bus to Auckland CBD (central business district). I have not ridden any trains in Auckland (and some are currently under construction). They leave from the Britomart, which is almost across the street from the Ferry Building. Most of the Auckland buses also stop here. If you want to get somewhere from downtown, this is where to catch the bus. Another nice [and very short ride] is out to Mission Bay. This leaves from the Britomart (stop 7010 D3) every 15 minutes (buses 745, 756, 757, 769). The route is along the water, and Mission Bay is a nice place for a meal.

4) If you still have a day to kill, consider one of Auckland's many islands. They all require ferries to get to (circa $30 return trip), and the bigger ones require some form of land transport. Waiheke, well known for its wineries, is best seen by bicycle, but it does have a real bus service at around $8 per person. Don't forget Rangitoto Island, Auckland's newest volcano. You can walk to the top (takes about an hour), or there's a tram (pulled by a 4WD tractor) that will take you mostly to the top--there are a couple of hundred new stairs (with handrails) to get to the summit from the tram stop. Highly recommended for the best view of Auckland possible. The ferry is in the neighborhood of $25 round trip...I think around $45 with the tractor.

5) There's a lot more to see, but probably prohibitively expensive if you don't have a car. People will ask if you saw the glow worms. There are tour companies that will take you there from Auckland, but you're probably looking at $200 per person. Consider renting a car...

6) Nightlife: There's not a whole lot in NZ. Aside from drinking and gambling (Sky City Casino--by the sky tower), how about catching a show at the Classic Comedy Club. I think they're closed on Tuesday. $5 to $10 for most shows...don't sit in the front unless you want to get heckled.

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