My plane home left Auckland Airport at 7.30pm so we decided to drive into the city in the morning and see a bit more of the city during the day.
First stop was Auckland War Memorial Museum, in a grand building atop a lush green area overlooking the harbour. We were initially a little miffed at the entry price for international visitors of $25 – but after spending three whole hours there with more still to see, I didn’t mind anymore.
We were advised to start on the top of three floors and work our way down, so we started by spending an hour (and it could easily have been more) learning about New Zealand’s involvement in the First and Second World Wars and the effect it had on those at home, as well as the Boer War and New Zealand Wars. The best bits though were the two planes – the Spitfire and the Zero. And the huge walls covered in names of the fallen were particularly poignant.
The next floor was dedicated to New Zealand’s natural history, starting with volcanoes and a room examining the very real threat to Auckland in particular which was fascinating. There was also mocked-up house which simulates the effects of such a disaster, but this started every 12 minutes and we timed it badly so didn’t end up going in.
Elsewhere there were life-sized dinosaur skeleton replicas, several examples of different kiwi species, and a range of the extinct moa birds which showed how absolutely huge the females of the largest species could grow.
It’s worth noting there’s an absolutely brilliant and extremely colourful ‘weird and wonderful’ section children will surely enjoy. I was tempted to stay there a while myself!
The final floor is about ‘people of the Pacific’ but most importantly has a Maori court area which features a huge wooden war canoe, gateway carving, meeting house and more than 1,000 artefacts. You can see cultural Maori performances here too, if you pay extra. It’s the perfect end to a New Zealand museum visit.
After admiring the view down the hill into the city centre, we drove about 20 minutes to Mount Eden, a volcanic cone which boasts even better views.
Luckily you don’t have to walk too far with this one as there’s a car park partially up the hill (and it’s very steep up to there anyway) so you get all the rewards of surveying Auckland from its highest natural point without doing too much work first.
What a way to say goodbye to New Zealand.