We’re back on track. Our Mission: The order of the day GO Exploring further afield outside Auckland’s bustling city metropolis. We don’t want to drive ourselves but there is so much to see and WOW, look at all that traffic, parking might be problem at some of the attractions. Solution: An Explorer Bus pass, inexpensive & stress free and a touring we went. The bus tour meanders throughout the suburbs and near countryside from Viaduct Harbour/Princes Wharf, Bastion Point Lookout, Parnell Rose Gardens, Auckland Museum, Queen Street, Sky City, Wintergardens, Eden Garden, Mt Eden (Walk to the top of Mt Eden for the most stunning views of Auckland City & the Harbour), Auckland Zoo, MOTAT (Museum of Transport & Technology) and the Devonport Ferry Terminal, allowing you to hop on/hop off as many times as you like and spend as much time as you like at each attraction. These are just some of the highlights of our Explorer Bus expedition.
Parnell Rose Gardens: Take the time to stop and smell the roses and take a walk around this beautiful park. With over 5,000 blooms on display all ablaze with magnificent colours throughout the summer and autumn months, this is a “must do” stop on your Explorer trip.
Auckland War Memorial Museum: Sitting high on the hill in the Auckland Domain, all set within a tranquil estate with expansive views of surrounding parkland and the harbour. You will be able to experience daily Maori cultural performances, hear their stories and discover New Zealand’s history all housed at one place in the iconic Auckland Museum. You could easy spend the day at the Museum, exploring spectacular parklands and gardens near by.
The Wintergarden Café often described as an oasis in the Domain is only a 5 minute walk from the Museum and just across from the Wintergardens is a perfect place to catch your breath after all that exploring. With superb coffee, beautiful fresh sandwiches and rolls, cakes and muffins all set amongst colourful gardens it makes a perfect place either inside or alfresco on the terrace to gather the senses and plan the next hop on/hop off adventure.
No matter who we asked for tips on what to “see and do” besides Rotorua and the Hobbiton Movie Set, everyone we spoke to said you must see the Hamilton Gardens and visit Waiheke Island. We took their advice, planned our journey, we not disappointed.
Hamilton Gardens was our destination, situated in Hamilton, 128km south of Auckland. Not wanting to rent a car for the day (compared to Australia, unleaded petrol can be expensive in NZ, prices over $2.00/litre are not uncommon) we looked at alternatives.
The Inter City Bus Service was just what we needed and as an added bonus it departed and returned to the Bus Terminal in Hobson Street, Auckland which was no more than a couple of hundred metres from where we were staying. The journey to Hamilton through quiet country towns travelling along near deserted highways passing rolling hills and fields of the lushest greenest grass made this trip nearly as exciting as our destination.
The bus terminates this part of our trip at the InterCity Bus Terminal in Hamilton Central where you can get local connecting buses or alternative transport to complete the journey to the Hamilton Gardens. 🔥 Tip: This is the same bus service that will take you from Auckland to the Airport with all stops to Hamilton and then continue to Rotorua (and return).
Hamilton Gardens is one of the Waikato region’s most visited attractions. If you thought that this was going to be just another botanical garden, then think again because this place is unlike anything I have ever seen before. On the banks of the Waikato River, spread over 58 hectares its five estate collections tell the story of gardens through different civilisations exploring the relationship between people and plants.
Engage all your senses, this place is just unbelievable drifting in out of The Paradise Garden with its collection representing England, China, Japan and several more countries including highlights like the Indian Char Bagh Garden and Italian Renaissance Garden.
Move onto the Herb Garden where the smell of fresh herbs will fill the air, travel through darkened tunnels from where you emerge to be greeted by the colour and glory of multicoloured roses and camellias and then complete the journey in the Fantasy Garden with a special focus on the spectacular highlights of the Tudor and Tropical Gardens.
🔥 Tip: Take a break and enjoy a coffee and slice in the Café overlooking picturesque Turtle Lake or grab your brew and sit in the Parklands that are nearby while the more energetic can take a stroll around the lake with some turtle watching to keep you amused.
Nestled between the banks of the Waikato River and Victoria Street, Hamilton’s main thoroughfare, in the heart of the City’s south-end cultural district is the Waikato Museum. I love to visit local museums, and roam through the exhibitions and galleries all telling a story from a local and world-wide perspective. Interactive programmes and hands on science collections for the kids to help broaden their horizons and will keep them entertained for hours.
For our jaunt to Waiheke Island with its countless wineries, olive groves, exquisite café’s overlooking kilometres of pure white sandy beaches, we decided a full day would be required. Fuller Ferries set sail from Auckland with the journey across the harbour taking about 40 minutes and arriving at Matiatia Wharf. With the Island itself being fairly large, without transport it would be quite hard to see the whole place. The most common ways to travel around is via taxis, public transport, rental cars, and tourist hop/on hop/off buses. We chose the Hop/on Hop off option, picked up at the wharf our full on day of touring was under way.
You can see why Waiheke Island is one of New Zealand’s favourite holiday locations and now you will be in the know as well. Our first stop, Oneroa, not only are there the most pristine long sandy beaches but also several cafes, shops and restaurants some with the most outstanding uninterrupted views of the deep blue ocean stretching all the way to the horizon as far as the eyes could see.
After exploring this quant little town, stopping for an early morning flat white, we also couldn’t go past a delicious creamy gelato at the Island Gelato Company, with so much more to see, it was time to move on.
We decided to continue our tour at the furthest point from Oneroa and then work our way back. Our stop: Onetangi Beach. Walking along dazzling Onetangi Beach with its beautiful golden sands and no one site, you felt like you were the only one around on a very deserted island. So serene and peaceful and the views absolutely stunning.
Running parallel to the beach atop the headland your choice of several café’s providing a scenic location to have a cold beverage and a bite to eat while taking in those magnificent beach views.
There are many world class wineries on the island, some set on the highest points on the island,
while others are nestled in valleys of shimmering olive trees and row after row of grape vines all offering many different types of wine to sample and the most delicious cuisine. The views, the wine and the ambience is an experience that you need to enjoy at least once in a life-time.
Waiheke Island offers so much more, you could easy spend more than a week if you visited every winery as they all offer something different. So many walking locations that will take you to places like the Stony Batter Gun Emplacements, dating back to WW2, with sea views across to Coromandel Peninsular and outer gulf islands or turn back the hands of time and discover Waiheke’s Historical Village with the Woolshed Museum and its extensive collection of artefacts.
Our day on Waiheke Island had reached its conclusion, it was time to Hop on our Explorer Bus for the last time from what was an extremely fun packed and very enjoyable day. The ferry was on time as it arrived at the Matiatia Wharf, the journey on the harbour back to Auckland relaxing with an abundance of time to ponder on this unbelievable location.
New Zealand is one of the most unique places to tour for a holiday. The North and South islands offer so many different experiences, you could go touring for a month and not see it all. Auckland and the North Island showed us things that we hadn’t ever seen or experienced and there was plenty that we didn’t have time to visit. Maybe, that’s the excuse we need to come back another day and look in on “The Land of the Long White Cloud”
If you missed my original post – Bite Size Tips For Exploring Auckland, New Zealand – Part 1 – click here for all the information.
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