Monday, May 09, 2011

Auckland - Waiheke Island

We have a distinct lack of enthusiasm for city travel with kids, so we opted for a short stay in Auckland. It was a transition from Nelson (direct flight) and a good starting point for the drive to the Bay of Islands. I didn't want to fly in and drive out immediately, so we stayed for two nights. We arrived on a beautiful sunny afternoon, but it was pouring cold rain by nightfall and rained until we drove two hours north, two days later.

The part of Auckland I most wanted to see wasn't Auckland at all; it was Waiheke Island. Waiheke Island is only about a 30 minute ferry ride out of Auckland. Ferries leave very regularly and are not expensive. The island has a population of around 4000 people year-round. That population explodes during the summer months because of the beaches and the fantastic wineries.

Once we arrived on the island, we hopped on a hop-on, hop-off touring bus/van that took us around the populated section of the island, pointing out various spots along the way. The driver recommended we eat lunch at Wild on Waiheke because it was the most kid-friendly. There was a playground and pizza oven. Done. The driver was a big fan of the fruit beers there, so we sampled the beers and wines on offer.

Of course, it was raining so Stephanie got soaked going down the playground slide (there was no stopping her). A man who worked there kindly offered to pop her clothes into their dryer along with the tea towels, so she was mostly dry by the time we left. From there, we visited an art gallery for the island local artists and then enjoyed seriously gourmet desserts at the Mudbrick Vineyard restaurant (the girls had ice cream sundaes).

As much as we love good food, we aren't gourmet people and are skeptical of artsy food. Markus didn't know what to make of his dessert (the latter one above), but he could not stop raving about the flavor. He still lists that as the highlight of our Auckland visit, so there you go. The wines at Mudbrick were outstanding. We brought two bottles home with us (one is already gone).

While we enjoyed our desserts, we enjoyed a little visitor who had flown in through the nearby open door. He's a fantail, probably related to the Willy Wagtail we have in Perth. He talked to us quite a bit and stayed atop the mirror near our seats almost the entire time we were there, much to the girls' delight.

Stephanie concentrated heavily on her ice cream. Not a drop was wasted, I assure you.

The next day, we stopped at the Auckland Zoo before driving out of town. Did I mention it was raining and cold? Okay then. Still, it was a really nice zoo. I wish we'd been able to enjoy it more. It was there that we saw the only kiwi bird of the trip. The conditions in his nocturnal house were so dark for his comfort that we only made out his silhouette, but I can say he was bigger than we expected him to be. The zoo also has two hand-reared cheetah brothers. They are so accustomed to people that they go for walks with the staff each morning before the zoo opens. When all other animals are in their indoor enclosures, the cats are let off their leads to run! I can't imagine what it would be like to see that, but I'm guessing I'd need clean pants afterwards. I'm just saying.

Since you know I have to talk about food...
Auckland itself provided the best restaurant for our family of the entire stay. Prego on Ponsonby was a hit with all of us, but most especially (and remarkably) with Ellie. She loved the garlic bread and the pizza. She couldn't get enough! Luckily, it was the first place we tried. We ate there again on our way out of town, and then again on our way back in days later. Food that goes over well with our non-eater should not be ignored.
For everyone else, I tell you not to miss the 20 minute pancake at Kokako in Parnell. Yes, it does take 20 minutes. YES, IT IS WORTH IT. Amazing. My normally polite and selfless husband stole my food. It was that good.

1 comment:

Karly said...

I love hearing about your vacation, and also, I must say, the food! The desserts did look quite, I want something sweet! Thanks for sharing :-)