My birthday, 06 February, falls on Waitangi Day – a national holiday here in New Zealand. What better excuse to head out of town and go explore? I had not yet visited Auckland (aside from the airport) so we flew up to Auckland to explore a bit of New Zealand’s largest city.

Foremost on my list of things to see was the Auckland Museum. The Auckland Museum contains a large collection of Polynesian artifiacts – a must see for anyone who has time to visit the Big Smoke.

Our first stop was a private guided tour of the recently finished Grand Atrium, an interesting structure which actually hangs down from four large pillars and is not connected to the main building – impressive.

At the time of our visit the museum had a display called Vaka Moana, which told the story of the seafaring peoples of Polynesia. The exhibit was well done and informative.

Part of the permanent collection at the Auckland Museum is this diorama of Wandering Albatross. I just had to include an image of our namesake!

Another exhibit at the museum was on volcanoes. New Zealand has quite a fair share of volcanoes, and Auckland itself contains no less than 28 of them!

The Auckland Museum has a beautiful collection of Maori artifacts, including complete maraes dating from the mid 1800s

Our next stop was to the New Zealand National Maritime Museum. This museum has a great collection of old boat stuff and interesting historical artifacts. One of the interesting displays is Ms Chippy, the ship’s cat aboard Shackelton’s epic Antarctic expedition.

The museum’s collection includes several boats docked at the wharf. One such boat is a neat old steam engine sea crane. We saw a similar crane docked in the Wellington harbour.

One day we took a ferry across to Davenport, located on the North Shore. The weather was wonderfully warm and semi-tropical.

We walked around Davenport for a bit then scaled the mighty Mt. Victoria (yes, another volcanoe). Mt. Victoria still retains some old fortifications from WWII, such as this disappearing gun emplacement.

Above the bunkers (which, unfortunately, were off limits), the vents were all painted like big toadstools.

From the top of Mt. Victoria there is a great view of Rangitoto (yet another volcanoe).

Our next stop was the Sky Tower. Tickets for the elevator ride up to the observation deck are a bit steep at NZ$25.00 per person, but it is worth doing once for the high vantage point of the city. We were thinking of dining at the restaurant at the top, but I guess that’s a whole different elevator ride from the observation deck – oh well.

During our entire 5 day trip to Auckland we had no rain, even though at times the skies appeared threatening.

The next day we walked over to the Auckland Art Gallery. The collection at the museum includes some of the great early portraits of Maori around New Zealand.

After our tour of the Auckland Art Gallery, we bussed on over to Kelly Tarlton’s Antarctic Encounter and Underwater World.

The acquarium stands as a testimont to Kelly Tarlton’s devotion to the sea, and includes what was the first underwater viewing tunnel ever built into an aquarium. On display was a preserved giant squid, a huge animal, which pales in comparison to the recently recovered complete collosal squid now at Te Papa museum in Wellington, waiting to be thawed out.

Gaby and I enjoyed just walking around Downtown Auckland, especially at the harbour, watching the ferries come and go.

Our last stop was a brief visit to Mt. Eden (also a volcano). It was interesting to note the Maori believe the summit crater to be sacred. As such, people are asked not to defile the crater by walking into it. Ironically, cows are allowed to tramp around the crater at will.

We had a great time in Auckland! On our next visit we hope to explore some of the not so touristy areas of the city.

This parting shot is for all the Italians out there. We were walking around downtown Auckland and passed by this restaurant. I just had to take a picture of it! We suspect the owners are Italians with a sense of humour šŸ™‚