Hard to believe we’d not yet travelled to our across-the-ditch neighbour New Zealand… so a school holiday trip was long overdue. As we’re not [yet] skiers, we thought the height of summer might be a great time to take the kids for a two week, two-island tour – most especially because it meant we could travel light.
A two bedroom apartment is around NZ$299 a night and with the Aus dollar being so strong, this was a good deal.
On our day of our Auckland stay, we walked down to the harbour via coffee at Starbucks (the chain is all over NZ) where we caught the ferry to Devonport – a quaint suburb on the opposite side of the city’s wharves.
Here we wandered through the charming streets then clambered upVictoria Hill (about a 10 minute steep walk or 20 minute leisurely walk, depending on your route) for an incredible view across the harbour to the city.
After a coffee and gelato in Devonport, we meandered through a few bookshops before catching the ferry back to town.
There are some gorgeous second hand bookstores and also a fabulous toy store – plus loads of coffee stops. New Zealand coffee is great, PS, and I just love the post boxes.
…and met the boys for a walk to Sky Tower
At $66 per family just to catch a lift to the observation deck, we happily passed up the opportunity and instead checked out the massive souvenir shop, plucking out two adorable kiwi finger puppets and some kiwi wee (milk bottles) and kiwi rock candy.
We finished the day with dinner at the sushi bar (‘Korean Restaurant’ on the corner of Queen and Mayoral Drive) downstairs and a movie at the cinema.
On day three of our Auckland stay, we jumped up early for a quick trip to the Auckland Zoo, just 10 mins from our apartment. A really lovely, relatively compact zoo – well-maintained and lots of fun for kids, with playgrounds and easily accessible animal exhibits and a reasonable entry fee.
Quite a few exhibits were closed or animals sleeping, alas, but it was a thrill to see a kiwi up close, even if it was in red-hued almost-darkness.
The birds are a lot bigger than I expected – probably twice the size – and they thump around on their huge muscular chicken drumstick legs, foraging for anything scrumptious in the undergrowth. Comical and seriously sweet.
Tasks included painting a brick for the town wall, creating their own flag and building their own creation from cardboard – Riley made the Stamford Stadium and Ella her own barn and stables, complete with fenced paddock and horses behind fences. This extraordinary town is being built by dozens of kids from around the world and is quite incredible.
Interactive experiences like this run through school holidays and vary throughout the year, but MOTAT is a brilliant place for kids and adults, even without the added bonus of school holiday programmes.
The grounds not only feature an enormous collection of trains, trams, trucks, fire engines and incredible steam engines, there’s also a recreated 19th century village, interactive science exhibits, a café and much, much more.
With a very reasonable entry fee to make it even more family-friendly, MOTAT is a must-do in Auckland with kids.
There is loads of great shopping in Auckland – with everything from Gucci to souvenir shops. The Metro Centre on Queen Street is very central and has a great cinema and eateries. The super slick pink staircase in the middle of the centre is fun for kids.
Prices are pretty on par with Australia (with our strong dollar, you can take roughly 25% off any price you pay) and some items are a little cheaper (eg: cut flowers). Stock up on Aus mags before you leave home because you pay more here.
GST is set at 15% and when shopping in stand alone stores, do check if it’s included in your item’s price because sometimes it’s not.
When turning, remember to give way to the right. Of course, this rule generally applies in Australia, except If you are travelling along a major road and want to turn left into a street. In this case – you have right of way against all other traffic. But not in NZ. If you are driving along a main road and want to turn left, you must give way to any cars wanting to turn right into that same street. If you neglect this, you’ll be an accident waiting to happen, so be careful, especially at crossroads.
NZ drivers are horrendous tailgaters, so again, take your patience with you. This is probably because dual lane carriageways are rare (especially on highways) and the poor buggers need to do so much overtaking to get anywhere with some vitesse.
Major highways are single lane undivided roads, making them very slow and a little hairy to travel on, especially on winding roads. NZ truckies are amazing, polite, don’t speed (probably too busy enjoying the incredible countryside views) and will pull over and let you pass frequently. Ditto caravaners and motorhome drivers, of which there are many.
Despite the high likelihood of being trapped behind traffic, the roads are not overly busy, even during summer hols, and overtaking lanes appear quite often. Be warned, though – they are short.