Our 3.5 hour flight from Melbourne to Auckland was the most comfortable flight ever, because we received a free upgrade to business class in Emirates A380. Once in Auckland, we met our friends Antoinette and Mike who settled down in New Zealand about 4 decades ago and spent two wonderful days at their home in the hills near Auckland.
Business Class to Auckland
A very pleasant surprise on Sunday Morning at 5 o’clock when heading towards the airport in Melbourne: I checked again my seat numbers on the Emirates App, and discovered that I no longer had the seats in economy class that I selected the day before, but some seats in the upper deck in business class. We must have been upgraded to business class. I don’t know the reason why we were the lucky ones, because we never flew Emirates before and we also booked the cheapest tickets available, but of course we accepted it.
And wow, this business class is something! I already flew business on Swiss and Lufthansa before, but Emirate’s business class is on a different level. Most notably was the friendliness of the crew and the sky bar at the back of the upper deck, where I was drinking excellent 25-year old port wine. I especially liked the bar because people in the plane started talking to each other and there was suddenly life in the plane, and not like on other flights where everybody is focused on their screens with the headphones on. Too bad the flight was already over after 3.5 hours, I really would have liked to stay a bit longer on that plane.
Warm Welcome in Auckland
Antoinette and Mike, our friends that we know through my aunt, picked us up at the airport and we drove around 45 minutes to their home. There we got a nice taste of the hospitality in New Zealand, and one evening we even had a Raclette for dinner, which is a traditional Swiss cheese-based meal. And because Antoinette is Swiss, the cheese was of course imported from Switzerland. We both had a wonderful time and would like to thank our friends again for the warm welcome.
In total we only planned one full day in Auckland, mostly due to recommendations from friends who suggested that there is nothing that special in Auckland. However, we think differently and we really regretted that we did not at least stay one more day in Auckland. The city is beautifully located between the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean, and even though downtown is not that large, it is definitely worth a visit.
Special about Auckland is that there are several small hills in the middle of the cities. These hills are actually small craters of volcanos, one of them was Mt. Eden. They are only slightly higher than 100m, but they really add to the already beautiful scenery of Auckland.
When driving through Auckland by car, we experienced how large Auckland really is. Even though there are only 1.5 million people living in Auckland, the city is the third largest in the world measured by its area. Getting from one end of Auckland to the other can easily take 1.5 hours. Having your own car here is an absolute must.
Upon recommendation, we also visited Piha Beach just NW of Auckland with our campervan that we picked up earlier that day. It is a beach with black volcanic sand, embedded into rocky cliffs and hills full of forest. And in the middle of the beach there was Lion Rock. Because there was a path up that rock, I also had to climb it. I was rewarded with another beautiful perspective of the beach.
Because we liked Piha Beach so much, we decided to stop for today and we put our campervan on a beautiful campground right behind the beach and spent our first night ever in a campervan.
The next morning we then started heading south east and visited Waiheke Island. Because the ferry for the campervan would have been too expensive, we decided to go on a day trip. On the island, we visited two wineries and walked though green fields and along beautiful beaches. It indeed is a beautiful place, but I am not absolutely sure if it is a must see if you only have 17 days like us to get from Auckland to Queenstown.
Piha Beach as well as Waiheke Island were both basically part of Auckland. Now it is time to go south, so our next destination will be Waitomo Caves where we expect to see some glowworms inside a cave (for a ridiculous price however).