Helicopter Adventures in Auckland

Auckland has been basecamp for us in between our road trips around the various parts of the North Island.  With such good mates here, it has been a real bonus to be able to come back, hang out with friends, and enjoy a ‘home’ to break up our time in a tiny campervan.

We have spent a good few nights at Westhaven Marina, which has become a favourite spot for us, overlooking the city of sails.  We have loved being able to walk right into the heart of the city and enjoy the many free summer activities that have been put on during December and January.

Fin had the best time building a cardboard box city over at Silo Park, and we have had a good explore around the Maritime Museum. 

Simply walking around, adventuring round the parks, soaking up the atmosphere and watching the buskers on the street in the sunshine has been a pleasure and with so much to see all around, Fin has been on high sensory mode. 

Takapuna played host to a gorgeous beachside summer festival, so we made our return there, where our campervan adventures began way back before Christmas.

In fact, we have explored so extensively around Auckland and the surrounding area that we know the place as if we were locals!

We have helped our friend with a house-move (to repay their incredible hospitality), done cat/house sitting, and popped around Auckland to visit several friends.  The beauty of the campervan, is we just pull up on their driveway and enjoy an evening catching up with food and wine, whilst Fin sleeps in his little den in the van!

On the slightly random side, we have spent quite a lot of time at the mechanics, which hasn’t been as fun, as we didn’t anticipate having to resolve mechanical issues on a van we had literally just bought.  But we have managed to put the time to good use.  We discovered a fantastic Olympic swimming pool literally two minutes away from the garage.  This has been amazing, as Fin has been improving on his swimming skills. We also visited the Auckland Museum, which was just around the corner, now Fin is obsessed with museums!  Also mixed in with various coffee and lunch stops and general shopping, we managed to stay sane whilst the van was on the ramps getting its treatment!

As the mechanical appointments rumbled on into the long bank holiday weekend, we again optimised our additional time.  It was the Auckland Anniversary weekend and there were a mass amount of free organised events across the city.  So we went back to our favourite space at Westhaven for one last night.

We walked into the city, across Fin’s favourite lifting bridge and over to the wharf where all the action was taking place.  There was a symphony orchestra and fireworks display building up.  So we grabbed some street food and an ice cream and had a wander around the city.

We were tempted to walk back to the van with our tired boy and watch the fireworks from there, but Fin wasn’t really up for that idea.  He hadn’t really seen a full-blown firework display before, so he was keen to get as close as he could!

In a lot of cases, we let Fin lead the way these days…  he probably rules our roost a bit in general to be fair, but sometimes he actually has the best ideas!  We ended up discovering a Latin festival on the adjacent wharf, which was all part of the anniversary celebrations.  As we walked towards the end of the wharf, we could hear and see a live band, and the music sounded so familiar!  It was one of our favourite Brazilian songs, being sang by a full Brazilian band.  Very cool!  Now we were completely in our element!  There were dancers and a carnival atmosphere, and the best bit was, this was the prime place to situate ourselves to watch the fireworks!

Finley has always been a bit scared of the firework bangs, but he is growing up so much now.  He absolutely loved the huge display.  Not even a bit nervous these days!  Just an excited little boy on his dad’s shoulders watching the explosions in the sky. It was magical that night in Auckland and it was worth the late night, to enjoy the party atmosphere.

The next morning we headed back to the port, where there were so many things that were right up our street.  We’d heard there were Navy ships, helicopters and cranes to explore, so off we went.

We noticed there was an opportunity to take a sightseeing helicopter tour of the city.  Which felt like a bit of an extravagance, but an unmissable opportunity to do something truly bucket list worthy!  It took us a few minutes to convince ourselves, and then we went for it!  The next minute we were running under the spinning rotary blades of a real helicopter!  Fin didn’t seem phased by it whatsoever.  And while we were focussing on him, I don’t think we even had time to feel any nerves.  Within a few seconds we were soaring into the air!  So fast and so smooth, we were literally cruising above the city. Looking down at the harbour bridge below, and then flying over the volcano on Rangitoto Island, then swooping back over the city and the suburbs.  We were mostly all just giggling and looking at each other as if to say, wow, is this really happening?  We were all holding hands and soaking up every second of this adrenalin fuelled flight! This was a first for us all - a completely unforgettable experience.

We gently bumped down to the ground, back at the wharf, and I couldn’t have been more proud of Fin.  He was so brave and fearless and was genuinely thrilled by the trip.  We were all on such a high afterwards and he hasn’t stopped telling anyone who’ll listen about him going on a ‘real’ helicopter!

It’s hands down been one of the biggest highlights of this adventure so far, and Auckland has been an extra special home from home for us during this epic part of our trip.

Jen Skehan