Sometimes you need to get away. If you’re a busy professional though, taking more than a few days out of the office can be difficult to do. Luckily, you don’t have to travel far to access the exotic.
For Australians, New Zealand offers reprieve from our climate with cooler weather, making it an excellent destination for those who want something a little different. With a flying time around three hours from Sydney to Auckland, the North Island offers the perfect short break that feels like a world away.
The North Island has a population of just over 3.5 million, with Auckland being its largest city at just shy of 1.5 million inhabitants. A modern, clean and picturesque harbour city sharing visual similarities with that of Sydney and Vancouver.
With only a little time, you can still experience the best that New Zealand has to offer. In this edition’s travel feature we spent only four days accessing the North with an itinerary that looked liked this:
Night 1: Auckland
Night 2: Waiheke Island
Night 3: Bay of Islands
Night 4: Auckland
Our first night in New Zealand was at the centrally located Hilton Auckland in the Quay area. Built on a wharf with fantastic sea views, they offer 165 rooms with views of the Waitemata Harbour from both the balcony and decking areas. The hotel also offers a fitness center, and meeting space that can accommodate for up to 700 guests across seven meeting and banquet rooms. Their restaurant FISH also boasts New Zealand celebrity chef Gareth Stewart.
Its proximity meant we were immediately able to access the heart of the city by foot, and even on a tight schedule we took in a range of activities including the Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland War Memorial Museum, New Zealand Maritime Museum, National Museum of the Royal New Zealand Navy, and the Museum of Transport and Technology.
Dining options are immense in the CBD including the popular viaduct area.
Auckland offers two options to access Waiheke Island by ferry including one centrally located in Wynyard Quarter. From here, the Sealink ferry will deliver you to the island in a little over an hour.
Arriving on Waiheke Island you’ll feel it’s its own unique nation with a wide range of alternative residential architecture, wineries and art galleries.
The first stop was our accommodation at The Boatshed. One of the island’s premium five star boutique options, providing a luxurious, down to earth offering with stunning views of the nearby beaches from its location on the hills. With a casual and elegant atmosphere The Boatshed offers a five course meal served with local wines as well as a selection of home grown vegetables picked from their own garden. The rooms also provide louvered shutters – perfect to open up to the sea views while enjoying complimentary port by the fireplace.
There are a number of tour operators available, but we opted to use our rental vehicle to ensure we had the flexibility to view as much of the island as possible. The island is divided into two areas with one side featuring the gorgeous town village with its galleries, and the other side preserved and showcasing the nature on the island. If you opt to rent a vehicle, you’ll never be far from its white sand beaches, or secluded lookout points.
There are a number of vineyards you can take in during your stay with many of them providing a sense of seclusion and tranquility that can be elusive to find on other holidays. In addition to the many opportunities for wine tasting, Waiheke Island is home to over 100 artists offering a range of galleries to visit, and a perfect souvenir for art aficionados. If you have the opportunity for a longer stay, there are many other activities available including diving, fishing and kayaking to name just a few.
Bay of Islands
Taking the ferry back to Auckland, we continued our short break taking the highway northbound up to Bay of Islands. Depending upon the time you have available, the scenic drive can be a tight squeeze as you’ll need to allow four hours if you choose to use the byway to take in the longer coast road to the town of Russell. Alternatively, visitors can also access the car ferry between Okiato and Opua into town.
The region has an interesting past, with Bay of Islands being the first area in New Zealand to be settled by Europeans. For many visitors, the small town of Russell acts as the entrance to Bay of Islands. Originally known as the “Hell Hole of the Pacific”, Russell features New Zealand’s first church, Christ Church, which had received funding from the one and only Charles Darwin.
With its 144 islands, Bay of Islands is one of the most popular fishing, sailing and tourist destinations in the country, and has been renowned internationally for its big-game fishing and dolphin watching.
There are many well-maintained walking tracks providing breathtaking views throughout the islands, with a range of tourism providers offering boat trips and a number of festivals throughout the year.
When staying in Russell consider The Duke of Marlborough Hotel. Built in 1827 the hotel was the country’s first licensed venue. Offering a truly classic feel with its colonial history, The Duke features waterfront views of the Bay perfect to watch the sunsets with locally produced wine and beers. It features a popular restaurant for dining, and its corporate opportunities can support up to 150 guests in The Duke’s grand ballroom.
Return to Auckland
During the drive back to Auckland you’re reminded it’s one of the world’s most liveable cities, welcomed by the harbour and the city’s appropriate nickname, “City of Sails”.
We made our way to the Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbour, checking in to their 5-star accommodation that provides a unique luxury experience with a modern feel. Offering 171 rooms with 8 suites, the location is slightly out of the CBD but makes up for it with its close proximity to Wynyard Quarter featuring many of the best restaurants and bars.
Our day was spent taking a tour through the Domain and some shopping through the commercial area of Queen Street in the city.
In the evening we enjoyed a wonderful dinner in Sofitel’s Lava restaurant. A terrific dining experience along the viaducts, we recommend matching some of NZ’s great wine with their fresh oysters.
We enjoyed a few drinks at the popular bars in the Quarter before returning to our room for an early flight back to Sydney.
To read and download the full profile click on the cover image below. To view this editorial as it appeared originally in The Australian Business Executive magazine, click here.