Right in the heart of Auckland’s CBD are the Ports of Auckland and every year they hold a 3-day event for Auckland Anniversary Day called the SeePort Festival.
Auckland Anniversary Day is held on the Monday closest to January the 29th. In 2018, it ran from the 27th – 29th (Sat to Mon). In 2019, it’s 26th – 28th and so forth.
Held on Captain Cook and Marsden Wharves behind the red fence along Quay Street, the Ports of Auckland literally open their gates and doors to the public. Normally a restricted area, visitors are treated to family-friendly rides, tours and entertainment – most of which is free.
The festival’s been running for a few years now. Last year was the first time I’ve been to one and I was definitely keen to go back and check out all the things we missed.
Watch the video below for a few highlights from this year’s Festival, then keep reading below for a more detailed report including all the stuff that didn’t make it into the video…
Our agenda for the Festival comprised of the following; walk-through the HMNZS Te Kaha (one of two naval ships), go on the Bus Tour (which was one of the things we missed from last year), also the Boat Tour (which we also missed), buy a Ports of Auckland Lego Tugboat (because they’re cool) and be there for the fireworks show on Sunday (Sunset Symphony & Orchestra).
Anything else would be a bonus.
First up on the agenda was the HMNZS Te Kaha (open 10 am – 3 pm, Sat and Sun) which is the RNZN’s first Anzac Class frigate (a type of warship). The name TE KAHA is Maori for “fighting prowess” or “strength” and her motto, “He Ponanga Kaha” translates to “Service with strength”. We would also learn while she’s designed to fight and evade enemies her primary mission is to ensure the security and prosperity of New Zealand and her allies. You can read more about the HMNZS Te Kaha here.
After the walk-through we felt like something cool to eat and drink which we found in a pineapple themed ice cream ($6) and bottle of water ($2).
The Hauraki Tugboat On-board Tour (10 am – 3 pm, Sat and Sun. 12:30 pm – 3 pm, Mon) was right beside the food vendors. Once on-board I was surprised by how much bigger it seemed on the inside. Overall this tour helped with our decision to buy a Lego tugboat ($25) later.
Next up was the Ports of Auckland Bus Tours (9:30 am – 6 pm, Sat to Mon). Fun fact; our tour guide casually mentioned how he’s the CEO of the Ports of Auckland (Tony Gibson). I thought he was joking.
He made us promise to hashtag everything to get the word out for the event. I know I’m a bit late with this one but…
Also, I should note you had to present a photo ID and wear a coloured wrist band as a requirement for the New Zealand Customs Service. I thought this was a joke too but everyone was very “straight laced” and serious about the whole thing so I played along.
The tour was full of interesting facts and developments including improvements to workplace equality, reclamation efforts, straddle carriers and how, as I interpreted it, robots were going to be taking over everything. That last part caught my attention although I’m sure the reality of it all won’t be nearly as cool as what my noggin conjured up in that moment. #RobotApocalypse
Okay, I’m done with the hashtags.
If you’d like a serious read on what the Ports of Auckland are up to you can find out here.
From the Tour Bus we could see the RNZN Seasprite Airshow (2 pm – 2:15 pm, Sat only) and a few minutes later Visit the RNZN Seasprite (2:30 pm – 5 pm, Sat only). It’s one of eight in use by the Navy to provide surveillance, reconnaissance, transport and vertical replenishment capabilities. Click here if you’d like to know more about them.
Next item on the agenda was the Ports of Auckland Boat Tours (9:30 am – 6 pm, Sat and Sun. 12:30 pm – 6 pm, Mon). This took us from Marsden Wharf to a spot by Teal Park (by their HQ), back between Jellicoe Wharf and Ferguson Container Terminal, then along side the Hilton Auckland and back again.
Our tour guide had a very similar script to our “CEO” friend from the Bus Tour. I don’t remember what her role was with the Ports of Auckland but it’d be cool if the entire Executive Team were doing similar jobs throughout the weekend.
We were pretty happy at this point having done all the things we missed from last year. All we needed now was to jump in front of the water cannon by the HMNZS Wellington (the other naval ship). The spray was like a light shower and definitely a fun and welcome addition.
Our last item on the agenda was the Sunset Symphony & Orchestra (6 pm – 10 pm, Sun only) featuring The Lady Killers (a trio of well-known New Zealand vocalists) and the Auckland Symphony Orchestra.
This meant coming back Sunday night. This rest of the day would be spent at the The Art of Banksy: Auckland exhibit in Aotea Centre which I talk about in another video. The fireworks didn’t start until 10 pm so there was plenty of time to rest up, find something to eat and grab a spot for the entertainment.
Last year the Orchestra played the “Imperial March” (Star Wars) to the fireworks and I was hoping for a repeat performance. This year we got a nice medley of songs from Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”, Katy Perry’s “Firework”, The Beatle’s “Live and Let Die”, and Shirley Bassey’s “Goldfinger”.
Sadly, no imperial march but lots of fireworks!
💡 To wrap up, here’s a few tips if you’re thinking of going:
- Check the SeePort website so you can plan ahead. Not all activities run all-day and some are only open for a couple of hours on particular days like the Seasprite
- Bring your own food and water although I found prices to be fairly reasonable
- Hold onto your empty bottles. They should have water stations like we did so you can refill your “empties” with tap water
- Bring cash in case a vendor’s unable to process card payments
Ports of Auckland Lego Tugboat – $25
Half pineapple with pineapple ice cream and passion fruit sauce – $6
Bottle of water @ $2 x 2 – $4
Beef burger x 1, fish & chips x 1, bottle of water $2 x 1 – about $20
HMNZS Te Kaha – Open Ship – $0
Hauraki Tugboat On-Board Tours – $0
Visit the RNZN Seasprite – $0
Ports of Auckland Bus Tour – $0
Ports of Auckland Boat Tour – $0
Sunset Symphony & Orchestra – $0
Live bands and other free entertainment – $0
Considering all the things we did, I think a $55 spend was a bargain. I’m also going to set that as our goal for all future stay-cay adventures.
So on that note and until next time – Take care, Cliff