I cannot end my New Zealand travel series without sharing with you even just a little bit about our last destination before going home. Our itinerary’s last stop (for a brief 2-night stay) was the city of Auckland, the largest and most populous urban area in the country. This city is quite interesting too — especially when I found out that they are rated as the third most liveable city in the world!
Auckland is a thriving multi-cultural hub of cuisine, music, art and culture — with a lot of places good for kids too!
On our first morning, we took the kids to the Auckland War Memorial Museum, which is New Zealand’s first museum! Here they learned about the country and its people, saw airplanes used during the past world wars, learned a lot about volcanoes (because the country has lots of them) and discovered tribal Maori and Pacific arts.
We also got to see the Auckland Sky Tower, which has stood tall as an icon of Auckland’s skyline for almost 19 years now. It offers any visitor the most breathtaking views of the city plus some adrenaline activities and fun, casual dining too. This is where we got a 360 view of the city from 220 meters high. We even spotted some key landmarks and volcanoes from where we were standing!
Since we didn’t have much time in the city and we only had one night for a “fine dining kind of dinner”, we ended up in the highly recommended : Clooney. Their dining room is a design showcase in itself! The restaurant is very sophisticated, sleek and elegant. No wonder this place has received several awards — they have been consistent about serving delicious food and excellent wine coupled with offering only the best service to their guests.
Some of Clooney’s best sellers: scampi tails with carotene, cashew and buttermilk, yellowtail kingfish with yuzu, avocado and crispy rice, beetroot and plum sesame with kombu and shiso, cured venison with fig, blackberry, ginger bread and hazelnut, and Hawke’s Bay lamb with nettle, yogurt, dates, sunflower and olives.
The flavors were clean, precise and modern. The ingredients used were those in season, which made each dish taste so fresh!
For desserts, they gave us a colorful medley of four. The combinations are as interesting as they are fascinating! There was cheesecake curd with tea, raspberry and vinegar, black peach with lemon verbena, coconut and oats, burnt buffalo milk and white chocolate,Valrhona dark chocolate with miso, plum and koji milk.
The next day, we took the public ferry from the city of Auckland to the island of Waiheke, a place renowned for its world-class wineries and vineyards, thriving local art scene and secluded sandy beaches.
We were lucky that on the day that we were there, it was actually the day of their Food and Wine Festival! There was live band music, all sorts of gourmet food, artisan finds and of course, their best selling wines from the region!
Award winning vineyards with their hand-crafted wines, artisanal cheeses and freshly pressed olive oil and organic pork belly sandwiches, gourmet lamb burgers, empanada tasting plates among many others were made available to all festival goers!
After the festival, we went to another place in Waiheke, the Te Whau Vineyard, which is a stunning place for a lovely meal, great wines of course with fabulous sea views as the backdrop!
Since we just had lunch in the Food and Wine Festival, we decided to have our desserts here instead. We had a taste of their vanilla affogato, lemon cheesecake and molten dark chocolate cake. Simple desserts but done oh so well!
For our last dinner in Auckland, we decided to have some rich Indian food for a change. iVillage is the city’s best known and highly recommended Indian restaurant.
Each dish that we ordered was spicy, flavorful and aromatic : tandoori prawns, papdi chaat (chickpeas with potatoes, red onion and yogurt), lamb masala, chicken handi (cooked in coriander, cumin, tomatoes in hot and spicy sauce), and the best garlic naan I’ve ever tried! It was the perfect hearty meal to end our last night in the city.
And finally, as we walked our way back to the hotel, we were greeted by this marina view that was beautifully illuminated that night. And that’s when it suddenly hit me: our holiday has come to an end and this is the city’s quiet way of saying goodbye. It was finally time to go…
New Zealand, you have been nothing but amazing. You fed me with the most incredibly fresh food and stunned me with your gorgeous natural beauty. You scared me and pushed me to my limits but made me realize that I am actually stronger, braver than what I think. Most importantly, you left me and my family a lot of heartwarming memories that we will always remember. I am glad all these happened (and thank goodness, I am finally finished writing about you!) for now I know, I can always go back and relive our wonderful experiences together.
To read about my previous in New Zealand, in the city of Queenstown, click here.
To see all my photos from this trip, search #TSMinNewZealand on Instagram or click here.