Riding the Ferry in Auckland

Riding the Ferry in Auckland

Devonport here we come!

If there is one thing I can say about our adventures in Auckland it’s this – The most amazing ones always happened when we didn’t have a set in stone plan. On this day we took the bus to the central business district (CBD) with just one goal in mind – find the ocean. We had seen it several times while riding the bus but hadn’t actually been there in person yet. We packed our packs for the day, topped up our bus tickets, and off we went!

One bus ride later we landed in the middle of Auckland’s CBD and set off on foot to what we thought would be our final destination – the Hauraki Gulf. We made a quick pit stop for donuts and coffee and proceeded on our search for the ocean. A short walk later we  found ourselves at Queens Wharf where we not only found the ocean, we also found the ferries! Gabriela was mesmerized! She had never been on any kind of boat so she was quick to suggest a ferry ride. While deciding if we were going to take this spur of the moment trip as suggested by our five year old we walked around Waitemata Harbour and enjoyed the view, watched a man fish for his dinner, and a bird catch his dinner. We also took a quick peak at the two venue building on site – The Cloud & Shed 10 and checked out The Lighthouse (an art installation).

Shed 10 is a cool metal building that was closed at the time we went and appeared to be under construction from what we could see from the windows (yes our architectural sides kicked into full gear at this point) it was going to be pretty amazing. We read about the building later and found out that it is the only original building that remains on Queens Wharf. The Cloud was open and we were delighted to not only check out the exterior but also the interior. There were people not only inside the space but actually engaging and using the space. We saw people playing games, hanging out talking, and even a guy riding his bike inside the space. This venue has a pretty interesting story behind it as well. To learn more about the history of Queens Wharf, the venue buildings, and the art located here please visit the Auckland Live website here.

After exploring all the things that the wharf had to offer we went and spoke with the friendly people inside the Auckland Ferry Terminal to ask about taking the ferry. They told us all about the prices, the different locations the ferries go, and also gave us some advise on when to do what. They suggested that we go ahead and take a trip over to the town of Devonport. So after topping up our AT HOP cards to cover the ferry fees off we went to board the ferry. Once inside you have the option to ride inside or outside. The trip to Devonport is really short and we were a bit surprised at how quickly we arrived.

Devonport is a very hip kind of place with fancy cafes, restaurants, and small boutique shops. There is also a playground by the water, a walking track, and a small beach you can enjoy. Several people were out walking, playing at the park, and taking their dogs on a run at the beach. We met two friendly dogs and a really nice bookshop owner on this day. We also managed to get a few photos with Gaby before she ran off to play at the park. Ok, we bribed her with playtime at the park if she took a few photos with us. This kid isn’t the craziest about being in photos but we are working on it and after a few shots she has really started getting into it.

After playing at the park we made our way to the shops and restaurants. We stopped at Bookmark Secondhand Books, one of the most adorable bookstores we have ever seen. We shopped around for about 30 min because they were about to close shop for the day. It was a great secondhand book shop with a huge variety of books. If we had found this place earlier in the day we could have easily spend several hours and quit a bit of NZD at this shop. However given the limited amount of time we went ahead and left with the intention of going back but unfortunately did not make it back on this trip. However when we return to Auckland we will for sure make it a point to visit this shop again and highly suggest it if you find yourself in Devonport.

After browsing the shops we headed over to get our first taste of Thai Food in New Zealand and were not disappointed. We found this super cute and authentic Thai restaurant named Monsoon Thai Restaurant.  It was located at the base of the volcanic  cone-North Head. We had a wonderful dinner then proceeded to walk back towards the ferry to make our way home. On our journey back home we saw the popping night life of Devonport and think that when we do return to Auckland we will try and stay here because this town is right up our alley.

It was such a great spur of the moment adventure that we went on because we let our five year old pick what to do for the day. We were able to see Auckland from a different perspective and it really was quite spectacular. We can not wait to go back to Devonport someday and fully explore the town and make the tramp up the volcanic cone of North Head.

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New Zealand-Maungawhau/Mt. Eden

New Zealand-Maungawhau/Mt. Eden

Maungawhau / Mt. Eden

DSC00734-smallYES!!!! This is what I’m talking about Auckland! This was the first time we had explored Auckland and truly felt that we were in another country. We stopped at what would become one of our favorite coffee shops (Goodness Gracious Cafe) on our way to the top of the mountain and grabbed some much needed caffeine and snacks to give us superpowers to walk up the mountain. We did the fairly easy walk/hike or better yet tramp (this is what they call walks/hikes in New Zealand) up to the top and we were not disappointed.

At 643 feet tall, Maungawhau or Mount Eden is the highest volcano in Auckland and just one of the 48 volcanic cones. Once you reach the top you can enjoy panoramic views of the city as well as see the large 160 foot deep stunning bowl-like crater. The Ngati Whatua tribe is the guardian of the mountain and you can join a guided walk – Tāmaki Hikoi – of the mountain and its surrounds, led by a tribe member.  You can visit the Auckland Council website here for more information.

We unfortunately did not get to do this because I actually didn’t know anything about it until we had already went. Lots of times we kind of decide to do things spur of the moment so we don’t get a lot of pre-planning done beforehand. One of the main reasons for this is because it has rained (a lot) here in Auckland so if it stops raining we are out! Where we go no one really knows till we just kind of show up. However learn from my mistakes and do the guided tour. It sounds AWESOME! I was already blown away just reading about the place but to actually get a guided tour from someone who knows the history would have been pretty amazing.

It took us about an 1 hr to do the 1.6 k walk to the top from the coffee shop and if we had been better prepared we could have easily spent a day there. Its just one of those places that you just want to hang out at. It was a bit eerie yet it is also beautiful and relaxing. To think that this was once an active volcano and is now covered in this insanely majestic green flowing grass is a strange feeling. Also the size really makes you feel quite small. I think this is good, it is good for us to know how small we really are. It shows us that we aren’t the center of this universe and earth is a big beautiful place. So lets get out there and explore the hell out of it. In a good way. Look, learn, and respect.

This is what we always strive to do on all of our adventures. To learn new things about this world and ourselves, to see and experience places and cultures with open hearts and minds, and to above all respect the places and people that we are so lucky to visit and meet along our journey. We also want to inspire others to get out there, explore, and have fun! You don’t have to take a trip to the other side of the world, beautiful things can be found in your backyard. Go somewhere in your hometown that you have never been. I bet you will be surprised by what you find.

 

 

AUCKLAND ART GALLERY

AUCKLAND ART GALLERY

AUCKLAND ART GALLERY

Toi o Tāmaki – NZ’s most extensive collection of national and international art.

 

The Auckland Art Galley was a fantastic time for me and my family while visiting Auckland. We are all art lovers so when our daughter (Mireya) said she wanted to go to the art gallery we were thrilled! The prices were reasonable, and the experience was well worth the price they charged us. All New Zealand residents are free of charge which is so great for the local people of New Zealand. If you are a resident and have not been stop reading this and GO! Then let us know how our experience compared to yours. Children under 14 are free of charge so we did not have to pay for Gabriela and Mireya was also free because of her work visa (which we brought along just in case-they did ask to see it). Sean and I paid $20NZD each to get it. So, for less than $27 USD the four of us enjoyed a full day at the museum. There is plenty to see and you can easily spend an entire day there. They have a café and outdoor seating if you get hungry and need a break.

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It was founded in 1888, it remains New Zealand’s largest visual arts experience. It really does have something for everyone. Sculptures, paintings, historical pieces and local art, were just some of the things you can expect to find on your visit to the gallery. Our five-year-old daughter Gabriela loved the Māori Portraits and enjoyed reading all about the history of the people. She also got to see her first Pablo Picasso piece in real life which was a great treat as we had been studying his art in our school lessons. Our older daughters Mireya loved the classical paintings from around the world. Sean really enjoyed the Gordon Walters exhibit and it was interesting to read about Gordon and find out that he is one New Zealand’s most influential modern artists. I enjoyed the Collective Women exhibit and loved sharing this experience with our daughters.

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Let’s take look at the architecture.

The renovation of the building in 2011 resulted in an award for the building as World Building of the Year at the World Architecture Festival (2013). FJMT (Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp), Archimedia, and Auckland City Council worked together on the design for the new art gallery. This project is one of the largest projects of its kind in New Zealand and has won multiple awards for the design as well as been featured in several articles and magazines.

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First impressions always leave a mark and this building did a great job of doing that. We were warmly greeted by a series of large kauri wood columns and taken under the almost tree like roof structure into the museum. The warmth of the material choices was continued inside and drew the visitor into the entry and front gallery space. The tree like roof which also extends inside the space is a great connection to the nearby Albert Park and made the space feel open, light, and airy. Upon entry the material choices and detail became cleaner and allowing the art inside the building to remain the main focus. The curtain wall design around the building allows natural light to enter the space in a beautiful way and also helps establish the connection from the surrounding area into the gallery. This simple yet elegant design was continued in the glass railings on the staircases.

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Sean and I are well educated in architecture and have worked and studied it for over the past 13years so we can be pretty picky and critical when it comes to design, but this art gallery was truly one of the best we have seen in the world. Around every corner there was a different exhibit and an interesting yet subtle architectural detail that would catch our eyes. We could be seen photographing door details, archways, and stairs which to most people might seem strange (as we did get some weird looks) but this building was truly a work of art in itself. We have visited several art museums in our time and have been to some where the architect seems to have lost sight of what the building was meant for (displaying art) and focused on solely making the building the piece of art. This is were we believe many architectural projects fail. They forget the purpose of the building and focus to much on creating their own masterpieces. If you fail, your user your design fails, it really is that simple.

This building does not do that in fact it does the opposite. It highlights all the art on display and does not take away from the fact that this is the purpose of the building. It also does a splendid job of not only connecting itself to the surrounding area, it is connected to the history of the area. This can be seen throughout the museum in several different places. The use of the local kauri wood is one great example of this. They even had pieces of the original building on display as part of the exhibit and it was beautiful.

They also commissioned three Māori artists to create artworks for permanent display in the gallery. The first piece is the one which can be seen upon entering the gallery and really did catch our eye. It is a piece by local artist Arnold Manaaki Wilson & Anthony Wilson. It is the carvings/design located on the top of each of the three columns on the forecourt. The other two pieces can be found throughout the gallery and they all connect the gallery to the history of its location and its people.

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If in Auckland, do not miss the opportunity to see this great art gallery.

Top 20 Restaurants in Auckland, NZ

Top 20 Restaurants in Auckland, NZ

For all you Foodies out there

If you are visiting Auckland and want to know the best spots for a good meal look no further. We lived in Auckland for one month and compiled this list for all our fellow foodies who look at food first when deciding on a trip. These are in no particular order as we had a hard time deciding which was number one and so forth. So we decided not to stress about the order and just give you our top 20.

  1. The Shires Restaurant & Bar-Probably our most favorite restaurant in Auckland
  2. Ramen Station-By New Lynn Mall
  3. The Ancient Mariner – Kiwi As Fish and Chips
  4. Okra Espresso Lounge-Featured photo is from this place it was so so good!
  5. Monsoon Thai Restaurant-Devonport
  6. Des Traditions-Mt. Roskill
  7. New Windsor Bakehouse-Meat pies, pastries, and a great cup of coffee
  8. The Kapiti Store-Ice Cream in the CBD
  9. Sals Pizza
  10. Burger Fuel
  11. Nandos
  12. Ben & Jerry’s- Ice Cream in Mission Bay
  13. Goodness Gracious Cafe
  14. BMK – Bun Mee Kiwi
  15. Mexico Food & Liquor – Ellerslie
  16. Voila Cafe
  17. Mexican Cafe
  18. Hansan
  19. White’s & Co. for coffee
  20. Santos Coffee Limited

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Here we are enjoying our first taste of NZ ice cream from The Kapiti Store in the CBD