We planned an 8 day New Zealand crash course and landed midnight at the Auckland airport haggard, hungry, and a little dazed. Luckily, we happened to be staying at one of the most iconic and easily recognizable hotels within the entire city center-- the SkyCity Hotel. Take me to that tall spindly building please! This was the country we had dreamt about visiting well before our engagement, and the one we had chosen to visit for our honeymoon trip. Best decision ever.
The airport felt desolate and it seemed as if the passengers on our plane were the only ones there-- a bit of a "Silent Hill" creepy vibe at that time of night. We got checked in and sorted out with sleep as the only item on our itinerary. The next morning I surfed on Yelp to find a few walkable options for breakfast and settled upon Federal and Wolfe. Much to my delight, I discovered New Zealand eggs are of the vibrant yellow-orange variety which always reminds me of Japan. I feasted upon a hearty smoked Fish Kedgeree plate accompanied by a soul-satisfying cup of chai latte. At this point, our surroundings still felt quite familiar to home; big city life, work commuters going to and fro, keys pounding on laptops in cafes, and business conversations all around.
Another short walk took us to the ferry dock where we had pre-purchased tickets to Waiheke Island for $36 NZD roundtrip per person (via Explore Group). There are frequent departures and returns since so many people commute from the nearby islands to work in Auckland. A ferry commute is definitely up there on the totem pole... I'd take that over driving any day. The ferry itself was clean, spacious, and even equipped with USB ports in certain areas.
40-minutes later we docked at the Waiheke port and purchased our first flat-white drink. This is the infamous cup'o'joe served up in New Zealand. Essentially, perfectly steamed milk is poured over a shot of espresso. It's similar to a latte, but has slightly different proportions and tastes much creamier in my opinion. Our ziplining tour group, EcoZip Adventures spotted us in the terminal and we were whisked away into a van. We took a slightly windy and scenic drive up the island and stopped at the course; which was the highest altitude zip course on Waiheke. Ziplining is the perfect combination of heights, safety, small doses of adrenaline, and beautiful sights. It's relatively easy to find a course all over the world, so be on the lookout when planning your next trip. Post-zip, our guide took us on a nature walk through the native forest where we were taught about the tree varieties and quirks of the plants. I couldn't believe how many extraordinary plants there were in the lush landscape.
Another great perk of being on an island, is that it typically leads to an abundance of divine seafood. Oceanview Road is a great place to stop, wander, and get a meal on Waiheke Island. It wasn't long before we found ourselves perched on the upper deck of The Oyster Inn with a spread of oysters (paired with a chardonnay vinegar nonetheless) and beers in hand. The Inn is impeccably decorated with fresh farmhouse whites, and snappy yellows and blues. This place would certainly be on my radar if we had plans to stay overnight. Just across the street, we could see the wide expanse of the ocean.
There are several convenient paths with beach access, and we found one with several interesting carved wooden thrones. As you can see, I'm a sucker for these opportune photo set-ups. Once down on the sand, I was enthralled, no FLOORED by the amount of whole seashells on the ground. It was incredible and a such rare treat to see. Our next destination, Cove Bites and Brews was a few minutes walk back up the hill. We feasted upon a platter of house specialties including ribs, pulled pork, calamari, lamb meatballs, and pints of local beer. With all the food we had been eating, I was at thankful we had previously been walking to several of our destinations.
A convenient bus route ran regularly from Oceanview Road, so we hopped on and made our way back to the ferry station and back into Auckland. By this time, a spot of jet lag had set in, and a nap went underway. I woke up in a state of confusion and slight panic when I realized it was ten o'clock in the evening. My sights were set to dine at Elliot Stables, which is a food hall of sorts that offers high quality restaurant dishes all at one venue, but the kitchen was already closed down at that time. Luckily, renowned kiwi chef Al Brown's restaurant, the Depot was right next to our hotel and came highly recommended by our concierge. Our first day in Auckland ended over velvety bone marrow, delicious fare, and more beer of course. Not bad... not bad at all.
Up next: Queenstown and the Milford Sound