|Waiheke Island & Auckland
I flew from Brisbane to Auckland on September 15th after leaving Cairns, Queensland and landed late at night. It felt really cold after the tropics as I stood outside the terminal waiting for a shuttle bus to the city centre.
On advice from some of the Cairns dive team I headed to X Base Backpackers which even after midnight was buzzing with activity. This backpackers' chain is a sight to behold: seven floors, tight security, cafe, nightclub style bar and so on... Kinda impersonal but clean and as I said secure.
I spent the next day wandering the streets of Auckland and quickly found it to be a pretty souless city (as I had been forewarned). The saving grace is the harbour with a fleet of ferries running here there and everywhere and I figured out that Waiheke Island is one of the easiest and fastest ways to trade the concrete jungle for some slow-paced island time.
Waiheke is like a small version of Saltspring Island with about 8,000 residents and close proximity to a large city. the passenger only ferry service feeds a superb bus system which for just $10 a day you can ride anywhere all day. I stayed at Hekeru Lodge which despite it's BBH rating of only 75% I found to be a haven.
Also staying there was Jorge from Germany and Maria from Paraquay and we teamed up for a day of walking the many beautiful beaches while dodging the rain showers. The bus saved us from the final afternoon deluge.
I would have stayed a day or two more to check out more of Waiheke's beaches and vineyards but I'd bought a ticket to see Lee Scratch Perry on his final farewell tour so it was back to Auckland for a night and then on to the Bay of Islands.