A Trip Up the Sky Tower

Ahh, Auckland’s Sky Tower. The most distinctive part of our skyline and the tallest freestanding building in the Southern Hemisphere. Taller than the Eiffel Tower, Sydney Tower, Seattle’s Space Needle, Germany’s Olympiaturm, and many other iconic landmarks.

The Sky Tower is celebrating its 20th birthday this year! I’ve lived essentially (and sometimes literally) in its shadow for long enough. I used my girlfriend’s visit as an excuse to take a trip up to the observation deck.

The Sky Tower is, and this is going to seem pretty obvious but I feel the need to say it anyway, quite tall. This view is facing East from the city. You can effortlessly see Mission Bay, as though it were right there and not a 20-minute drive away. But you can see beyond that, beyond Achilles Point, to Brown’s Island and Bucklands Beach.

Ho hum. Looking beyond that, you can see Waiheke Island and then in the distance the hills of the Coromandel.

Looking out over the city, the pink walking path next to the motorway provides a nice splash of color. Looking out over land it’s a bit more obvious just how amazingly far you can see from up here!

There are some glass floors along the observation deck. Mentally I know that they’re quite stable and safe, but it still takes a quick mental effort to walk across them.

Looking Northeast, Devonport and North Head seem like you could just reach out and grab them. Rangitoto looks uncharacteristically small (as a testament to how far we’re seeing, Rangitoto is actually taller than the Sky Tower), and in the distance is Great Barrier Island.

But there’s something else visible too…what’s that in the lower left-hand corner of the shot?

Why, it would be a massive cruise ship!

I live on Prince’s Wharf, the two buildings on the pier to the left of the cruise ship, and that ship is actually bigger than the apartment building I live in. Crazy.

(And yes, that means “I can see my house from here” is an entirely accurate statement for me in the Sky Tower).

All good things must come to an end, and so eventually did our trip up the Sky Tower. I’m glad I waited a bit to do it because being able to see things I recognized and had visited and knew made the views much more personal and enjoyable.

Come back next time for the biggest trip of her visit!

A Cathedral Cove Sunset

As you recall from last time, despite some setbacks (notably the motorway being closed) we managed to make it to Hot Water Beach before the tide came in.

My goal was to make it to Cathedral Cove before sunset and then view the sunset from the cove. Did we manage that? Those accomplished at reading post titles already know that the answer is yes :)

In fact, we arrived at the carpark just as the sun was starting to dip down below the mountains.

(This post will mostly be sunset and scenery photos; be forewarned).

As you can see, the clouds are just starting to be tinged with a bit of pink!

Cathedral Cove is a great place to take photos, because pretty much everywhere you point your camera is gorgeous!

But it’s a 30-minute walk down to the beach and I estimated that we had about an hour of daylight, so it was time to get moving.

Walking down the trail, the sun kept hiding behind mountain tops and cliff faces, then re-emerging as the trail wrapped around. I really like this shot, lens flare and all.

It’s possible to walk all the way out to the end of this promontory, and in fact if you do so you can look down onto the beach. We didn’t, though. Once you get here, you’re getting pretty close!

I also really like this shot. Green, rolling hills can be just as pretty as water and cliffs!

Finally, down on the beach! And from the look of the sky, just in time!

The eponymous cathedral arch.

The sun gets lower, the sky gets redder!

Cathedral Cove is on the Eastern shore of the Coromandel Peninsula, so from the beach you can’t really see the sun set directly. You do get to see the lovely colors in the sky though!

And now I must leave you, for the last minutes of the sun setting were not spent taking pictures.

Hope you enjoyed our short trip out to Cathedral Cove!

Next time, I use my girlfriend as an excuse to do something I’ve wanted to do for a while! See you then :)

Hot Water Beach

One of the two big trips my girlfriend and I took while she was here was to the Coromandel Peninsula. I’ve been out to the Coromandel¬†before, and it was a pretty epic trip.

Many of the places we went are places I’ve been before. But this particular place took us somewhere that was new for both of us: Hot Water Beach.

Hot Water Beach is a neat geothermal spot on the East coast of the Coromandel where underground hot springs meet the Pacific Ocean.

Visitors bring shovels to dig holes in the sand at low tide, which fill up with hot water from the underground springs. Basically, you make your own spa pool to relax in, and if things get too toasty you can run into the cold ocean surf to cool off.

We were lucky in that low tide was at a convenient time, early afternoon. We stopped in Thames (on the West coast of the Coromandel) for a nice lunch and a look at their local museum. We then had an unexpected and harrowing drive over the mountains on a dirt road since Highway 25A was out due to landslides. We made good enough time that we arrived at Hot Water Beach just within the two hour window of low tide. This gave us the really fun experience of putting our feet in the hot sand and letting the cold water come in over our legs, creating a really weird hot / cold sensation.

I thought I got some photos of my own feet in the hot pools, but it appears I was too preoccupied trying to take photos of my girlfriend as she played in the surf. So that means you get generic photos of the beach as I describe these things, which isn’t too bad because even without the geothermal oddities, Hot Water Beach is fantastic scenery.

Also, unlike Cathedral Cove, which I visited last time and (spoiler alert) we will visit again next post, you can drive basically right up to the beach. The hot spring area is about 200m from the carpark.

Like Piha and most of the West coast beaches, there are lots of breakers quite near the shore, and the tides and waves can be quite intense. Come for the hot springs, not for the swimming.

I took a really long time waiting for just the right wave to crash over this rock and make a good shot. And then when it happened I didn’t get the shot I wanted. C’est la vie; enjoy this one instead :)

There’s some rocks to climb around on, and at low tide you can walk a fair ways along the beach. But the big draw of Hot Water Beach is digging yourself a nice pool, relaxing in the hot springs, and enjoying the view.

Unfortunately my girlfriend didn’t bring any swim gear, but we still enjoyed the view and putting our feet in. It may have been for the best, though, since we had an appointment and the sun waits for no one.

As we were leaving, though, we did get a parting gift: the late afternoon sun reflecting off the wet sand was absolutely stunning.

Hot Water Beach unquestionably lived up to its reputation as a great tourist spot! So glad we made the time to come here.

Join us next time as we travel just a few kms North :)

Back to Piha

Piha Beach is one of my favorite beaches in New Zealand. I’ve written about it before, and visited there several times.

When I first came to New Zealand in 2014, my friend Brendon took me to Piha. I loved it so much that I’ve been back many times since, and when my parents came to visit last year, I took them to Piha as well. It should come as no surprise, then, that when my girlfriend came to visit in late July, I took her there too! Brendon and his girlfriend Elise came along as well.

(She has requested that she not appear in any photos I put out on the open Internet, so you won’t find her pictured here. I promise she’s not imaginary though!)

Being essentially the middle of Winter, the weather was not the ideal beachgoing climate. We made do.

Awareness of the tides is important for exploring Piha, because if the tide is in then a lot of the cool stuff you might want to check out will be underwater. Fortunately, we arrived as the tide was coming in so we had a chance to take the low route over to the Southern end of the beach.

Along the way is this little keyhole. That’s the Tasman Sea on the other side.

The tide wasn’t at its lowest point, so we did have to climb along the rocks to avoid it occasionally. We all made it though!

At the far Southern end of the beach are these breakers, gating the entrance into a big tide pool. I spent a while here trying to catch a wave crashing on the rocks. I think this is the best of the bunch.

There’s an alternate high route from the South end to the carpark; we took that route back to get some high-up views. I keep looking at shots like this and thinking “if I had a drone, I could get these views all the time”. Maybe one day….

We also climbed Lion Rock, the large and easily-recognizable rock formation on the more Northerly side of Piha. Here’s Brendon demonstrating his excellence at sign-reading and direction-following.

I do quite like this shot of the beach I got from atop Lion Rock (my girlfriend made fun of me for busting out the big lens just to spy on some tourists, so I took this shot to justify getting it out. Turned out to be quite a neat shot. Partial credit to her, I guess!).

We also decided to hike to Kitekite Falls, since we were already basically there at the trailhead.

Sometimes on a hike you see things that you just can’t explain and you really want to know the story behind. Why this pram got abandoned in the bushes is definitely one of those things.

It’s always fun to see your objective peeking through the trees as you get closer!

And there it is! The Waitakere Ranges boast some of the most impressive falls in the Auckland region: these, Fairy Falls, and Karekare Falls all stand out in my mind as being really cool. The falls at the Waitakere Dam are also pretty top. Come here if you want to see waterfalls, is what I’m saying.

The stream is that remarkably clear green-brown which seems to be the trademark of most New Zealand streams.

Winter and rain may not improve the trails any, but they do improve the waterfalls!

On our way back home I stopped to take this photo of the rain over the sea.

Piha, thanks for the memories. I’ll be back. I promise.

Next time: I once again try to stitch together a coherent narrative of my adventures with my girlfriend using only photos that don’t have her in them. This is proving surprisingly difficult, but I will find a way :)