As New Zealand’s largest city and major international gateway, most people who make the trek to Middle Earth will inevitably pass through Auckland. But instead of using it as a jumping off point to get out of town there are plenty of adventures to be had right in Auckland. Surrounded by active volcanoes (53 to be exact), beautiful beaches, and the largest Polynesian population in any international city, this is one place that deserves a second look.
Circumvent the City on New Zealand’s Tallest Building
Look up in downtown Auckland and you may see tiny specks of humans standing outside the country’s tallest skyscraper. The SkyWalk on the SkyTower is smack dab in the middle of the central business district, but the only suit you’ll be wearing here is a bright orange one. An iconic part of the skyline, you can actually get a 360-degree view of the city on a hands-free walk around the exterior of the building suspended 630-feet off the ground. Test your fear of heights by leaning forward and back over the edge for a serious adrenaline rush. You can also bungee off the tower because Kiwis really like jumping off things.
Race a Yacht
The pinnacle yacht race in the world and the oldest trophy awarding international sport, America’s Cup predates even the Olympics. Team New Zealand has had so much success, their sailing tradition is longstanding and a major source of national pride. As the current defending champions, you can ride on an authentic race vessel and learn how to crew and steer right in Auckland’s Waitematā Harbour.
Visit Wine Island
Waiheke Island, better known as “the island of wine” is just a 35-minute ferry from Auckland. Home to 30+ wineries, a thriving art colony, and pristine beaches, there are guided wine tastings, but you could also just follow your nose if you’re looking to sip and swirl.
Climb the Auckland Harbour Bridge – Or Bungee Off It
Sydney’s not the only place down under you can ascend the harbor. The Auckland Bridge Climb takes you on custom engineered pathways above the city on manmade walkways under the flow of traffic. The last bridge of its kind to be built in the world, it is also the largest in the southern hemisphere. Halfway through if you’re feeling brave, you can bungee off the bridge with renowned company AJ Hackett (founder of modern-day bungee) and touch the ocean.
Go on a Dolphin and Whale Safari
If majestic marine creatures are your thing, you’ll feel right at home in Auckland. Located in Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, this eco-tour promises year-round sightings aboard a luxury catamaran. You’ll sail with resident marine biologists who will clue you into the species you’re spotting and fun facts about the animals.
Go Blackwater Rafting in the Waitomo Glowworm Caves
The ultimate day trip for adventurers, the Waitomo Glowworm Caves are about 2.5 hours from Auckland. Underground caving through the Black Labyrinth and Black Abyss, you’ll be jumping off waterfalls and zip lining in an innertube in the dark as the glowworms and headlamps guide the way.
Follow the Flock
Looking to meet the real locals? New Zealand actually is home to more sheep than people. Sheep World is part interactive museum, part animal show. You’ll see sheep dogs round up the herd and meet the resident lambs and emu at this quirky working farm. Plus, the wool makes a great souvenir.
Explore a (Virtually) Deserted Island
The world’s only designated dark sky island sanctuary, the Great Barrier Island is stargazing heaven. Beyond that, there are bush walks, natural hot springs, and great kayaking, snorkeling and diving. You can get there by either a short charter flight or ferry from Auckland’s mainland.
Meet Pirates, Mermaids and Sharks
The Auckland Zoo has photography classes and after-hours safaris, but it’s Sea Life Aquarium where your imagination can really run wild. There are pirate and mermaid shows, penguin meet and greets (New Zealand’s only colony of Sub-Antarctic penguins), and cage diving with sharks just like in South Africa. Are you brave enough to snorkel with the sea’s biggest predators?
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