Ready for a super long day at work, it was time to venture to Auckland in New Zealand which is the longest direct flight that Emirates operates in its network. Leaving Dubai Tuesday morning, we landed into Auckland on Wednesday at 10:30am.
What was a very pleasant surprise was my friend from home, Joe, was a passenger on board with me. What are the chances of him booking that flight and me being rostered to operate! It made the long flight seem much quicker.
After we had completed our post landing duties, made our way through immigration and across to the hotel, I was exhausted. So as soon as I checked in, I ordered some room service, popped on a face mask and went to sleep for a good six hours. The jet lag was real with a nine hour time difference from Dubai.
Waking up at 6pm, I had arranged to catch up with Joe for some dinner and drinks but it seems the jet lag had got the better of him too (a thirteen hour time difference from the UK) so I ventured out solo and stumbled across a fabulous Japanese Restaurant in Elliot’s Stables called Bao Baby Bao. I ordered some shrimp and chicken dumplings and a slow roasted pork belly bao bun with peanut slaw washed down with a corona whilst I waited.
The food was absolutely amazing, and I will 100% come back here if I get an Auckland layover again. I could have eaten it twice over whilst I sat and planned the rest of my time in Auckland.
Still feeling tired, I walked back to the hotel and grabbed a bubble tea before collapsing back into bed again.
The next morning I woke relatively early, just before 6am and got ready and went to the breakfast buffet in the hotel. I filled up knowing a busy day was ahead. I had planned a full day tour, the morning would be a tour of Auckland followed by an afternoon of wine tasting on Waiheke Island, when in New Zealand hey? So I got ready and walked across to the pick up point grabbing my morning coffee.
Which is when my day took a turn for the worse. After waiting around for fifteen minutes after the women at the check in desk told me to take a seat and wait for my bus, I wasn’t sure where I was meant to be, or what the name of my tour was. With time pressing on before the bus departed, I went to ask again for some clarity. They asked me for my name and then explained that the tour was full and I wasn’t able to go that day, but did I want to go the following day? Despite their website saying there were places available for this trip, receiving a confirmation email of payment and booking, and a further email confirming the location of my pick up point and the money coming out of my account, I was still not able to go on this tour. At no point was there any communication via call, text or email to say unfortunately I would not be able to attend. I was incredibly annoyed and then had to spend time sorting out refunds and replanning the rest of my day!
I then walked down to the downtown ferry point in hope of catching a ferry across to Waiheke Island. I spoke with a woman at an information point who told me I could take the ferry across to Waiheke and then do the hop on hop off bus for $60. This seemed like the perfect option and I paid my ticket and waited for the next ferry which was leaving in around twenty minutes.
The journey over to Waiheke Island was around forty minutes, where I was treated to the most impressive views. I knew straight away I was going to like it here.
Waiheke is the second largest island in the gulf, after Great Barrier Island, and is the most populated island in the gulf, with 9,250 permanent residents; another estimated 3,400 have second or holiday homes on the island. It is New Zealand’s most densely populated island, with nearly 100 people/km², and the third most populated after the North and South Islands. It is the most accessible island in the gulf, with regular passenger and car ferry services, a helicopter operator based on the island, and other air links.
I jumped off the ferry and straight onto the bus that was waiting to depart and went to Oneroa which is the main town on Waiheke Island. I first walked down the steep walkway down to the beach to take in the view and dip my toes into the water!
I walked along the beach and back up into the main town for a quick browse of the “high street”. There were a lot of picturesque restaurants filled with people eating late breakfasts and cute shops selling gorgeous gifts and items. I would have loved to have bought some things, but I also didn’t want to end up carrying it around with me all day, so I just did some window shopping before taking the next bus further into the island.
I ventured right the way into the furthest point inland which the bus went to by Thomas Bach Winery, which boasts the highest winery on the island. Here was the cascades which I was keen to see, and began to venture down the winding walkway into the bush.
Being surrounded either side by dense New Zealand bush I could hear the multitude of insects buzzing away in the afternoon sunshine, and could even feel some of them dropping on me. As I walked further away from any other people, I was feeling a bit nervous as it felt like a scene from a horror film with me stranded alone on an island.
So when I reached a sign that said to turn into the bush, that was enough for me with no one else around, and I raced back up the hill as fast as I could. I’m such a wimp, but it wasn’t worth it for any waterfall…
Gasping for something to drink, I stopped at the winery ready for some wine tasting and something to eat. I opted for their wine flight of rose, pinot gris, sauvignon blanc and pinot noir accompanied by some local oysters. Utter perfection with the most glorious view.
Thomas Bach is the highest winery on Waiheke and gives some ever impressive views across the island and right over to the mainland where you can see the skyline of Auckland. Paired with the vineyards that roll out the back of the restaurant, this to me was a picture perfect setting and I couldn’t help but feel just so content sitting in the sun, drinking these incredible wines with these delicious oysters. I was in paradise.
I was here for around two hours just taking in the view whilst soaking up the sun and drinking wine before I paid up and took the next bus back across the island to a winery I had been recommended by a couple of others, Mudbrick.
Mudbrick was a more french styled winery with a beautiful outdoor terrace that looked out onto the water. This winery was a lot more pricey than Thomas Bach and I don’t feel offered as great a view or service.
Albeit it was lovely, and I ordered a crisp glass of sauvignon blanc with some fries.
I considered stopping at one last winery before heading back to the mainland, but when I got back on the bus I was more than ready to head back to Auckland and the timings were great to make the 16:30 ferry. A gorgeous day on a beautiful island, this would have been amazing to do with family and/or friends, I’d recommend this highly to anyone visiting Auckland!
Back in Auckland I was feeling rather hungry, so I stopped off at a place called Crab Shack for a bite to eat. They were offering $3 tacos for Taco Thursday which I thought was an absolute bargain and I ordered one of each! One crab tempura, one barbecue pulled pork and one blackened fish.
Feeling extremely sleepy now, I walked back uphill to the hotel and was asleep for 7:30pm. It had been a very busy yet wonderful day, but all I wanted was my bed!
Falling asleep early meant I also woke up early, before 3am! I ordered some room service and at around 6am, I met one of the crew, Sally, downstairs in the lobby for a sunrise hike up Mount Eden for glorious views of the city. We jumped in an Uber and then walked the short distance up the volcanic peak also known as Maungawhau, with hiking and jogging trails leading to views over the Hauraki Gulf.
It was pretty chilly out early morning, and we couldn’t wait to get back and warm up with a breakfast in the hotel and a warm cup of tea! I had a quick skype with my parents before I slept another seven hours before our night time wake up call back to Dubai.
This was such a perfect layover, I felt like I had so much time to explore and made the most of my time, despite also sleeping so much! Auckland is a beautiful city and has so much to offer. I really recommend for a holiday that has both active and laidback elements. And if you’re a lover of Sauvignon Blanc like myself, then you already know that this is the best place to visit for wine tasting! Can’t wait to head back and explore even more of this beautiful country.
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