The Old Fogies go to Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium in Auckland

When we decided to include Auckland in our trip itinerary, Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium seemed to be one of the attractions that people recommended for a visit. So with blue sky up above and rucksacks on our back, we decided to walk the six kilometres (3.7 miles) from downtown Auckland to the Aquarium. The Aquarium does provide a free shuttle bus from Auckland but we wanted to see a little bit more of the waterfront as we made our way down to Tamaki Drive where the Aquarium is located.

Unusually for a major city, Auckland’s port is very close to the city centre and as we began our walk, we quickly began to come across the large Port of Auckland complex  which is full of wharves and storage areas (mostly for containers). Some of the wharves deal with the arrival of cruise ships which visit Auckland on a regular basis.

Once past the port, you then see an attractive view of the harbour and across the water is the ever-present Rangitoto Island.

Tamaki Drive is the coastal road which follows the contours of the Waitematā Harbour and is  popular with walkers, runners and roller skaters and cyclists.  As you approach Ōkahu Bay there is a marina, yacht club and small beaches where Aucklanders relax and enjoy the waterfront.

After a very pleasant walk and a sit on the beach, we finally arrived at Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium. Above ground, the entrance did not look too inspiring with a couple of the distinctive Shark shuttle buses parked outside. However most of the attraction is underground and as you descend down to the box office it begins to look much more promising.

Probably very few people outside New Zealand have heard of Kelly Tarlton but he was an interesting larger than life figure who was a marine archaeologist, diver, and conservationist.

People thought he was mad, when he proposed building a large aquarium in unused storm water and sewage tanks on Auckland’s eastern waterfront but he proved them wrong with an innovative marine Aquarium that at the time was four times larger than any other in the world. One innovation that has been copied around the world was his pioneering use of curved acrylic tunnels that enable visitors to view sea creatures from below. Unfortunately Kelly Tarlton died only 7 weeks after the Aquarium’s opening in 1985.

The first section is the Antarctic area which includes a replica of the hut used by Captain Robert Falcon Scott on his tragic expedition to Antarctica and a colony of Antarctic penguins.

Signs asked visitors ‘Not to tease the Penguins’, we had visions of school parties dangling fish in front of the glass.

Stingray Bay allows you get a close view of the largest species of Stingray in the world in an open tank. Rather strangely you can have a coffee and look out of the window and see above and below the water outside in the harbour.

You enter the plastic tunnels and look at some of the world’s biggest aquarium sharks, including the Sandtiger and Broadnose Sevengill Sharks. This part of the aquarium is certainly large with the Predator Tank containing more than a million litres of seawater pumped straight from Waitemata harbour.

The tanks also features thousands of other New Zealand native fish, eels, turtles, crayfish, and octopus.

 The Seahorse Kingdom is filled with seahorses from around the world and featuring the world’s only Spiny Sea Dragons on public display.

As aquariums go, Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium is certainly one of the better ones and is located in a lovely location. As we came out of the exit the thought of a long walk back was not really welcome, so we clambered about the Shark shuttle bus for the ride back into Auckland.

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London here.

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