11 June 12
When visiting Sydney in January this year, we bought annual multi-pass tickets that gave us access to ten great attractions in Australia and … one in Auckland! So today we drove down to the big city and waved our photo-ID cards at the nice lady behind the glass at Kelly Tarlton’s Antarctic Experience & Underwater World.
Built by a Kiwi diving enthusiast in the 1980s, the aquarium is situated in what used to be sewage-water treatment tanks to the east of Auckland city. Kelly Tarlton pioneered the heating and curving of acrylic to make his underwater tunnel, a technique now used in aquariums around the world.
Tarlton was a deep-sea treasure hunter and retrieved many valuable objects from the waters around New Zealand. He opened the Museum of Shipwrecks near his home in Paihia and recognised that the personal effects of the past were more interesting than more valuable treasures from the sea. “A toothbrush that has come off a wreck from 1872 is more interesting than a steam-valve,” he said in an 1977 interview. Tarlton used his funds from his previous dives to build the Auckland aquarium, and it opened in 1985 after just ten months of construction.
From the exterior, all that’s visible is a small entrance hut. All the interior of the aquarium is underground, with one room containing a large pane of glass which is covered by the water of Okahu Bay at high tide.
Our girls were very excited to be at the aquarium, and they embraced all the exhibits, rode in all the replica vehicles and danced to the music as we spent about five hours at the aquarium, with a break in a nearby park for lunch.
After our disastrous first visit to Sydney Aquarium we’ve also learned to relax into the experience and follow our children’s lead. It doesn’t matter if we dawdle in the foyer or linger in the loos — as long as our children are having fun, the fish can wait!
And so it took us about an hour before we started seeing live animals. But we were certainly having fun!
Aisha and Brioni were particularly looking forward to the touching pool after their fabulous experience at Oceanworld Manly in Sydney. Sadly, this is probably the only exhibit that disappointed us, although everything else was first-class.
Although the penguin exhibit was so-so, we look forward to seeing what the new enclosure will be like when the renovations — $5.5 million worth of them — are finished in September. Because we have an annual pass, we know we can come back again the next time we’re in town.
Our family loved the moving walkway. The girls ran around and around in the viewing tunnel as David and I stayed on the track. The stools were probably as much of an attraction as the great quantities of fish and sharks.
In the early afternoon, we took a break outside to get some food and let the girls run in the sunshine (and drizzle). Mission Bay is only a short drive away, and the playground features a hexagonal swing like the one we saw at Oberon in NSW, Australia.
Even after we returned to the aquarium (without the camera), the fun wasn’t over. We drove though a carwash for the first time, although it’s possible that I was the only one thrilled by that event! This current climate doesn’t invite me to hose and sponge down our muddy van!
Our day at Kelly Tarlton’s was so much fun! The aquarium is equal to or surpassing the ones we’ve seen in Sydney, and we found the staff to be pleasant and non-obtrusive. It’s a very family-friendly attraction although the gift shop is a sneaky trap at the end. If you’re in Auckland or passing through with your children, this is a must-see. You won’t be disappointed!