An Odyssey Down Under: Australia and New Zealand Day 6

Tuesday, February 11th

This morning we had a lecture on the geology of Auckland and its coastlines with Dr. John Walsby. IMG_8929 An interesting fact that we learned was that New Zealand is 70% made up of greywacke, which is a type of sandstone!  He then led us on a field trip to explore some of the distinctive environments on the northern coastline.   Our first stop was Lake Pupuke which is a freshwater lake and the crater of a volcano that last erupted 140,000 years ago!

Birds around or on the lake.

On Takapuna Beach we saw examples of fossilized trees that were trapped by the lava.

We enjoyed a buffet lunch at a local restaurant overlooking Cheltenham Beach and in the distance we viewed Rangitoto, a volcanic island.  It is one of about 50 volcanoes in Auckland.

When we returned to the city center of Auckland, a group of us visited the New Zealand Maritime Museum.  Its exhibits do a wonderful job of giving a visitor New Zealand’s maritime history and more.  Unfortunately we arrived late in the day and needed to hurry through the museum.  You really need several hours to see and experience the exhibitions.

We booked dinner at Orbit 360˚ restaurant which is on level 52.  With our reservation we could arrive 45 minutes early and visit Sky Tower, which is on level 60 and has fantastic views of Auckland and the main observation area is on level 51.  Our experience was fantastic.





An Odyssey Down Under: Australia and New Zealand Day 5

Monday, February 10th

Today began with a lecture by our Auckland site coordinator, Len.  He spoke to us about the history of New Zealand which included a slide show and visuals.  It was very interesting.IMG_8758

Our walk to the Viaduct Basin was easy and we had a yacht cruise on Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour.  It was perfect weather and there was enough wind to sail around for an hour.  Our boat was called the Defiance.

We met our bus driver for the next few days and his name is Ben and he is Māori, but not full-blooded.  Our guide had the bus driver take us through the University of Auckland campus.  It has over 60,000 students who attend and it is the largest university in New Zealand.IMG_8697

We stopped at Eden Garden which is just under 6 acres.  It was created in an abandoned quarry at the base of Mt. Eden.  We enjoyed lunch in their cafe and had time to explore the gardens after lunch!

Our next stop was to visit Auckland’s War Memorial Museum. On our way we made a quick stop at the Auckland Domain Wintergardens.  It opened in 1913 and contains many rare and beautiful plants that are displayed in two Victorian style glass houses with a courtyard between them.  One house is heated and contains tropical plants and the other house contains temperate plants that change with the seasons.

At the War Memorial Museum, a docent gave us a tour with a focus on the permanent Polynesian and European settlement exhibitions.

There was some free time to visit other parts of the museum on our own.  It was an excellent overview but one could spend a day exploring this wonderful museum.


An Odyssey Down Under: Australia and New Zealand Day 4

Sunday, February 9

This morning was a walking tour of Auckland with our site coordinator, Len. We walked down past the Britomart Building. Where we were walking was all on reclaimed land! Britomart was named after a Royal Navy gunship, the HMS Britomart.IMG_8603

During our visit, a lot of construction for redevelopment of the city center was happening, there were many orange cones! The city is also getting ready for their hosting of the America’s Cup next year.

Our walk included the Ferry Building (1910) which was once used for the crossing of the Harbour. IMG_8592We walked past the Maritime museum and as far as the fish market. We saw some fish being sold that we’d never seen before.

After our morning walk we had morning tea and an introductory meeting. It was a welcome by Robbie our group leader. IMG_7145An interesting quote was that they are “turning tourists into travelers.”  It was explained that we will see and learn about the people, land, flora, fauna, and the icons of the places we visit.

After lunch, Len, our site coordinator lead us on a walking field trip through central Auckland. We walked up Queen St. past the art gallery, Albert Park and the university.  In the park he pointed out the pōhutukawa or New Zealand Christmas tree.

We enjoyed some free time after our walk in the city.  Dinner was going to be in Davenport at the Esplanade Hotel and we took a ferry to get there and to get back.

After dinner we walked around the island.  It was up and down hills!  On our ferry ride back we watched the sunset and then the moon begin to rise!


An Odyssey Down Under: Australia & New Zealand Day 3

Saturday, February 8th

We landed at the Auckland airport around 9:00 AM but we waited about 10 minutes to get to our gate because we were early.  We went through customs, got our luggage and put it through the X-ray machines.  Our driver met us outside the baggage claim.  He took us to our hotel.  It all went smoothly!

Our hotel, the Grand Mercure, was in a great location.  Our room wasn’t ready yet but we checked our luggage and started our own exploration of Auckland.  We headed up Queens Rd. and turned left onto Wellesley and stopped at Albert Park.  We strolled up and down the hills of the park and enjoyed the warm, sunny weather and beautiful flowers!

On our way back to the hotel we stopped at a small market and got some water to have in our room.  When we got back to our hotel we found out our room was ready!!!  Yea!  We took showers which helped to revive our senses and it was wonderful to be in fresh clothes.

We left our hotel again and walked along the water as close as we could get because of construction.  Three big cruise ships were in port, Princess, Viking, and Azamara.  IMG_8591Princes Wharf was an area that we walked around and then decided to have a glass of New Zealand wine at a bar called Sardine.  It was located along the water.

After enjoying the harbour we walked back to the hotel to get ready for a group happy hour and dinner at our hotel.  Our group consists of 22 as well as our site leader, Len and our group leader Robbie.  It was a wonderful evening but we were happy to get to our room and get a good night’s sleep!

The view from our hotel room!