Sky Tower

Arising 328 metres from the Auckland cityscape, Sky Tower is the tallest free-standing structure in the Southern Hemisphere. Not only is it a telecommunication tower, there are observation decks offering 360° views and the opportunity for thrill seekers to walk outside on a platform 192 metres above ground or, if you are so inclined, to jump off said platform.

1.Sky Tower

We took the more sedate approach and rode the glass bottomed elevator to level 51 to take in the panorama. We could see for miles beyond the suburb of Devonport and Rangitoto Island to the Hauraki Gulf.

2.Devonport & Rangitoto Island

Looking down Victoria Street to Albert Park, you can see a black cable running vertically outside, I’ll get to that.

3.Victoria Street to Albert Park

Another gorgeous view toward Bastion Point, a perfect day for a spot of sailing (and that cable again).

4.container terminal & Bastion Point

Looking over Auckland Domain with the hospital just right of centre and the War Memorial Museum on the far side of the gardens.

5.Auckland Domain

I will mention here that the tower is designed to sway up to one metre in excessively high winds and to withstand an 8.0 magnitude earthquake. All very reassuring. Puketutu Island is in the southerly distance with Eden Park, New Zealand’s largest sports stadium, centre of photo.

6.south to Puketutu Island

Back on the northern side, Westhaven Marina is home to over 2,000 boats, the biggest marina in the Southern Hemisphere. Auckland Harbour Bridge connects the city with the North Shore across Waitemata Harbour.

7.Waitemata Harbour8.Westhaven Marina & Auckland Harbour Bridge

Coming full circle, Princes Wharf and the cruise ship terminals are below us.

9.Waitemata Harbour & Princes Wharf

Now, about that cable. As I mentioned, those who feel the need can experience SkyJump, a 192 metre vertical fall reaching 85km/h. The jump is controlled by guide cables so the jumper doesn’t collide with the tower in a gust of wind. Two young men, suitably attired for the plunge, accompanied us in the lift on the way up. A video screen shows live footage of the preparations to those on the observation deck and with an element of luck, I snapped one as he sped past the window.

10.Sky Jump

His descent was certainly rapid, presumably he was still conscious when he reached the ground.

11.Sky Jump

The tower is eerily majestic at night, lit with over a hundred LED lights that are sometimes coloured to show support for various celebrations and events.

12.Sky Tower at night

We had already made plans for dinner, otherwise the revolving restaurant on level 52 would have been a fitting end to another wonderful day in Auckland.

Domain Wintergardens

Lunch time was approaching as we hopped off the Hop On Hop Off bus at Parnell. Auckland’s oldest suburb, dating back to 1841, is also one of New Zealand’s most affluent. Parnell Road is lined with enticing shops, galleries and cafes

1.Parnell Road

and after an explorative stroll we had worked up a thirst.

2.Non Solo Pizza

There were a few options of dining areas

but we decided to stay roadside and enjoy a pizza before joining the bus once again.

The Domain Wintergardens was our next stop, built in the early 1900s so that the gardens could be appreciated all year round.

9.Wintergardens

We passed under shady pergolas

and entered the central courtyard which separates the two Victorian style glasshouses.

12.courtyard

Each glasshouse contains distinctly different plants. The Cool House was built first in 1921, we started in the Tropical House which was added in the late 1920s.

13.tropical house

Heated to 28°C, lush tropical plants thrive. Above the enormous lily pads

carnivorous pitcher plants are suspended, awaiting their next meal.

Foliage, intricately designed by nature,

19.tropical house

mingles with spectacular flowers only the tropics can sustain.

Neoclassical marble statues were added to the courtyard in the 1930s

and beautiful water lilies float in the sunken pond.

The temperate climate of the unheated Cool House affords a magnificent display of flowering plants that change with the seasons.

51.cool house

Once again, the foliage is as colourful as the flowers.

Some are less vibrant but equally impressive

and a few edible varieties complement the mix.

We noticed the crowd multiply significantly in the time we were at the gardens, the reason became obvious as we stepped outside.

62.tourists