You might find this a spooky experience! I’m talking about the world’s oldest merchant ship, the Edwin Fox, which is right here in New Zealand, near the Picton Ferry Terminal. I had no expectations about this visit but it ended up being such a great find. The museum is run by volunteers passionate about restoring the Edwin Fox and keeping it’s history alive. They’ve done a fantastic job.
The Edwin Fox is the last surviving ship carrying immigrants to New Zealand and the last to carry convicts. It seems the old ‘ball and chain’ quip directed at males about to marry, originated from something far more sinister.
First, visitors will explore the museum and as small museums go, it’s pretty darn good. There’s an excellent replica of the Edwin Fox in a glass cabinet and a sailor or two with a good yarn to tell:
The entire floor is laid out with old beams, thick ropes and wooden flooring which creak when you walk over them. Do watch the archived film footage on the video. Apparently, some decades ago, the good folk of Picton were all in favour of towing this boat out to sea and scuttling it! Thankfully, some objected.
Just as an afterthought, I took a quick walk to the dry dock to view the skeletal remains of the Edwin Fox. What I saw really astounded me. I had no idea of it’s size. It’s huge! Michael and I larked about on the top deck. We each had a turn at steering and took photos, that at the time, we thought were rather amusing.
But once we descended a couple of decks down,within the bowels of the ship, the atmosphere changed and our mood became sombre. Do ghosts still linger here?
After descending to the lower level, it was easy to imagine the misery of the desperately ill as they looked out from insect-infested bunk beds. There’s a pall of desperation in this part of the ship, the result of so many passengers having to endure and sometimes die from severe sea-sickness, childbirth and other illnesses. The convicts possibly fared the worse. They were tethered by that horrible contraption, the ‘ball & Chain’. Corporal punishment was meted out at the whim of the Ship’s captain and more alarming, the Ship’s surgeon!
I was relieved when we finally climbed back to the top deck and out to a golden sun. Even though I was a little spooked, I still consider this a great discovery for visitors to Picton. It’s so easy to find and with only a nominal entry fee, it’s a nice feeling to be able to make a donation to support the further restoration of this amazing piece of history.
Over 25 years ago, Michael was based in Auckland in his previous life as a tour guide. Since those days he’s often visited New Zealand’s biggest city and each time the old memories flood back. This is his top 10 of must-dos:
1. Mount Eden or One Tree Hill:
It’s worth either walking or driving up these two volcanic cones to get an overview of Auckland’s immense scale as New Zealand’s largest city. The panoramic views are fabulous and it’s a great photo opportunity.
2. America’s Cup Village and Viaduct harbour area:
Auckland is the “city of sails” and presents a great opportunity to go sailing with Explore NZ, either by yacht or a “real” racing boat.
3. War Memorial Museum and Auckland Domain:
The War Memorial Museum has a fabulous collection of Pacifica & Maori exhibits. There’s a beautiful Marae on show and this whole area is very atmospheric. You will also be moved by the war memorials and the Holocaust section, both of which portray the power of the human spirit to endure and triumph. Give yourself at least half a day to get the full impact of these exhibits.
4. Auckland Art Gallery:
This Gallery is huge and it really does take time to see everything. There are modern, avant garde and classic exhibitions on show. Plus there are interactive displays such as the light laser exhibit where you can test your dancing skills:
5. Devonport Historic Village:
If you want to escape the pace of downtown Auckland for a while, Devonport Historic Village is a must-do and only a 12-minute ferry ride away from the CBD. Devonport Village is beautiful with a rural feel and a more relaxing energy.
You’ll get a great view of downtown Auckland, as the ferry retreats away and there are great viewing opportunities from the lower and upper deck.
Once in Devonport you can explore beautiful beaches and admire the gorgeous Summer display of Pohutukawa blossom which is generously displayed in Mt. Victoria, a short climb to wonderful panoramic views.
Stylish Boutiques and cafes also provide a relaxing past-time.
If you go further up the main road, on the left you’ll see a restaurant/café called Corellis, an Italian style family restaurant and very popular.
And if you’re really not feeling energetic, you can explore this area by Segway from Magic Broomstick (Segway) Tours, hire a bike from Cycle Auckland located in the Devonport Ferry Terminal or hire a scooter from Scootours Devonport.
Devonport has a very popular Beach front and you’ll be enchanted by the gorgeous old villas lining the streets.
6. Kelly Tarlton’s Underwater World:
If you’re travelling with children, and you really want to keep them entertained for a while, this will delight them and give you a much welcomed break to also relax and enjoy the sights.
7. Sky City Tower:
Only travellers with NO fear of heights, need apply for this one (not for me, thank you!). I do know that my customers are thrilled by the views from New Zealand’s tallest man-made structure. Adrenaline junkies love travelling in the glass-fronted lifts to the viewing platforms and testing their nerve with a skywalk round the pergola or a sky jump off the Tower!
8. Waitakere Ranges and Westcoast Beaches:
A comprehensive explore of these aeas are probably best done with a local tour company/guide. Muriwai and Piha Beach are very beautiful and well worth a visit, but if you’re up for a swim, be sure to keep within the flags.
9. Waiheke Island:
This beautiful island is only a 40min ride by Ferry from Auckland’s CBD -if you have some spare time, and maybe interested in stunning “reds” (wine!), then this “lifestyle + holiday island” is for you. To really explore the area, you need a car. I would suggest joining a wine tour or a private tour where you can relax while being driven around and shown some very special wineries and scenery.
10. Auckland’s restaurant and cafe scene:
If you’re serious about your caffeine and enjoy world-class cuisine, then downtown Auckland is the place to be. There are too many to mention here but let’s just say you’ll certainly be presented with some fantastic dining options. There’s Sean Connolly’s restaurant, The Grill, The Depot, The French Café, The Grove…oh and let’s not forget Monsoon Poon, our fav.
The suburb of Ponsonby is renowned for it’s excellent range of quality ethnic restaurants. Personally, I love the smaller, locally owned cafes outside the CBD (not the coffee house chains thankyou!). In my opinion, the best bread can be found at Olaf’s Artisan Bakery & Cafe in Mt. Eden. (Germans, take note!)
These top 10 things are only a small fraction of what really is available in Auckland. There are a number of centrally located hotels I’d recommend, mainly in the viaduct harbour area – such as the Sebel Suites, Hilton Heritage Hotel or Sky City Hotels. For the true “heart” of the city and it’s people you’ll probably need to explore the suburbs which offer a more personalised experience.
Happy travelling in Auckland!
Hidden away, only 4kms from downtown Auckland, is a beautiful century old Villa located in the leafy suburb of Mt Eden.
Eden Villa has been beautifully renovated and the interiors reflect a classical style of gilt-edged mirrors and the rich textures I love, but can never successfully emulate! When I open the door of our suite, this is the first impression.
This was such a lovely find for us. Christine and Antony are a well travelled Kiwi couple who really have seen it all. And they take great care in handling certain challenges that come their way. They don’t normally take children, however on one particular night they did as the circumstances were unusual. They anticipated our need for peace and quiet and had planned accordingly before our arrival. The families ate in the large kitchen where guests usually breakfast and we were placed upstairs in an intimate sitting room with views to the flowering hydrangeas below. I love the fact that they cared about this. Breakfast is an event here with Spode China, silver cutlery and crystal glasses gracing the table.
And let’s not forget those special festive touches.
No ghastly supermarket cereal brands here folks! Homemade muesili and preserves and those strawberries are plump, sweet and juicy.
Christine and Antony have grandchildren and because they love celebrating Christmas, the whole house is decked out in Christmas finery…
…and they’re inclusive hosts, encouraging a casual atmosphere where guests are free to utilise the whole property. If you stay here, you may find yourself transported back to childhood memories of a large wooden-floored kitchen with a massive dining table and real honest-to-goodness conversation. Here’s Christine getting ready to replenish Michael’s cup of coffee.
We chose to stay away from downtown Auckland which is easily assessed by a reliable bus service but more importantly, because Mt Eden is a full of gorgeous old villas and beautiful trees. Thankfully, this suburb has not been consumed by large warehouse type franchises. The little Deli up the road is chocka full of quality food – beautiful salads, cheeses and cakes. The Mt Eden café & restaurant scene has a great vibe – a buzzing welcoming place to socialise and meet up with friends. I’ve enjoyed my stay here.
Happy Christmas travelling!
I’ve had an ugly week of ‘witch’ hair and unflattering conversations with the bathroom mirror. I miss being surrounded by my own pretty things and the comfort of my super-king bed. I’m also tired of living in an apartment complex with the constant sound of doors slamming, heated conversations and unfriendly faces (and that’s just from inside our apartment). Today we moved on to this….
….9.2 hectares of vineyard as far as the eye can see…
…and it’s time for me to crank up the laughing gear…
…because right in front of those vineyards is Barnicoat Vineyard Cottage, a ‘couples’ retreat away from the crowds. It’s located in Hope, a rural area near Richmond in the Tasman district of the South Island. But it’s still only 4-5 kilometres from the Richmond shopping centre.
I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to get such a warm welcome from Marilyn and Stu Robinson, the owners who live next door to the cottage. Although strangers when we first meet, Marilyn envelopes me in a big hug and boy I need it. Michael’s the only person I’ve spoken to all week and it’s so nice to be able to chat with another female. I can’t wait to look through this cottage, so let’s go in…
These amateur photos don’t do justice to the comfort level that Marilyn has achieved in this pristinely presented cottage. The jacquard duvet cover is dazzlingly white, as are the matching pillowslips and those marks you see on the coverlet, are actually a scattering of Cadbury’s Roses chocolates. On our travels, we occasionally stay in accommodations where every expense has been spared, but not this one. There’s a modern expresso coffee machine, fresh eggs produced from the Barnicoat free-range hens, condiments and a complimentary bottle of chilled Sauvignon blanc.
As our first day slides into evening, we sit outside, watching the Barnicoat geese stroll by. These guys get a sweet life…
In the early evening the sound of bellbirds dominates and hey, when night falls, you really do get to see shooting stars! It starts with the welcome and it doesn’t get much better than this one.
How does it all work?
New Zealand constitutes 3 main islands; the North and South Island plus Stewart Island. The main passenger and vehicle traffic is between the North and South Island. There are two main ferry companies operating – Interislander (run by Kiwi Rail NZ) and Blueridge Ferries (a private company). Ferry services operate 4-8 times per day throughout the season. The Interislander has a larger capacity for vehicle loads, while the Blueridge ferry has less. The main ferry terminals are in Wellington and Picton harbours.
Passenger Travel only – what is the check-in process?
With most major rental car companies (Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz and Thrifty) you’ll leave your vehicle at one ferry terminal and travel on the vessel as a passenger. You then pick-up another rental car on the other side. Logistically this makes sense and also addresses insurance policy issues…
…the key advantage is that you won’t have a pay to transport the vehicle across – only your passenger ticket. If you have to exchange rental cars between the North and South Island, the check-in process is similar to that of an airport. Park your car at the ferry terminal, return the key, check in your luggage and walk onto the ferry. Once you arrive at the other side, uplift your luggage, walk to the rental counter and get another car.
Passenger Travel plus Vehicle – what is the check-in process?
Some smaller car and motorhome rental companies do not allow drop-off/ pick-up at ferry terminals as they don’t have depots in Wellington and Picton. If using these companies, you will be required to take the vehicle on-board yourself. The key advantage is that you can avoid unloading and reloading your luggage, however you will have to purchase an additional ferry ticket for your vehicle.
It’s very important to know the length and height of your vehicle, as these details are requested when the Ferry reservation is made. Generally a standard car goes up to 5.5 metres in length and thereafter the cost increases for each half meter of length. Check-in time for vehicle crossings is at least 1 hour prior sailing (I’d recommend you be at the terminal for check-in at least 90 min prior sailing).
When do the Ferries sail and how long does it take?
The first Ferry crossing starts at 5am and goes right through to after midnight. Handy Hint: the night ferries are mainly used for heavy trucks. Remember you are solely responsible for driving your vehicle onto the ferry and large trucks can be intimidating in a confined space. The crossing generally takes 3 hours and 15 minutes, but this varies according to weather and sea conditions in the Cook Strait. Note: this stretch of water channel is well-known for it’s heavy seas and strong wind conditions! Prone to seasickness? Take medication for this 1 hour before.
What to do on the Ferry?
While onboard the ferry you can enjoy a range of entertainment (e.g. cinema), restaurant/ cafe and sightseeing opportunities. A playground for children is also handy for parents who also need to relax.
Travelling by ferry between the islands of New Zealand can be an exciting journey over Cook Strait and through the Marlborough Sounds of the South Island. The Ferry Terminal, rental car companies and the Kiwi Rail train are in close proximity and staff are very helpful…
… overall travellers find this a pleasurable experience with stunning scenery to be enjoyed on the way.