New Zealand

New Zealand 2018: Devonport, North Island

Clouds cleared out on our departure day


By now, we had been on vacation for almost a month. David was burned out on driving and I couldn’t blame him. So we boarded the ferry for the fifteen-minute ride from the Auckland wharf to nearby Devonport, a historical seaside village across the harbor. Devonport originally consisted of three volcanic cones—Mount Victoria, North Head, and Mount Cambria, which was quarried away during the settlement of the area.

After we docked, we spent an hour strolling the quiet streets of Devonport and then followed King Edward Parade along the shoreline until we came to Victoria Road, where we hiked the grade to Kerr Street and climbed the hill to Mount Victoria for a stunning view of Auckland and its harbor. Also of interest to David was the Torpedo Bay Navy Museum. While he toured it, I wandered the town, snapping photos.

Kiwis are friendly people, and if we looked even the slightest bit lost, passersby were happy to stop and inquire if we needed help or directions. And occasionally we did during our three-hour walkabout.

Mid-afternoon, we caught the ferry back to Auckland to tour the waterfront and browse the shops. David had fallen in love with Melbourne in 2014, but Auckland was more to my liking. I loved the way the waterfront was laid out.

During our Auckland stay, we ate breakfast, and a lunch, at Giraffe restaurant, a short walk from the Hilton. Service was excellent and the food very good. I fell for Simon’s Chocolate Pudding and could’ve eaten more than one, but I restrained myself and only ate the one I had ordered.

Months prior to our arrival in Auckland, the Hilton had advised us that a cruise ship would be docking outside of our room the morning of our departure. Rather than view it as an intrusion, I found it quite interesting to see, as I had never been on a cruise ship.

Three days earlier, when our cab driver dropped us at the Hilton Auckland, he inquired about our departure date and time. We thought he was being polite, not the enterprising individual he turned out to be. We had checked out and were asking the concierge to order a cab when the driver who had dropped us at the hotel appeared in the lobby, smiling from ear to ear. “We meet again.” He grabbed our roller bags from the bellhop station and loaded them into his SUV, and we drove off to the airport for the twelve-plus-hour flight from Auckland to LAX, followed by another three from LAX into DFW. And I managed to sleep well on both flights, a first for me.

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New Zealand 2018: Kauri Cliffs, North Island

During our 2014 visit, we hadn’t planned to spend any time on the North Island except to fly in and out of Auckland, but since Australia and Tasmania were not on our 2018 list, we had time to explore the island now.

When it came to photography, the weather didn’t cooperate, and as we drew closer to the Bay of Islands, the winds kicked up and it began to drizzle, making for a wet, chilly day and poor photo opportunities. But we enjoyed our lunch and after we ate made the long journey back to Auckland.

Not everything on vacation, or in life, goes according to plan, including dinner reservations. We had reserved a table at the Grove, one of Auckland’s top-rated restaurants, and were looking forward to it, but they called to say they would be closed for a private event and were happy to comp us a meal at a restaurant of our choice.

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New Zealand 2018: Auckland, North Island

Auckland, New Zealand

What would’ve been a pleasant drive from Te Anau back to Queenstown became quite tense at times, and even I wasn’t in the mood to take pictures. Although David was driving, my eyes were also glued to the road, and I held my breath as we negotiated several icy sections, crawling through the passes. We finally made it into Mossburn without mishap. But it was the Devil’s Staircase we were dreading. The switchback road demanded your attention in good weather, never mind bad.

The two-hour drive took three and a half hours, but we arrived safely at the airport in Frankton and survived the bracingly cold wind that cut to the bone as we fast-walked from the rental car lot to the airport terminal.

In the Air New Zealand lounge, I shed some of my layers and stuffed the clothes in my carry-on. It felt good to be warm. We hadn’t packed for such cold weather. We ate lunch in the lounge and caught up on emails or read. Due to strong headwinds, all flights had been delayed, but at least planes were departing.

Two hours after we left Queenstown, we arrived in Auckland. We went straight to the rental car counter and canceled our reserved vehicle. We would need a car the next day but would rent it from the Avis agency in town, a short walk from our hotel. David wasn’t in the mood for the hassle of city traffic, and I wasn’t in the mood to play navigator, not even to get from the airport to our hotel on the quay. We just wanted to sit back and relax, and let someone else complain about rush-hour traffic.

We checked into the Hilton Auckland on the Princes Wharf, dumped our bags in our room, and went down to the Bellini bar for a predinner drink. While we discussed our options for dinner, we grew less and less interested in leaving our hotel to find a restaurant and finally decided on room service. Our room had a balcony that overlooked the harbor and was the perfect alternative to a bustling eatery. We popped the cork on our bottle of Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc and sipped our wine on the balcony, watching the lit ferry boats come and go while we waited for our meals to arrive.

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