I’d visited Auckland five years earlier during my previous Round the World trip, but only saw the central part of the city and neighbouring Devonport.
This time I had allowed a few days to see some of the scenic areas of North Auckland and the Coromandel Peninsula. Additionally I was keen to check out the Auckland Botanic Garden.
Following my week in Fiji, Stage 3 of my Round the World in 30 Days trip started with a Fiji Airways flight to Auckland and again I was impressed with this airline.
I’d booked a hire car through Atlaschoice and there were no problems with the pick-up. An oldish, but smart Hyundai Getz was ready for me.
I brought my Garmin Nüvi 50 LM Sat Nav with me, having first down-loaded a free set of New Zealand maps from NZ Open GPS Project. The maps proved accurate with just a slight quirk in that when searching for towns, entries have to be in upper case characters.
My Top Ten Highlights
The first four highlights are from my tour up the East Coast from Auckland to Warkworth.
I then returned along the West Coast through some pleasant but not exceptional scenery, before visiting the Auckland Botanic Garden.
My final five highlights are from my second tour in an anticlockwise direction around the Coromandel Peninsula.
1. Orewa Beach, Hibiscus Coast. I passed many beaches along the Auckland East Coast, but this was one of the most attractive.
2. Wenderholm Regional Park. This was Auckland’s first Regional Park situated on a spit between the Puhoi and Waiwera Rivers. I did the beach walk around the headland but there are several forest paths past historic Maori sites.
3. Couldrey House – a fascinating Victorian-Edwardian house in the Wenderholm Regional Park.
The volunteer curators made the history of the place come to life.
4. Ransom Wines. I didn’t realise I was approaching a wine producing area until I came across this vineyard in what turned out to be the Matakana wine region. Some great wines: my wife enjoyed the Albarino Spanish White whilst I went for the Syrah. Also excellent food is served in a conservatory overlooking the vines.
5. Auckland Botanic Gardens – 156 acres of landscaped gardens and water features plus areas of native forest.
Not one of my Top Ten Gardens of the world, but this young garden (opened in 1982) is developing well with an interesting mixture of native and introduced plants including large rose, camellia and magnolia collections.
6. Coromandel Forest Park. Although famed for its long-distances hiking trails, as Seniors we made do with driving through this massive park, past tall tree ferns and hillsides covered with toetoe, native pampas grass.
7. Tairua – a seaside town with an extinct volcanic peak, Mt Paku, sitting in the middle.
8. Coromandel town. Once a wild gold rush town now a quiet place to enjoy the Victorian architecture, attractive harbour and relax awhile at one of the many restaurants.
9. Driving Creek Railway. The only narrow gauge railway in NZ was built by pottery artist Barry Bicknell to transport clay. Maybe a bit expensive at $28 ($27 for Seniors 65+), but profits are used in forest preservation work.
The route includes 2 spirals, 3 tunnels, 5 reversing points and a double-decker bridge. There are great views of Hauraki Gulf from Eyefull Tower at the line summit.
10. Coromandel Peninsula West Coast. New Zealand has many fine coastlines but this stretch, known as the Pohutukawa Coast, is one of the most scenic.
I stayed at the Auckland Airport Holiday Inn. Yes, yet another Holiday Inn! But my choice was based on its position with good access to both North Auckland and the Coromandel Peninsula. It was also based on the good Senior Discount rate offered and on all the IHG Reward Club points I would get – almost enough to cover another stay!
Forget the Great Ocean Road in Victoria State, Australia, the coastlines I visited in North Auckland and around the Coromandel Peninsula are far more scenic with the beaches more accessible.