The best sights in Auckland your child can travel for free to

Reggie on the bus
It's all smiles at the start of the journey. Photo credit: Newshub.

Who loves buses? A show of hands, please. 

What, no takers? Oh wait, you at the back. You love buses? 

Oh right, because you're five.

Five-year-olds love buses. They really do. 

According to my own five-year-old, here's why: 

  1. "Because you get to use a card, and I like that. Nan and Gran always let me do the card."

  2. "You can take pictures and you can see people's houses. I like travelling with other people because it is fun."

  3. "You can see other buses, other cars, houses, shops, other cars, other buses."

You can stick that in your grumpy commuter's pipe and smoke it. 

But here are some things that five-year-olds don't like: walking, reading historical information panels, gazing at beautiful views.

So armed with this knowledge, a five-year-old, and plenty of raisins, I set out to explore Auckland, taking advantage of AT's new 'kids ride free' weekend initiative. Because travel is the journey, not the destination.

Section one: Home to bus stop 7080, Hobson Street

Given the bus stop is a one-minute walk from our house, there was no expectation that this would be a difficult section of our journey. But before we leave home, the five-year-old wants to discuss how we'll be making decisions today.

The plan is that we must each have an idea at the same time, and then three rounds of Rock, Paper, Scissors will decide whose idea wins. 

And so it comes to pass that my idea of 'eat the apple after we get off the bus' loses to 'eat the apple on the way to and on the bus'. I think it's technically against AT's rules and all general public transport etiquette, but have you ever tried to negotiate an apple out of the hands of a five-year-old?

The offending apple - sorry AT. But you know what they say about one a day?
The offending apple - sorry AT. But you know what they say about one a day? Photo credit: Newshub.

We're on the bus, surreptitiously eating the apple, and all goes smoothly until Karangahape Road. The traffic snarls up, and the bus is cut off by an impatient Mazda. 

The bus should be allowed out first, I explain, because there are about 25 people in here and only two in the car that just cut us off.

"I feel sad for the bus," says the five-year-old, anguish in his eyes. "That wasn't nice." We stare forlornly out the window until our first stop

Section 2: Bus stop 7080 to the Maritime Museum. 

Estimated walk time: 8 minutes.

Well, that's a lie. Whoever planned this itinerary has never walked a city street with a five-year-old. All he can see is buttons, and every button needs to be pushed. The buttons for the crossings, the buttons for the lifts that descend to underground carparks, the buttons of the security pads for the businesses at the top of the high rises. No button is spared.

No button was spared by this five-year-old Darth Vader.
No button was spared by this five-year-old Darth Vader. Photo credit: Newshub.

All I can see are dangers and hazards - buses that scrape over the corner of the pavement as they turn, cars that rush through amber lights, diggers that pitch and swing, smokers who flick their ash at just the height of a five-year-old's beautiful head.

So I push, he pulls, and we make it to the museum in a mere 22 minutes.

There are turtle shells, dug-out canoes, whale bones and a captain's cabin to explore, but our favourite part is the New Beginnings exhibition, which determines your fate on a slow boat to New Zealand in the 1850s. We rip a ticket, are handed an identity, and at the end spin the wheel of fortune to see how we fared with our new life in New Zealand. 

Section 3: The Maritime Museum to the Auckland Fish Market. 

Estimated walk time: 8 minutes.

This section could actually have taken just eight minutes, had some wise-ass council planner not decided to paint row upon row of colourful lines on the pavement, plus some accompanying letters in huge bright capitals. To be fair, these words and symbols may well form part of some kind of safety strategy for the traffic that approaches the Wynyard Crossing bridge - the one that raises to allow boats through - but to a five-year-old, this is nothing short of a challenge.

Reggie on the coloured crossing
No cracks were stepped on, no rats will be married. Photo credit: Newshub.

We will be walking every line, and stepping on every letter. 

If we don't both - BOTH - do this, we'll both marry rats, instead of each other as planned.

It takes us eight minutes to reach the two-minute mark, but it's time well spent, because walking along lines is actually pretty fun.

Section 3: Lunch at Auckland Fish Markets 

Surely there'll be nothing to report here. Five-year-olds love fish and chips, right? 

Except the fish and chip man has given us tartare sauce for the fish. 

"I HATE that sauce," the five-year-old tells him.

Six napkins and much scraping later, reader, he ate it.

I grab a bento from Azabu (the Ponsonby locale has set up a more casual version of itself, serving fish right from the source), packed full with fresh market fish in coconut milk, chicken karaage and light homemade pickled cucumber.

Section 4: Bus stop 1061 to stop 7099 (the Sky Tower).

This five-year-old has lived in New Zealand for almost two years, and has always wanted to visit the Sky Tower. It is a mythological figure to him, representing halfway between the earth and the planes. He is very excited.

We ascend 50 floors in a moment and reach the observation deck. We can see for miles - not just Rangitoto, but the Coromandel Peninsula, where Nan and Gran live, laid out across the harbour. The Waitakeres are misty behind us, and the sun is breaking through onto the Auckland Museum, solitary and majestic in the Auckland Domain.

"I can see McDonald's," he says. 

Section 5: Bus stop 1464 to home.

They say that travel is the test of any great relationship, even soulmates like us. The ride home is quiet. The sugar levels from the Sky City ice cream are crashing. The five-year-old would like to watch TV on my phone, but isn't allowed, so he turns his back to me, spreads out on the backseat, and rides home in silence.

Reggie on the bus
A little quiet time of reflection, at the end of a big day. Photo credit: Newshub.

I sit ahead of him, one arm flung behind me for the moment when the bus will stop suddenly and he will roll off the seat. I catch him twice. We say nothing.

At our bus stop, we step off together. 

"Mama, you forgot to do the cards," he says. I lift him back onto the bus and he diligently holds both our cards to the reader.

We walk home hand in hand.

Maggie Wicks is Newshub's Podcast Editor. She and her son travelled courtesey of Auckland Transport, who are offering children aged 5-15 years inclusive travel free of charge on buses, trains and ferries on weekends and on public holidays. Children under five travel free any time when accompanied by a fare paying passenger. 

More information can be found here


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