As if to reinforce the sense that we are staying in a Hobbit Hole, the shower head is low enough that we have to duck under it - and we're not tall! Jokes aside, though, the apartment is actually pretty good, despite its limited dimensions. Everything works well and we just had to be organised with how we used the space. We are staying - mostly - in apartments so that we can self-cater, which is the best way to accommodate our preferred dietary regime. Save $$$ too! So, we feasted on our own muesli, berries and yoghurt, then went to reception to sort out parking. Turned out, the parking is pretty squidgy, too - and limited - so we abandoned all thoughts of driving out to the Waitakere Ranges, in case we couldn't get a parking space when we returned. Instead, we headed out to see what Auckland City had to offer.
Aucklanders, it seems, like to lie in. As we wandered down Queen Street, the main shopping area in the city, we were struck by the number of shops that had still not opened and the small number of pedestrians around. I suppose it was only 10 o'clock.... Auckland does seem to be a city on the move. The amount of new construction, particularly down by the harbour, is impressive. As we strolled around the waterfront, there also seemed to be a really good feeling of optimism in the air - but maybe that was just us relaxing into holiday mode after weeks of endless busy-ness! Either way, it was a very pleasant morning and we decided to just look for one activity to fill our afternoon.
We had read that The Viaduct and the Wynyard Quarter were good places to see, so we wandered around there, stopping for coffee and admiring the scullions of dollars afloat in the Viaduct Marina, before repairing to a seafood restaurant for lunch and some brochure surfing. While we contemplated the brochures - scenic cruise or something indoors? - the weather made our decision easy. Heavy downpours rolled in every 20 minutes or so, making a cruise on the water decidedly unattractive, so we settled on going underwater instead at The Sealife Aquarium. During a break in the weather, we wandered down to Silo Park to take a look at Auckland's famous Harbour Bridge. Silo Park is a work in progress, turning an old working waterfront area into shared public space, and it is looking very good, already. The Harbour Bridge - well, I guess we are spoilt by the Sydney version!
At the appointed time, our shuttle to Sealife turned up to take us the six kilometres out to Mission Bay. Sealife did not disappoint. The highlight was the Penguin Colony, which brought back fabulous memories of our trip to Antarctica, but there were several other very good exhibits. The long tunnel, featuring sharks and rays swimming overhead, was particularly interesting, as was the stingray feeding and talk, and the quite amazing seahorses. It was a very good way to pass a couple of hours indoors.
On the way back, we chatted with a couple from Las Vegas whom we had met on the shuttle out. They were on their bucket list trip to Oz and NZ and, amongst other things, they told us about the place they had dined at the night before. Well, after one night of self-catering, we were ready to dine out! So on the way back to the apartment, we looked in on Elliott Stables , a rather unique dining set-up. It is set inside a warehouse from the 1800s and comprises about a dozen or so quite different mini restaurants around the outside walls (Indian, Chinese, pizza and so on) and seating for several hundred in the centre.
When we arrived for a look, at about 4:30, it was quite empty. we took our time inspecting the options then discussed whether to go back to the apartment and return later for dinner. In the end, we opted for an early dinner and that proved to be a great decision. About ten minutes later, it was as if the floodgates had opened and half of Auckland had dropped in! We ended up having some rather healthy Indian curry - sans rice! - which also turned out to be very good.
The balance of the evening was all about getting sorted for a quick departure in the morning, as we have a 2 1/2 hour drive ahead of us to get to the Waitomo Caves for a 10:30 tour - followed by another at 2:00 and the last at 3:30! Busy day ahead...