I’ll say by way of disclaimer that we didn’t spend a good deal of time in Auckland. Even the time that we did spend there was more focussed on practical pursuits than truly exploring it through tourists’ eyes. Hence hence only 3 things to do, and quick ones at that! This actually became a bit of a pattern when we were staying in a place for a longer period, so I might well have more “3 quick things” coming up. With that said, here are my favourite things to do in Auckland and nearby Devonport…
1. Museum of Transport and Technology/MOTAT (Auckland)
I’ll admit this little museum is not somewhere I would have put high on my own list of things to check out while we were in Auckland. But as you probably know, Ben’s greatest passion is steam locomotives, and MOTAT happened to have one. So MOTAT was high on his list! And I actually really enjoyed our trip out there too.
Funnily enough our main reason for visiting – said steam locomotive – turned out not to be operating due to possible damage to the track bed after some tremors. (This is New Zealand, after all – seismic activity is a daily occurrence.) But there was a steam tram and plenty of other points of interest to keep us happy.
My own interests in domestic and architectural history were sated by the lovely replica high street. They had wonderful vintage packaging on display inside the old-style shop facades, and a man riding a penny-farthing around outside. It’s a far cry from Beamish – a superb and sprawling living museum back home in the UK – but it still has plenty of charm. Naturally I checked out the transport exhibits, too. My favourite part was a tour I did of the museum’s aircraft hangar. They have a small but varied collection and the tour itself was a really fascinating glimpse into the country’s aviation history.
2. Torpedo Bay Navy Museum (Devonport)
Another museum! We really gravitate towards history wherever we are… As with transport, naval history is not a particular area of interest. But this had glowing reviews online, so we felt honour-bound to check it out when we headed over to pretty Devonport. The reviews were justified, it’s a gem of a museum. It strikes a good balance between tracking historical events objectively and supplying well-chosen personal stories and artefacts to complement the hard facts, dates and numbers. It’s well worth checking out.
We also loved the museum cafe! It was really busy, but the food and service were such good quality that we ended up going twice in one day: for lunch and then again for cake.
3. Views of the city – Mount Victoria (Devonport) and Mount Eden (Auckland)
In general we weren’t much impressed with what the city centre had to offer. We much preferred the skyscrapers and the famous Sky Tower when viewed from a distance.
A ferry, bus ride or short drive away, Mount Victoria in Devonport offers lovely views across the water in exchange for a relatively gentle climb. The view in the other direction is equally rewarding: a view of green Rangitoto island as seen above. We heard nothing but good things about Rangitoto itself, actually. It’s supposed to be a very scenic place to walk, but sadly we never made it over there. Devonport itself is a very quaint town with some great second-hand bookstores, and the naval museum mentioned above!
Mount Eden, a short bus ride south, offers the opposite view. It also has a vast, grass-covered crater, the top of which you can wander around. When we went the weather was very misty and blustery, but the views were still impressive. The high street in the town is well worth a stroll as well, with plenty of independent shops and restaurants (Ironique would be our recommendation for delicious food and very quirky decor. As it was the end of the day they even gave us leftover muffins for free to stop them going to waste! They were amazing).
That’s my highlights of Auckland in a nutshell. Have you been to any of these? What sights would you recommend in or around Auckland?