New Zealanders Really Know How to…

Ah, the flat white.

New Zealanders do two things really well: coffee and rugby.  No, wait.

New Zealanders do three things really well:  coffee, rugby and war memorials. No, wait…

Memorial on One Tree Hill


Devonport War Memorial
The best of all: the Auckland War Memorial Museum

New Zealanders do four things really well: coffee, rugby, war memorials and the postal service.


I love the New Zealand Post. First, the mail is delivered by Posties on bicycles. Think of how much money could be saved (and how good for the environment) if the USPS used bikes in cities and towns. And look what good shape these posties are in! Plus even villages have postal service in dairies (small grocery stores). And because the Post has a relationship with the state owned Kiwibank, people in small towns also have access to banking services.

New Zealanders do four things really well: coffee, rugby, war memorials and the postal service. No wait, New Zealanders do five things really well: coffee, rugby, war memorials, postal service and public toilets!

No, wait…

Many of the public toilets in the Northland are beautifully designed, and every loo in NZ is cleaner than any public toilet I have ever used in the USA.

There are six things New Zealanders do really well:  coffee, rugby, war memorials, postal service, public toilets and public libraries!

The Devonport library:  City of Auckland is still expanding their library system!

There are more things kiwis do well, like conservation of natural areas and hiking huts and bike trails and water sports and blending te reo Maori and poetry festivals and wine and lamb. You will just have to go and see for yourself and add to this list.




Hiking Rangitoto in Auckland

I stared at Rangitoto too many times to count from a bench in St Heliers in the east bays of Auckland. Finally I was able to take the ferry and hike to the top.

Rangitoto is the most recent volcano to erupt in the Auckland area. It was over 600 years ago, which is like yesterday in geologic time. The Auckland Museum has a terrific volcano exhibit including a lounge in St Heliers where you can experience what it might be like if a similar volcanic eruption occurred (right next to Rangitoto). Warning: it does unnerve.

You can leave from either Devonport or the Ferry Building on Quay Street at the end of Queen Street in Auckland. Fuller Ferries will sell a round trip ticket. It was extra to stop at Devonport on our return. In an attempt to control the rodent population in favor of native birds, take care and check your bags for any critters including ants and your shoes for excessive dirt or seeds. (It sounds crazy, I know. Just check. Who wants to be the jerk that brings something harmful onto Rangitoto?)

The cost of the ferry from Auckland or Devonport to Rangitoto is $30NZ round trip for an adult and $15NZ for a child.
The cost of the ferry from Auckland or Devonport to Rangitoto is $30NZ round trip for an adult and $15NZ
for a child.

We rose early, packed a bag with cameras, water and a snack and headed to catch the 9:15 ferry. We found parking at a garage across Quay Street from the Ferry Building. Our plan was to hike to the top of Rangitoto and then take the 12:30 ferry to Devonport for lunch. There are bathrooms on the island but no other facilities. The ferry does offer food and beverages on the boat, including tea or coffee.

Baches along shoreline of Rangitoto.
Baches along shoreline of Rangitoto.

Rangitoto trailThe day was overcast. We slathered on sunscreen just in case the sun made an appearance. It did not. I am glad as it would have been intensely hot and made the hike more challenging, although the photos would have been better.

There are a few “baches” (simple holiday houses) remaining on the island as historical landmarks, though no one can spend the night any longer. The trails are well marked and their is a tour company that will take you part of the way on a tram. We followed the signs up the trail to the summit. We ignored the offered side routes–another time. The Fullers brochure does recommend sturdy walking shoes and a torch if you want to explore lava caves.

View from Rangitoto includes nearby Motutapu.
View from Rangitoto includes nearby Motutapu.

It is more fascinating than beautiful to hike through volcanic fields of aa (dried lava flows). In some places soil has accumulated and vegetation grows. Where vegetation grows there are birds, mainly my favorite tui.

It is an arduous climb as it unrelentingly goes up. After we returned to Auckland a friend told me that she has hiked Rangitoto twice–the second time with her 80 year old mother. She told her story with humor and her mother sounds very game but she said never again! If you give yourself enough time, I believe most people, including children and those out of shape, could make it to the top. There are a series of long stairs at the very top, so it is not accessible to strollers or wheelchairs. The morning we hiked we were eclipsed at the top by a group of students from a boys college racing to the top.

Near the top of Rangitoto
The trail is well marked by the Department of Conservation.

There is a deck for viewing the dormant volcano’s cone, as well as a deck for appreciating the views. Like many other places around Auckland Bays, there are watch bunkers from World War II. The trail is well marked and there are numerous informational signs provided by the Department of Conservation. I used these to stop and catch my breath and take a few photos.

Sometimes the walk downhill can be harder than the hike uphill. Rangitoto’s trail is not too challenging on the way down. There are a few spots where you have to slow down and place your feet carefully.

We returned to the ferry dock in plenty of time to relax a bit before the ride to Devonport. The weather was not improving. When the ferry docked I was a bit surprised to see some people arriving. They would have just enough time to walk an hour to the summit and return before the last ferry of the day left.

Tevis, Sarah and Marcos mooching around in Devonport.
Tevis, Sarah and Marcos mooching around in Devonport.

Wild and Wooly

We stopped at Devonport and ate lunch at one of the many restaurants just a few blocks from the ferry building. My kids mooched around town while I shopped at my favorite wool shop. Then we hopped on the ferry back to Auckland CBD. Those leave every half hour. It was $7.50 a person for the short hop (takes less than 15 minutes).

I always love the view of Auckland from the ferry. It is a beautiful city and full of good times and great memories. Especially of the Rugby World Cup. I hope one day Auckland will be able to host the America’s Cup again.

Kiwi Ingenuity, Part II: World of Wearable Art

This is the detail of the Grand Award winner from 2014 WOW.
This is the detail of the Grand Award winner from 2014 WOW.

I love, love, love the World of Wearable Art. It is a show, an inspiration, a collection of amazing “garments” and more. A year ago I traveled with my friend UK Sarah to see the show in Wellington. On this visit to Auckland I was able to share the amazing craft that is WOW with my adult children at the Auckland War Memorial and Museum’s exhibit.

The catwalk at the WOW exhibit allows you to see some of the best designs from various years.
The catwalk at the WOW exhibit allows you to see some of the best designs from various years.

You can take any one of the amazing dresses or bras or other creations and marvel at the design, construction and whimsey for a long time. This exhibit allows you to linger as long as you want AND to get up close and personal (without touching).

Or you can create your own WOW inspired paper doll and add it to the wall in the exhibit. Sarah Harriet making her paper doll

The Auckland Museum is located in the Domain near Parnell in Auckland. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $25 per adult and $10 per child. The WOW exhibit is included with admission. Also worth checking out: the Maori Experience (musical performances), the cafe, and the gift shop for quality gifts made in New Zealand.

The backside of a crayfish dress.
The backside of a crayfish dress.

Maori Experience at the Auckland Museum

Maori performerI love the Auckland War Memorial Museum so much I became a member last year. We made it one of our first stops on our recent visit to Auckland. There are so many diverse exhibits and those on the first floor change regularly so there is always something new. Even in the exhibits I have seen before I notice something new–like the room dedicated to Sir Edmund Hillary’s expedition and follow up work building schools and hospitals in Nepal.

My mom and her friends expressed an interest in Maori culture and the Auckland Museum has an extensive collection of Maori art and historical artifacts. We also got tickets for the Maori Experience, a cultural performance by a talented group of young men and women. They sing and dance and explain the history of Maori traditions. When I lived in St Heliers I took a introduction to Maori class at Selwyn College taught by a woman from Ngāti Whātua, the local iwi. I recognized many of the songs, karanga, and dancing as they are still part of community celebrations. They ended the performance with a rousing demonstration of the haka. The explanation of how the haka, performed by both men and women, was an important part of sending off the young men into battle, helped me understand better why the haka is so motivational to the All Blacks rugby team. Afterward the performers went out into the hall and answered questions (and posed for my Mom’s pictures).

Maori performer

They perform 4 times a day and there are admission packages that combine tickets for admission with the performance for some cost savings.

Please use that cost savings to eat at the cafe. The food and coffee are delicious. Or shop at the gift shops. They have some of the best selection of real New Zealand jewelry, woolen items and other great gifts for yourself or your people at home. (Much better than the “made in China schlock that crowds the shops on Queen Street.)

I can easily spend a day at the museum and because we limited this visit to a half-day we did not have time to look at the natural history collections. The volcano exhibit is very popular.

Do not miss the Auckland Museum–and remember that the revolving door at the War Memorial entrance stops if you touch it. Always good for a laugh unless you are the one caught in it!

Postcard: Auckland War Memorial Museum

For a variety of reasons I try to go to the Auckland War Memorial Museum (AM) whenever I am in Auckland. Located in the beautiful domain with an amazing view of the city and the bay, it is a little bit war memorial, a little bit natural history museum AND has a terrific gift shop. Seriously, if you are looking for good gifts from NZ, shop here first.

Super cool iPad technology

On this visit, I enjoyed the special, limited time Moana–My Ocean exhibit. This was developed from research AM scientists have been collaborating on in the Hauraki Gulf.  There were several parts of the exhibit using technology I have never seen before–especially the Boil Up.  This uses artificial intelligence to create a new experience each time that allows you to experience a fish boil up and how it adapts to predators of increasing sizes. I also loved the special exhibit on Sir Edmund Hillary, and the permanent volcano exhibit.Amazing artifically intelligent exhibit