Holed Up in Auckland

We arrived here already in semi self-isolation. So many attractions and tours have closed or been cancelled that we have been walking quite a bit. We are in a one-bedroom apartment, and it gives us a bit of flexibility. We are just a five-minute walk from the waterfront with ferries and a wide variety of shops, restaurants (most are open but not packed), and attractions (most of them closed).

Waiheke Island proved to be a good first day for our Auckland stay. We took the 40-minute ferry ride and started walking when we debarked. The downtown village had the usual assortment of tourist shops. We strolled along the beach at Oretoa Bay, which was full of small boats, swimmers, and beachwalkers, like us. We grabbed lunch at a local pub and enjoyed a Monteith’s pale ale before setting out for the island wineries. We tasted a sampling of Cable Bay offerings, enjoyed the view, and walked the forest trail to the return ferry.

We explored away from the waterfront the next day. Albert Park was a quiet island of green with people practicing Tai Chi, walking dogs, and just enjoying the sunshine. The bigger find was the Auckland Domain. The Domain is a huge green area in the city, akin to but smaller than Central Park. It has a perimeter track, multiple cricket pitches, a fernery/greenhouse, ponds, trails, and on the hill overlooking the bay, the War Memorial Museum and ANZAC memorial, which was closed, disappointingly.

We shared a delightful dinner at Portofino’s with Maryland hockey friends, Steve Emburey and Dory Smith, along with their travel companions. We were on the Viaduct Basin marina front and had a great evening of food, wine, and good conversation. At the waterfront, we also saw some bare bones, America’s Cup class racing sailboats. They are characterized with the dual steering wheels and hand cranks, and are the sailing world’s thoroughbreds.

The Wynyard Quarter is an industrial park that is evolving into a residential, business, retail, and entertainment district. But as we wandered around, it was sad to see the effects of this COVID-19; lots of restaurants open and empty. That will not last long as NZ increases its lockdown level (it just went to Level 3 on Monday afternoon) that closes all restaurants, schools, and shops. New Zealanders do not mess around. They are closing within an hour of the announcement.

We just heard that all air travel shuts down in 48 hours. Our flight is scheduled to leave in about 47 hours…cutting it pretty close. Stay tuned for developments.

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