Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Westin, Auckland Lighter Quay

During my stay in Auckland, I had the opportunity to stay one night at The Westin to celebrate my birthday. The reason why The Westin was chosen by us is because it is still new in Auckland and we would like to experience the stay in The Westin as we had missed the opportunity previously in Kuala Lumpur.

The Westin, Auckland Lighter Quay

The Westin is located in the heart of Auckland, and overlooking Viaduct Habour.

Viaduct Habour View from The Westin

Package: Play Date
Services Provided:
  • Cooked Buffet Breakfast for two, served in Q Restaurant and Bar on Level 2
  • Valet Parking
  • Access to the Wellness Centre
When we arrived at the entrance of The Westin, we were greeted by the Valet Parking guy. He opened the car’s door for us and also helped us out with our luggage. After getting all our details, he took charge of the car and helped us parked it. We were being greeted another time as we entered into the lobby area.

Then we checked in the room given. Room number was 421. It is a king size bedroom. As I entered the room, I’m surprise to see two slices of brownies was served on a plate with the “Happy Birthday” wishes on it. It was provided by The Westin as my friend had mentioned during the booking that he is celebrating my birthday during our stay there. However, he didn’t know that The Westin will actually provide something special for us. I am starting to feel that the services provided The Westin was very thoughtful and sweet. Together with the brownies, there’s also a thank you letter for us.

Brownies with Happy Birthday wishes

Thank you letter by The Westin

From the room windows, we are able to view the Maori sculpture which is situated at the middle of the water filled courtyard and internal lagoon.

Maori Sculpture

On the king size Heavenly Bed custom designed pillow top mattress, there were 4 pillows, a small bolster type pillow, and plush goose down duvet draped in all white cotton linen to cater to our beauty sleep during our stay.

Previously I had read articles about The Westin Kuala Lumpur provided the Heavenly Bed in town and it had kept me wonders how true it is. This time, we were lucky enough to experience it ourselves and we totally agree that The Westin Auckland Lighter Quay provides a heavenly sleep experience. The Heavenly Bed was very comfortable and we managed to sleep in as though it’s our bed at home.

Heavenly Bed

The spacious bathroom also featured the signature Heavenly Bath and showers complete with indulgent overhead drenching showers with additional option of hand held shower unit and fog free mirrors. Bathrobes, make up or shaving mirror, hair dryer and bathroom telephone are also being provided. Something that caught my attention in the bathroom was the soap which was in green colour leave shapes.

Spacious bathroom at The Westin

The next morning before we check out from the hotel, we redeemed our Cooked Buffet Breakfast at Q Restaurant and Bar. Though the selections provided weren’t wide, however the quality of the food provided was awesome! Selection for the day that I can recall was such as:-

  • Boiled egg with drips of olive oils

  • Sausages

  • Grilled mushrooms and tomatoes

  • Bacons

  • Variety of breads

  • Smoked salmon

  • Bacon

  • Smoothies

  • Yogurts

  • Muesli

  • Cereals

  • Variety of fruit juices

  • Variety of cheese

  • Variety of fruits

and so on…

Breakie at The Westin

The whole experience of our stay in The Westin Auckland Lighter Quay was awesome. We enjoyed our stay there and will be coming back again if there’s a chance. Myself too had a memorable birthday this year. If we were to rate the hotel experience, we will rate is as 9/10.

Should you be considering which hotel to stay while in Auckland, do consider about The Westin Auckland Lighter Quay.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Devonport, Auckland

During my visits in Auckland, my friend brought me to Devonport on one of the day. To reach Devonport, you can either take a ferry from Auckland CBD terminal which takes about 12 minutes to arrive or you can drive there. As for us, we drove there instead.

Devonport is a habour side suburb in Auckland which located at the North Shore, at the southern end of peninsula. Naval Base of the Royal New Zealand Navy, the main facility for the country’s naval vessels is based in Devonport.

There are three dormant volcanoes situated in Devonport. They are Mount Victoria, North Head and Mount Cambria.

Mount Victoria was our first stop in Devonport. One can choose to walk all the way up by parking the car at the bottom mount or one can drives all the way up to the mount’s top. As exercising was not our main reason to be at Mount Victoria, we drove all the way up to the mount’s top.

View of Mount Victoria from Devonport City

At the mount’s top, we were able to enjoy the overview of:-

  • Auckland’s city

  • Rangitoto island

  • Habour Bridge

  • Devonport city

 View of Rangitoto Island from Mount Victoria

View of Auckland and Devonport from Mount Victoria

View of Habour Bridge and Devonport City from Mount Victoria

After enjoying the nice view from Mount Victoria, we headed to Devonport city. Devonport city are being filled with shops of antiques, arts, gifts and book shops. One shop that particularly catches my attention is the shop that sells all sorts of snacks, canned foods, beverages and confectionary from none other than US.

Alley of the shops that situated near The Post

Besides that, Devonport city is also being surrounded by some good restaurants and café. During tea time, we stopped by Devonport Stone Oven Bakery & Café Ltd. This café provides only breakfast and lunch menu. There are also cakes, sandwiches, pastry and desserts that can be ordered directly from the counter and also biscotti.

Counter of Devonport Stone Oven Bakery & Cafe Ltd

We had ordered two cups of cappuccino and a lemon meringue pie to share. It has been a long time since I had a lemon meringue pie. I remembered the last time I had it was when my ex-colleague baked it for me. The lemon meringue pie was really yummy because the taste of lemon was strong enough for me to taste it. The lemon taste was just as perfect as the one that I had at Waiheke Island. (Refer to post Waiheke Island, Auckland)

Cappucino and lemon meringue pie

As we were enjoying our cappuccino and lemon meringue pie, something catches my attention. It was the “Sorry the Kitchen Is Closed” sign. It was being placed on top of the blackboard menu. I certainly find this a brilliant idea to send a message to the customers without offending any of them.

Look at the sign on the blackboard menu

Devonport Stone Oven Bakery & Café Ltd is definitely a MUST VISIT café if you are planning to visit Devonport!

Devonport Stone Oven Bakery & Café Ltd
5 Clarence Street,
Phone: 09 445 3185

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sky Tower, Auckland

When ever I travel, I always make sure that I visits the tallest building in the country to have an overview of city. Hence, in Auckland, Sky Tower is a must visit place in my list.

Sky Tower is the tallest tower in the southern hemisfere with the height of 328 metres as compared to:-

  • Donauturm Tower, Vienna, Austria - 252 metres

  • The Sydney Tower, Australia - 304 metres

  • Eiffel Tower, Paris, France - 324 metres

In Sky Tower, there are:-

  • Sky Lounge Cafe

  • Main Observation Level

  • Orbit Revolving Restaurant

  • The Observatory Seafood Buffet

  • Skydeck Viewing Platform

During my visits, we chose to have lunch at The Observatory Seafood Buffet as it provides complimentary access to the main observation level to it's customers before or after dining. It is located right above the Main Observation Level. The Observatory open everyday for dinner and Friday till Sunday for lunch. The lunch buffet starts from 11.30am - 2.00pm.

As we walked into the entrance of The Observatory, we are being greeted by the waitress and was given the seat right next to the viewing area. As customers walked into the restaurant, I realised that they provide seats right next to viewing area until it is all being taken. Then only to the seat further from the viewing area. In my opinion, this is really good, as why people wants to have lunch at The Observatory is because they want to look at the beautiful view provided. Thumbs up!

Abalone shell served with beetroot and ordinary butter

On the table setting, they provide a very nice abalone shell served with beetroot butter and ordinary butter. This was my first time seeing restaurant serving butter with abalone shell. It really impressed me and given me the thought that they are creative.

Buffet serving

The Observatory serves unique combination of stumptuous brasserie style buffet, stunning seafood and succulent cook to order specials.

Asparagus cream soup and bread

We started off the lunch buffet with the asparagus cream soup and bread. I personally find the taste of the soup was rather ordinary, and it was served in room temperature rather than hot. I think it will taste better if it's hot. Then I moved on with the cold food provided such as green salad, scallop, gherkin, pickled cabbage and basil pannecota.

Cold dishes - Green salad, gherkins, beetroot, cold scallop and basil pannacota

Cold dishes - Preserved cabbage, beetroot, pasta salad, and couscous

Then we had fries, roast pork, cheese baked scallop, choy sum and cheese baked fish as our mains. Of course, in between we did get another helping before moving on to desserts.

The provide a wide selection of desserts, Movenpick ice cream, and cheese with crackers. We only managed to try some selection of desserts as our tummy were already quite filled up. They also serve complimentary of tea or coffee to us when we were having our desserts.

Dessert selections

Among all the desserts, I like the chocolate cake the most. In the chocolate cake, there are traces of nuts and it is being decorated with a little pieces of gold and cherries. As for my friend, he enjoys the creme brulee. We loves it so much till we had second helping.

The total lunch buffet cost us NZD41.99 each.

After we were done with out lunch, we head to The Main Observatory Level to have an overview of Auckland city.

From The Main Observatory Level, we can spot Auckland's landmarks such as the Habour Bridge, the Port, Auckland War Memorial Musuem, the Marina, Mt Eden and Albert Park but not the Sky Tower because we were in there!

View of Habour Bridge from Sky Tower

Apart from the landmarks, if you know Auckland well enough, you will also able to spot a few of the famous island in Auckland such as Rangitoto, Waiheke,Kawau, Motuihe and Great Barrier Island which are the popular day trip destinations.

View of Rangitoto Island from Sky Tower

The Main Observatory Level also provides a clear view of volcanoes around Auckland.

Other than viewing only, there are also a few activities provided by Sky Tower. One of it is the SkyJump. If you are adventurous enough, SkyJump is definately one of 'don’t miss!” experience for you. SkyJump can be described as Base Jumping while attached to a wire with the height of 192 metres. It takes approximately 14 seconds of fast and smooth fall before slowing in the last few metres to land gently on the ground.

Another adventurous activity provided is the Sky Walk. SkyWalk allows you to walk 360 degree outside The Observatory restaurant with the height of 192 metres. It is a very safe activity as you are walking around Sky Tower with the safety harness belt on you and being guided.

We are not adventurous person, hence we give these two activities a miss when we visited the tower and headed to our next itinery of the day.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Dove Myer Robinson Park, Auckland

It's spring season when I visited Auckland. Hence visiting any botanical garden is a must as this is the only season where the flowers will blossoms. My friend brought me to Dove Myer Robinson Park in Auckland.

Dove Myer Robinson Park sign board

Dove Myer Robinson Park is a park where it has a wide variety of roses around. Basically, I call it a rose garden. Once we parked our car at the parking space, we passed by this walking area with lots of shaded trees around. There were also benches available under the shades.

Benches provided under the shades of trees

They have divided the rose garden into two parts. As we walked passed the shaded trees, the roses are available on both left and right hand side. From far, what I saw were beds of colourful roses around. When I stepped into the garden, I can't stop myself admiring all the different types of roses around me. You will know what I mean when you visit the park yourself.

Colourful beds of roses

Different species of roses

Any colour of roses that you be able to name it, they have it. Of course what I meant here are the natural colours roses and not those that had been dyed such as blue, black etc.

Orange and white colour roses

All the roses blossoms very well during this spring season. The fragrances of all the roses were all around the park. To know how every different species of roses fragrance, you can actually smell from the flower directly. However, one word of advise, if your nose is sensitive towards the flowers particles, MUST NOT smell it close. ELSE you will catch the hayfever and sneeze till your nose drop.

Peach colour roses

Purple colour roses

Blood red colour roses

I also saw bees were busy humming around the roses to extract honey for their usage. My friend managed to catch a shot of it after a few trials.

Busy bee humming around yellow roses

I also discovered some of the blossoms roses were being surrounded by a few unblossom roses of different species. It looks so amazing to me.

Orange rose being surrounded by red roses

Red blossom rose being surrounded by unblossom red roses

This park is a MUST VISIT PLACE at least once if you are a person who likes flowers

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Waiheke Island, Auckland

Waiheke Island is located 17.7km from Auckland. One mode of transportation to Waiheke Island is via ferry which takes about 35 minutes to arrive. 

View of city from Downtown ferry terminal

We drove our car and parked at one of the a parking space in Downtown which provides early bird rate before 9am. Then we walk across to the ferry terminal to catch a ferry to Waiheke Island.


Photo of the ferry captain who is ferrying us to Waiheke Island


We had choosen the right day to visit Waiheke Island as it was a nice sunny day in the spring season. Throughout the journey in the ferry, I managed to see a fair bit of Auckland's views and buildings from far such as the Sky City Tower, Habour Bridge, Mount Eden, Rangitoto Island and etc.


View of Auckland Sky City Tower from ferry

Once we arrived Waiheke Island, we dropped by the car rental booth to rent a car to go around the island. The rental was really affordable as they charged as according to the mileage that you use plus the standard car rate rental. The total rental costs us less than NZD100.

We had a light breakfast before we board the ferry. Hence once we arrived Waiheke Island, we dropped by Thymes Tables Restaurant to have our morning coffee and dessert. This restaurant is located at 8th Miami Avenue, Surfdale and it has been voted as "Excellent Honest Food" by Viva and "Top 50 Restaurant" by Metro magazine for year 2008 and 2009.

Our first stop - Thymes Tables Restaurant

We had skinny flat white and lemon tart as our morning tea. The restaurant serves every coffee with a small shot of sparkling water in a tray. If you ordered two coffee, it will be served with two trays. That are the unique serving style of serving coffee that I had encountered so far. The sparkling water enable us to clean the palette with a refreshing feeling after coffee.

As for the lemon tart, it was so yummy. The pastry was crunchy and the lemon filling was very smooth and tasty. This was the most yummy lemon pie that I ever had so far.

This is how the coffee and lemon tart being served

Apart from being the traditional restaurant, they do offer some products for sale. For example: olive oil, sauces, sandwiches, dessert and others.

The interior of Thymes Tables Restaurant

Oh... If you are observant enough, you will be able to see this little monster hiding underneath the bar table. When I first saw it, I find it so cute and actually recommended my friend to buy it. To our surprise, the wall stickers are very expensive and they have a variety of designs to choose from.

Little monster hiding underneath the bar table

After our morning tea, we moved to the next stop, Onetangi beach. Since it was still early, the sea level was still low tide. A few benches has been provided along the beach side. Hence we decided not to go down to the beach but to sit at the bench along the beach side to enjoy the nice scenery and natural music. The air were very fresh too.


View of Onetangi Beach, Waiheke Island

Then we drove around and passed by a few places which breed these animal called "Alpaca". This is my first time seeing it. This is a species of South American camelid. They are being breed for their fibre. The fibre are being used for making knitted and woven items such as blankets, sweaters, gloves, socks, coats and others.

Alpaca - Camelid of South American species

When it's lunch time, we head to Stonyridge Vineyard Veranda Cafe as our lunch destination. Stonyridge Vineyard is one of the biggest and famous vineyard in Waiheke Island. Celebrities like Pamela Anderson had also visited this Vineyard, you will be able to see the photos of celebrities and ministry at the cafe area. Apart from growing grapes, they also boast their own olives and olive oil which is not often available else where.

Stonyridge Vineyard sign boards

We gotta to drive really slow to go into the vineyard as the road are being paved by cobblestones. When we arrived, what we saw from outside is a house that are being fully covered with grapes leaves. It looks like a long abandoned house, but it's not!

Stonyridge Vineyard Veranda Cafe

The area of the veranda cafe are being surrounded by lots of grapes trees. It is a very nice and cosy place to be in. Even the waiters and waitress are very friendly and polite.

We arrived 5 minutes earlier before the opening hour, but we are allowed to take a seat while waiting for it to be officially open. Hence the whole area was empty when we arrived, but all the table setting are all done.

View of Stonyridge Vinyard Veranda Cafe

We were being served with a jug of plain water while deciding on what food to order. We ordered a Stonyridge Ploughman Platter that serves lunch for two with two glasses of Luna Negra - 100% Malbec. This red wine is highly recommended and being rated 91-93 by Robert Parker. I personally find it very nice and it flows smoothly from mouth to throat to tummy.

Luna Negra - 100% Malbec with cigar

Stonyridge Ploughman Platter consists of stuffed olives, Waiheke pork terrine, comichon pickles, prosciutto with rocket, chorizo, olive tapanede, salad, cheddar cheese served with french baguette. Do not under estimate this platter. By the time we finished it up, we were quite full.

Stonyridge Ploughman Platter - lunch for two

Though we were already quite full with the platter, in our opinion a meal is never satisfying without ending it with nice dessert. Hence, as usual, we'll order a plate of dessert to share. The menu of the dessert is very unusual. Usually dessert menu are being printed in a booklet form or paper form. But at Stonyrigde Vineyard Veranda Cafe, the dessert menu are being written on a blackboard. Hence whenever you ask for a dessert menu, the waiter or waitress will bring the blackboard dessert menu for you to choose.

We were unable to make our decision on what dessert to choose as we are interested with most of the desserts. The waitress was kind enough to recommended us her favourite dessert which is the sticky pudding with caramel served with vanilla ice cream.

By only listening to the name itself, it gave me the impression that it will be a very sweet dessert though I know desserts are meant to be sweet. But what I meant here is the definition of very sweet. To my surprise, it's was not as sweet as I thought off. The sticky pudding was served warm. Hence it blends well with the caramel. It tastes much better when I had the warm sticky pudding with caramel together with the vanilla ice cream. The combination of the warm pudding and the coldness from ice cream blends just well. Thinking of it makes me craving for it again. Haha...

Sticky pudding with caramel served with vanilla ice cream

Since it was a good and sunny day, we adjourned for cigar and dessert wine session at the outdoor seating. The outdoor seating provides some long beach chair type and also normal chairs with coffee table.

View of outdoor seating

We had ordered two tasting glass of Fallen Angel dessert wine, Chardonnay Gisbon 2006, as our combination with cigars. Then we were give a wooden order number to the seating that we had given. The reason of the wooden order number is to indicate which is our bills.

The dessert wine are in a clear light golden colour. To be honest, I am not a really dessert wine person. However, this dessert wine is just right to pair up with the cigar I had and ended the whole lunch session with a clean fresh finish palate. I don't mind having it again next time.

Fallen Angel dessert wine - Chardonnay Gisbon 2006

While enjoying our dessert wine and cigars, we get to enjoy the overview of Stonyridge vineyard which nestled in a shimmering valley of olive tress and colourful vines.

View of Stonyridge Vineyard

There is also a black dog going around the vineyard. His name is Northam. His souvenirs are also available for sale at Veranda Cafe.

Northam - The famous black dog in Stonyridge Vineyard

After the satisfying lunch, drinks and cigar session, we were ready to leave the vineyard. As we drove out from the parking space, we saw the vineyard actually provides a field for all the old folks to play lawn ball.

View of old folks playing lawn ball

To know more about Stonyridge Vineyard, do visit their website at

The climate in Waiheke Island is slightly warmer than Auckland with less humidity and rain and more sunshine hours. Hence it makes the island a good place to grow grapes for wines. The whole island is almost being filled with wineries and vineyards around it. 

Then, we visited a few more vineyards around Waiheke Island.  Next stop was Gold Water Estate. In the middle of this vineyard, there is a tree planted in the middle of the vineyard. That is why the logo of Gold Water Estate have a tree in the middle vineyard. What is the story behind it, I am unsure.

Gold Water Estate Vineyard sign board

View of Gold Water Estate Vineyard

Our last stop in Waiheke Island was Cable Bay Vineyard. Cable Bay Vineyard provides not only the view of vineyards and olive trees, but also nice views of Auckland city. Apart from that, they do have art gallery as well. Before I went it, I thought the art gallery will feature photos and drawings of vineyard related. However, to my dissapointment, the art gallery was featuring photos and drawings of flowers during my visit there.

Cable Bay Vineyards Entrance

View of Cable Bay Vineyard


Overall, I must say that Waiheke Island trip was very interesting and satisfying. Though sometimes the winds were chilly. This trip had opened my eyes on good food, good wines, good views and also thought me what is Alpaca.

Should you happen to be in Auckland, MUST visit Waiheke Island at least once to enjoy all the good and fine things there.