1YoT: Auckland and Kawakawa Bay

After leaving our break-from-camping-even-though-we’re-only-three-days-in house, we headed to Auckland, the business capital and largest city in New Zealand, located only two hours north.

While planning our New Zealand trip, one common piece of advice we received was not to spend too much time in Auckland. We never heard any bad reviews of the city, most people simply said it was lackluster and that our time would be better spent elsewhere. This was one of the main reasons our original plan (before the earthquake disrupted us) was to focus on New Zealand’s southern island. But now that we are only two hours from Auckland, we thought we’d swing by and see the city for ourselves. We only spent half a day here and this was plenty, but we enjoyed our visit and are glad we stopped by.

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We started our Auckland tour here, in Aotea Square and its neighboring (to the right in the photograph) town hall. This area was pretty and relaxing, and much greener than the rest of downtown. It was also smaller than most central squares for cities of comparable size and population.

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This statue of Lord Auckland, whom the city of Auckland is named after, is from Calcutta (Auckland was the Governor-General of British controlled India). However, when India won their independence they wanted their British empire relics gone. This statue was shipped here, paid for by Auckland’s city council.

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This piece, also located in Aotea Square, is a Waharoa, the Maori term for gateway. This particular Waharoa is modern and expressionist, designed to blend Maori values (nature, wildlife) with New Zealand ones (peace, nuclear disarmament).

Next to Aotea Square is Auckland’s Central Business District. This was a pretty happening place, lots of people, lots of shops; it felt very similar to Toronto’s entertainment district and even had its own version of the CN Tower, but not as tall.

And that’s it! Our best Auckland pictures. We tried to visit Auckand’s waterfront but parking was difficult and expensive, so we didn’t stay. But we did stop by one last place on our way out of the city, and this was the destination that made our Auckland visit worth it.

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This is Maungawhau, also known as Mount Eden, a dormant volcano in the middle of Auckland. Los Angeles may be the only city with a mountain range in it, but Auckland has this entire mountain, and hiking it felt very similar (and offered similarly spectacular views) to the mountains in Los Angeles.

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As an example, here’s Auckland’s skyline as viewed from Maungawhau.

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And here are the views in three different directions, overlooking three different parts of the city.

After finishing at Maungawhau we were officially done with Auckland. Unfortunately, we spent more time at Maungawhau than we planned, which resulted in us trying to leave during rush hour. On Friday. Traffic was through the roof.

To avoid this, Inna and I took a super scenic route, through neighborhoods and suburbs, to New Zealand’s Pacific Coast Highway. This highway, while not as amazing as California’s, was beautiful. And its first destination, which we found almost immediately upon reaching the highway, was one of the most beautiful spots we visited on New Zealand’s entire north island.

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Almost immediately after reaching Pacific Coast Highway we entered Kawakawa Bay, home to one of the most spectacular beaches Inna and I have ever seen. This beach had a sand bar several miles long and almost half a mile wide, almost all of it filled with fascinating sea creatures. Families often come here to collect mussels for cooking, and the maximum they are allowed to take is fifty per person per day. This should should give some idea just how many mussels (and other sea creatures) there were at this beach.

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Forget giving an idea, how about I show you. The above picture shows a section Kawakawa’s coastline, lined with shells that create a natural barrier between the sandbar and PCH. This barrier went on for almost the entire coastline at Kawakawa Bay.

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There weren’t quite as many shells on the sandbar itself, but there still were a lot.

Here’re some of the more interesting shells we saw.

And here are some creatures. Clockwise from upper left, these are: a starfish, a sand dollar, some crabs, and a dead jellyfish.

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If the shells, the sandbar, and the sea reatures weren’t enough, the beach itself was also gorgeous. And almost completely empty. Remember that seclusion we never got at our campsites? We got it here for sure.

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I don’t know if these pictures are capturing what it was like to be on the sandbar. Honestly, I don’t know if any picture can capture it. The place was so amazing, it was magical.

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Finally, this is Kawakawa Bay as viewed from the edge of the sandbar. Another stunning aspect of an incredibe beach.

Inna and I enjoyed this beach so much, we were tempted to throw our plans out and head to the beaches further north. From what we’ve heard, New Zealand’s best beaches were in the far north, even further north than Kawakawa Bay. If this is true, and with Kawakawa Bay being as amazing as it was, the beaches further north must be incredible.

Unfortunately, we already had ferry reservations and our flight back to Australia was out of one of New Zealand’s southernmost airports. Because of this, we couldn’t alter our trip too much, especially not after what the earthquake forced us to. And so we let our northern beach experience end at Kawakawa Bay. But you can bet that we’ll come back and check out the beaches north, because if Kawakawa Bay is any indication then they are incredible.

Until then, we’ll continue on this trip. Next up: one of the most interesting and unique villages in the world!

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