Our last day in Auckland was set to be a jam packed one. With a break in the weather we had an opportunity to see another suburb of Auckland – the seaside village of Devonport. Located 15 minutes by ferry, Devonport is one of the oldest suburbs and was built on and around two volcanic mounds – Mount Victoria and North Head.
We landed on the Devonport Wharf and strolled through the town following a route up to the foot of Mount Victoria. We had been told to brace ourselves for a grueling hike that would challenge not only our calf muscles but our the very limits of our endurance. It turned out to be a pleasant 10 minute stoll up the side of the mountain – hill if you will. All those hikes across the mountains and hills of Asia had paid off!
What was not mis-sold was the views from the top. We had a commanding vista across the city of Auckland, the Hauraki Gulf, the volcanic island of Rangitoro and in the distance, Waiheke Island, where we had spent the day before. The mountain is dotted with bunkers and artillery emplacements of a by gone age. In fact one of them is now used by the Devonport Folk Music Club and an old signalman’s cottage is used as the Michael King Writer’s Center.
These mushrooms are actually cleverly disguised air vents but we liked the fact that they made the summit look like something out of a Super Mario game.
We had promised ourselves a big lunch to compensate for all the calories we would burn off – conquering the mountain. Re-evaluating we decided to do a bit more walking before tucking in. We were in luck as Devonport has not one volcanic mound but two! Nearby is North Head – the site of the first pilot station in Auckland. In 1878 it became a public reserve but was re-appropriated by the Army at the height of the Russian Scare 7 years later who proceeded to turn the mount into a fortress with three naval gun batteries and a host of bunkers. Luckily the only time the guns were fired was during Queen Elizabeth’s visit in 1953.
Nowadays nature has started to slowly recapture the site and a lot of the pathways are overgrown with moss and grass. It feels a bit like an updated version of Charles Fort in Kinsale (Co. Cork Ireland) – though not as grand.
With an expanded exercise regime completed we happened upon a small cafe in the town center and had a spot of lunch.
After we made it back to the Ferry Terminal and had to run to make the boat. (Imagine the scene with the McAllister Family in the airport in Home Alone). Since we had made a pretty good time of it we had the opportunity for one more stop on the way to the airport. You will recall that we saw a road sign on our initial journey into Auckland? Well now it was time to check it out.
Keep it Running in the Family
You might know the name George Fistonich but in 1961 he leased a small plot from his father and began to grow some grapes. Fast forward 5 decades and he is now Sir George Fistonich, his little 5 acre enterprise is now many times that size and has led to him owning one of the largest and most successful wine producers in New Zealand, if not the world.
While you might not have known who he is you definitely know his brand – Villa Maria. The Manuka Winery was like a hidden garden, the industrial park of the nearby airport growing around it’s borders. It has hard to believe that less than 1 km away was the urban jungle when you were sitting out on the veranda with a lake and trees to keep you company framed on all sides by grapevines.Oh and it’s located in the crater of a volcano – yep you read that correct – another volcano.
We must have been sure of ourselves when we arrived as before you can say ‘Sauvignon Blanc’ we had been given a private tour of the facility and a wine tasting all for $10 each and considering the amount of wine and behind the scenes access it was $10 well spent.
The best part of our tour was the peek into the bottling plant. Every single bottle of Villa Maria wine is exported to one of over 250 countries worldwide and every single drop of their wine was bottled in that warehouse. Think about that – we were looking at bottles of wine that will be served at Sunday lunch in either the Rose or Hamilton household in the near future. #MindBottling
The only way to finish a great long weekend in Auckland is with a cheese platter and nice glass of Villa Maria Sauvignon Gris whilst looking out over the winery.
Well maybe some Lord of The Rings Statues at the airport would top that!! 🙂
We definitely need to do the South Island!