Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Much ado about Auckland

Today, Thursday May 12, 2011, Page T1, T8, T9, Travel
Source Website:
Gasthoori d/o Manickam, gasthoori@mediacorp.com.sg, 04:46 AM May 12, 2011

PHOTO: Auckland - natural wonders and stunning landscapes

PHOTO: Auckland - Set sail for thrills New Zealand sheds its retiree image with an intoxicating auckland.
Photo by John Foxx, Copyright © MediaCorp Press Ltd

Today, Thursday May 12, 2011, Page T1, Travel

PHOTO: Bay of Islands / Hauraki Gulf Discovery.
Cruise north from Auckland to Russell. Join the crew of this magnificent square-rigger to explore the pristine waters that Captain James Cook first chartered.
Day sailing and overnight anchorages at Coromandel, Great Barrier, Kawau and MotuiheIsland. The Hauraki Gulf is a protected marine park; whales and dolphins abound in its waters and at its isolated islands we hike ashore and see unique New Zealand wildlife.

The city of sails is as pretty as you'd imagine and more exciting than you think
As a destination, New Zealand has successfully shed its retiree image. And its largest city is more than just an idyllic getaway to the natural wonders and stunning landscapes the land has to offer.

I took off on Jetstar's new Starclass experience (its equivalent of business class) for Auckland, an expansive city with a tiny population of just over a million.

The city has become increasingly cosmopolitan, with a host of exciting activities that I was ready to jump into - quite literally.

PHOTO: Top 10 Best Places & Things To Do in Auckland, NZ Central Auckland's 'hypodermic needle'. This iconic landmark is great for getting your bearings if you're lost in any part of Auckland. To get a better view of your surroundings why not dine up the top in Orbit Revolving Restaurant or throw yourself off in a sky jump?
By: Angela Pearse


I was standing at the edge of Auckland's Sky Tower waiting to take the plunge. Picture yourself leaping off Singapore's Swissotel The Stamford, which stands at 226m. Add another 102m and you get Auckland's Sky City Tower, the tallest man-made structure in New Zealand.

PHOTO: Orbit Revolving Restaurant, SKYCITY on New Zealand's Map

For the faint-hearted, there's a safe viewing platform to enjoy the view of the city for up to 80km in every direction. Even better, take in the gorgeous sights while tucking into a meal at the Sky Tower restaurant Orbit - Auckland's only 360-degree revolving restaurant. I, however, seem to have a death wish.

PHOTO: Sky Tower restaurant Orbit - Auckland's only 360-degree revolving restaurant.

"You're the first person to do the Sky Jump today!" the instructors cheerfully informed me. I swallowed the lump in my throat. I'm not going to lie: I was more terrified than a carrot at a vegetarian convention.

Unlike bungee jumping where you dive down headfirst, the Sky Jump lets you plummet to the bottom standing up - at a speed of 83km per hour.

PHOTO: A brave tourist sky-jumps off the Sky Tower
Photo by John Foxx, Copyright © MediaCorp Press Ltd

Today, Thursday May 12, 2011, Page T8, T9, Travel

http://www.travelwithamate.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/sky_tower_sky_jump-300x242.jpg http://www.travelwithamate.com/best-new-zealand-activities-thrill-seekers/

"Ahhhhh!" I screamed. I tried to think of something wittier but "Ahhhhh!" was all I had. It was a crazy rush falling at that speed ... and then I stopped mid-fall.

Breathe, I reminded myself, breathe. I heard my name being called repeatedly. Ack! Was there some sort of trouble? Was there a technical malfunction? I knew I shouldn't have gone first. I looked up in panic. "Smile!"

PHOTO: View from Sky Tower's restaurant, Orbit


I now have a tourist snapshot of my frozen, shellshocked grimace.

PHOTO: Sky Tower Restaurant on New Zealand's Map.jpg

PHOTO: Islands and Vineyards

PHOTO: Islands and Vineyards: Te Whau Vineyard, Waiheke

Island life
For a leisurely way to see the city that still sends your adrenaline pumping without the fear of having to be scraped off the sidewalk, take a helicopter ride to Waiheke Island.

PHOTO: New Zealand: Luxury pure and simple

PHOTO: Waiheke Vineyard Tour

Yes, you could always opt for the 35-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland, but who'd turn down an opportunity to see the city in style?

PHOTO: Waiheke Island known as Island Of Wine

Waiheke Island is New Zealand's most densely populated island with a good number of New Zealanders owning holiday house there. It's easy to see why: It's known as the Island Of Wine, yielding some of the best cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec, cabernet franc and chardonnay grape varieties the country has to offer.

PHOTO: Waiheke Island Map - Things to see and do on Waiheke Island
Provided by Grasshopper Waiheke Island accommodation, Auckland, NZ


Another boozy kick is derived from Waiheke Island's beers. I give the Baroona Original two drunk's thumbs up. A German-style beer with a firm, dry malt palate, it's the perfect accompaniment to a lazy, cool evening.

PHOTO: Wine Access

Non-alcoholics can try the Hauraki Gulf Ginger Beer made from fresh root ginger, rainwater, lemon juice, honey and raw sugar that's a favourite with the locals.

PHOTO: Wine Access - Jason Yank & Sophie McLernon hosting tasting at Astrolabe

Water world
Back in Auckland, I hopped onboard the Dolphin Explorer. The cruise sails through more than 50 islands within the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park where dolphins, Bryde's whales, and orca (killer whales) await you.

PHOTO: Map of Hauraki Gulf Marine Park

Over 25 of the 37 southern hemisphere marine mammals have been identified in this marine park - which means your chances for spotting a dolphin or are pretty good. Well, at least in theory, that is.

PHOTO: Perfect landing technique, by sticking his feet out like water skis in front of itself and then braking fiercely with its tail. Once came to a stop it pushed its head into the water to dive down below to fish. It then surfaced several hundred feet behind the boat, swallowed its catch, flapped his wings to get airborn and repeated the obviously successful process over and over again!

Nearly three hours had passed and still nothing. Finally, as if to put us out of our misery, a lone dolphin peeked out shyly in the horizon. Cute.

PHOTO: Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari

PHOTO: Hauraki Gulf Islands - observe exceptional native birds up close at Tiritiri Matangi, a bird sanctuary open to the public.

Our crew seemed somewhat disappointed at the dolphin count and gave us each a complimentary ticket to come back anytime. Apparently, this always happens when they are just not satisfied with the whale and dolphin sightings.

PHOTO: Popular Discovery Cruises, which were launched last year to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park.

Later at the Viaduct Harbour, I finally understood why Auckland is called the City Of Sails. There were at least 100 yachts and sailboats bobbing on the sparkling waters. It made the perfect spot to catch the sunset - but after hours is when the party really starts.

PHOTO: Viaduct Harbour - the city of sails is as pretty as you’d imagine and more exciting than you think.
Photo by John Foxx, Copyright © MediaCorp Press Ltd

Today, Thursday May 12, 2011, Page T8, T9, Travel


Bars and restaurants along the harbour come to life when the sun goes down. From haute cuisine to comfort food, thick cuts of steak to fresh seafood, I was torn over what to try. But first a drink at The Soul Bar & Bistro, which is extremely popular among both tourists and locals.

PHOTO: Best of New Zealand

And if you're feeling like hobnobbing with the rich and famous (at least in New Zealand), get thee down to Bungalow 8 - Richard Branson's favourite party spot in Auckland.

PHOTO: Bungalow 8, Auckland City

PHOTO: Auckland at night
by ~vladstudio, Photography / Urban & Rural / Cityscapes & Skylines

Auckland's got a great nightlife for a city with only 1 million people. It's a perfect balance to its thrilling day activities. I should know - I've got the photo.
By Gasthoori d/o Manickam, gasthoori@mediacorp.com.sg, 04:46 AM May 12, 2011
This trip is made possible by Jetstar

PHOTO: Bridge near Queenstown: Home of Bungy Jumping
Bridge near Queenstown, Home of Bungy Jumping.jpg

PHOTO: River, Mountain & Garden Views
River, Mountain & Garden Views.jpg


PHOTO: \'Arts & Crafts\' House built from native timber '
Arts & Crafts' House built from native timber.jpg


Getting There On Star Class
With fares as low as S$998 (inclusive of taxes and fees), you get Jetstar's true business class experience and enjoy perks such as priority boarding, wide leather seats, extra leg room, entertainment and meals.

Where to stay
SkyCity Grand Hotel (www.skycityauckland.co.nz/Hotels) located in the heart of Auckland is just two minutes away from the Sky City Tower.

Where to shop
Ponsonby. This trendy suburb has the latest in streetwear. Great place to get gifts for the peeps back home. High Street and The Chancery for a designer shopping spree.

Where to eat
The Grove (www.thegroverestaurant.co.nz) is undoubtedly one of Auckland's best restaurant which showcases the best of New Zealand's produce and fine cooking techniques. The Prohibition (www.prohibition.co.nz) is another fantastic restaurant with a nice old-fashion ambience.

PHOTO: Auckland's latest regional park - Te Muri - unlocks a superb swimming beach

PHOTO: Waiheke Vineyard Tour