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Aukland, New Zealand

We left Rotorua bright and early to take the "scenic" route to Aukland. Cher spent her sick day researching things we should see along the way and came across a description of a little town, Katikati, that was renowned for its murals. It sounded good with lots of little shops and very near the coast. Our experience in traveling is it is best to get off the freeway and explore, hoping for a wonderful discovery that would be the best story on the return home. Katikati ended up being a podunk little town that was trying to attract tourists with murals that, even if you were generous, would not be considered art. Even the lunch places looked sad. We spotted a wine store (always a good sign), Finer Wines, and stopped in to buy some wine for our Aukland stay and to get recommendations for lunch.

The wine store was a dark little place, packed to the rafters with very high end wine. This was a surprise as the town didn't look like the type to support an expensive wine business. Beer, yes.....wine, no! The owner, Jim Bartee, was at the counter and he turned out to be an ex-pat American. He was charming, recommending not only wine to buy, but also a restaurant about 10 miles up the road for lunch. The restaurant, Flatwhite, was on the coast at Waihi Beach. This is a stunning beachfront restaurant with a gorgeous dining room, AMAZING views, and great food.


We arrived in Aukland in the early afternoon. It was fortunate that Chris was more comfortable driving on the left as getting to our Airbnb was a bit daunting. Our directions were good. The problem was that there was considerable road construction and building going on in the Wynyard Quarter, our destination. To compound the traffic, the schools and universities were just back in session. After encountering too many one ways and dead ends, we pulled over in a construction area and called Lynley, our host, to come rescue us. We were very near the building, we just couldn't get there!

The flat we rented was just spectacular. It was a new building on the top floor with a view of the space needle.

One bedroom suite was on one side of the living area,, the other on the other side. The best part was a large deck with a spacious dining table. We had perfect weather so we had breakfast and dinner on the deck and lunch out on the town. The Wynyard Quarter has many restaurants within easy walking distance. The central business district and the ferry terminal were just around the corner.


We had only three days in Aukland so we had to be focused in our touring. In retrospect, we should have allowed more time there as there were some eco tours and birdwatching sites that I would have loved to visit. Our first day, we just walked around and soaked up the energy. The second day we decided to book a wine tour of Waiheke Island.

We booked the tour through Ananda Tours. They met us at the ferry and took us to three boutique vineyards. Our guide was a wonderful retired gentleman who grew up on the island. He was full of stories and interesting tidbits of information. He knew his wine, and the flora and fauna of his island.

The island has ideal conditions for cool climate winemaking, with its warm summers and lengthy, mild autumns. The soils are predominantly clay, rich in iron and manganese oxides, and ancient weathered rock. The surrounding warm sea currents boost the temperature of the island by up to 2 degrees centigrade, while the afternoon sea breezes reduce the effects of excessive heat buildup, giving Waiheke Island one of the world's lowest temperature ranges for growing wine grapes.

Our first stop was Casita Miro. This was a lovely vineyard on a sloping hill with tasting room and restaurant. They specialize in the cuisine of Spain and the wider Mediterranean rim. This was an absolutely lovely visit with very nice wines and a very special port that we purchased as a late Valentines Day present.


Our next stop was the Obsidian Vineyard. Obsidian is a naturally occurring volcanic glass so an appropriate name for a vineyard among ancient volcanos. The open air tasting room is the middle of a natural amphitheater of grape vines.


Our final stop was Te Motu Vineyards where we had lunch at The Shed. Te Motu is one of the pioneers of the Waiheke wine movement. Their wines are of the ‘Bordeaux’ style, composed predominantly from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. After the tasting we had the most delicious lunch. This was beautiful, creative cuisine with locally grown produce. I photographed what we ate but after all the wine tasting, I have absolutely no recall of the details of the dishes!


Waiheke has some lovely villages with interesting looking shops. Our tour schedule didn't allow us to stop, which was probably for the best. Instead, we were driven to the island’s best lookouts with views of isolated bays and inlets.



I think we saw parts of the island not usually seen, including the Rooster Colony. As our guide told it, this was a little act of civil disobedience. Waiheke Island falls under the governance of the Auckland City Council. Under council by-laws there’s a restriction on keeping roosters in residential areas, due to the noise they make. Waiheke is a good distance from Aukland (see the picture below) and very rural so this rule did not sit well with the residents.


Rather than destroy the roosters, the locals created a sanctuary for them, near the entrance of the Onetangi Sports Park. Members of the island’s "Friends of the Roosters" group visit the roosters twice daily to feed them and check on their water, and local businesses donate unwanted food. People regularly drop off unwanted roosters, adding to the colony’s numbers. The roosters are clearly used to visitors, as they came bounding over as soon as we pulled up, flocking around the vehicle as we stepped out.


Our last day in Aukland was for shopping and packing as our flight was scheduled for the next morning. Cher hired a driver to get us and our luggage to the airport. I'm not sure what the driver expected but he had a little trailer hitch for the luggage. Georges and I were struggling to get our suitcases up a flight of stairs when a strapping young couple came along and ferried them to the top as if they were lifting match boxes. You have to admire youth and the Kiwi values of kindness and physical fitness!

Our United flight to San Francisco was nothing to write home about. We had a plane where the business class section was in a a 2-4-2 configuration with some seats facing forward and other facing backwards. We were in the middle section after United changed our seat selection because of a change in aircraft. Georges was on the aisle and I was next to him but so close to my neighbor that I actually turned to her and said "Since we'll be sleeping together, I might as well introduce myself!" She didn't seem amused.


After many hours of flying, we finally arrived in San Francisco in the early hours of the morning. We camped in the United Lounge (lousy food and VERY crowded) until our flight to Houston, then on to Atlanta. I was the only one flying on miles so United, in their infinite wisdom, sold my seat and bumped me to a premium coach seat. They threw some money, miles, and meal vouchers my way but I was not very happy after being in transit for almost 24 hours. To make matters worse, a large woman was in the center seat and she felt entitled to both armrests. When I got up to use the bathroom, she lifted the armrest so her ample derriere could spread out into my space. It was not my most gracious moment when I slammed the armrest back down on my return.

We were away from home almost five weeks. We had a wonderful, memorable time with many stories in our travel archive. The best part? Cher and Chris still love us and consider us their best friends and we feel the same!

Posted by Culinerrion 16:00 Archived in New Zealand Tagged new_zealand aukland

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