Auckland is called the City of Sails for the large number of sailing vessels that take to the multitude of harbors that abut the city. “Set amongst volcanic islands, it’s the perfect playground for yachties,” effused one website.
|Mount Victoria "towering" over downtown Devonport|
On my first full day in the city, I took at short ride to Devonport, about 15 minutes across the bay. A quaint little seaside town, it had the usual retinue of boutiques, shops and stores but it also has Mount Victoria, an extinct volcano in the middle of town. Avid walkers can climb to the top in about 20 minutes (it is actually a walk along paved roads and not really a climb) or drive to the summit, which is 283 feet above sea level, for some great views of Auckland.
|Seagull and city view from atop Mount Victoria|
Having worked up an appetite climbing to the top, I decided to have lunch at a pub called The Patriot. Its selection of local beers and "pub grub" was impressive, but not nearly as impressive as its Wall of Fame (or shame, depending on your perspective) where it lists patrons who have downed between 100 and 5,000 pints of Guinness.
New Zealand is, of course, known for its wines. At 37 degrees south latitude, it is approximately as far south of the equator as California’s Napa Valley is north. The Marlborough region on the south island is arguably the most famous, but wines are made most everywhere in New Zealand, predominated by two white varietals (Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris) and the red Pinot Noir.
|Wall of Fame at The Patriot Pub|
As a traveler who prefers to explore on my own rather than being guided around by the hand, I was planning to take the local bus, which goes fairly close to about a third of the wineries. I figured three would be about my limit. But the good people of Waiheke Island, despite having the wherewithal to spend in excess of NZ$1,000,000 for waterfront homes, have not invested in a bus system that operates more than once an hour.
That means an independent traveler like myself, who took the ferry from the Auckland waterfront, would likely have to wait a while for the bus (I was told “Another 25 minutes” when I alighted from the ferry), then spend close to an hour at each winery. Not very workable.
|Oneroa Bay, Waiheke Island|
If choosing to rent a car (or even a scooter, for that matter), consider designating a non-drinking driver, as the potential of receiving a D.U.I. should not be ignored. The presumptive level of intoxication is expressed in New Zealand legislation as 50 mg of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood, which translates to 0.05 percent blood alcohol level (BAL), which is considerably lower that the presumptive impairment levels of 0.08 percent BAL in U.S. states.
MY RECOMMENDATION: If you plan to go wine-tasting, book a tour. Certainly, they may be more expensive than doing it on your own but it will save you the hassle and potential exposure of venturing out independently.
|Rangitoto Island as seen from Mount Victoria|
“About 45 kilometers north of Auckland is Puhoi (the pub and clientele are unique), Warkworth (about 60 km north) and Matakana (about 67 km north). I love the pub and Ascension Winery there,” he said.
If you are not game to rent a car and try driving on the left-hand side of the road, public transportation to most of these areas is available.
|Auckland skyline as seen from the water|
Photos by Carl Dombek
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