Are you looking for an insider’s adventure travel guide for the best outdoor activities in Auckland?
As part of our Adventure City Guide series, Charli from Wanderlusters shares with you her expert insider tips on the top adventure and outdoor activities to do in Auckland; including how to get there and costs.
Why visit Auckland for adventure?
Although no longer New Zealand’s capital city – it was ousted by the city now known as Wellington in 1865 – Auckland remains at the heart of life in the North Island. A great base from which to explore the tropical Northland, Waikato and the Bay of Plenty there is no shortage of activities for the adventurous traveller.
Outdoor Activities in Auckland
Wire Base Jumping – Sky Jump
New Zealanders are well known for their fondness of adrenaline inducing activities so it comes as no surprise that they’ve incorporated the opportunity to get their fix within the centre of Auckland. The tallest man made structure in New Zealand the Sky Tower is a prominent feature of the cityscape.
If you’re feeling a little low on adrenaline during your lunch break, you can nip to the top of the structure, attach yourself to a harness and leap from a height of 192 metres. As gravity takes hold you’ll fall rather fast – approximately 85kph – for 11 to 16 extreme seconds before landing smoothly at the base of the tower.
Now being afraid of heights and content with my understanding of Newton’s theory of gravitation, I did not partake in this particular adventure activity. However I did manage to catch sight of a few adrenaline junkies testing their nerve, and I have to say it looked like quite a thrill.
Getting to the Skytower Jump
Sky City is located at the corner of Federal and Victoria Street in the heart of Auckland’s CBD.
If you’re in need of a serious adrenaline top up it might be worth noting that while the cost of the sky jump alone is NZ$225 / NZ$195 with student ID, you can combine the sky walk – a walk around the circumference of the tower 192 metres from the ground – with the sky jump for NZ$290.
Take some time to search for discount vouchers, there are usually some available. Check Groupon, Jason’s voucher booklets (found in tourist information), aucklandnz.com and phone hostels and backpacker accommodation to find out what rate they can offer.
Find out more at the Auckland Sky Jump site.
A Volcanic Hike at Maungakiekie – Cromwell Park / One Tree Hill
Although set within the city limits Maungakiekie provides the opportunity for weary travellers to relax in a little piece of countryside.
With grazing herds of sheep and cattle the chance to ramble through wide open spaces is an attractive alternative to the hustle and bustle of the CBD. An inactive volcanic peak just south of the city centre its Maori name Maungakiekie means ‘mountain of the kiekie vine’, though older translations site the meaning as ‘Tree that stands alone’.
Its English name ‘One Tree Hill’ dates back to the city’s early colonial existence when a solitary tree stood near the summit. Today an obelisk stands proudly on the peak in remembrance of Sir John Logan Campbell, who is often referred to as ‘the father of Auckland’. A great supporter of Maori tribes he chose to commemorate his death by commissioning a sculpture of a noble Maori warrior to watch over the city.
As the city limits have expanded Campbell’s legacy has remained in the form of Cromwell Park which incorporates One Tree Hill and 118 acres of land. Worthy of a day trip the park contains the Stardome Observatory, a quaint tearoom, children’s playground and for the more adventurous traveller the chance to hike to the summit for panoramic views over Auckland and its two harbours.
The opportunity to hike a volcanic peak is not one many cities can offer and I highly recommend taking the time to see this unconventional view of the cityscape.
Getting to One Tree Hill
From Britomart station in the CBD pick up bus route 500 towards Mission Heights and get off at Greenlane. Walk west on Greenlane for 2km. Total journey time of around 1 hour.
If you can handle an early start it’s worth the effort to reach the peak before the influx of tourists, cars and buses. And on a clear night it is possible to capture an image of the city blanketed by stars. The vehicle access gates close at dusk however you can walk in 24 hours a day.
Check the Cromwell Park website for their schedule of events including free concerts and guided walks.
Grab a Caffeine Buzz – Café Culture
Although we like to think that New Zealanders spend all their time frolicking in the countryside, the reality is that outdoor pursuits are often shelved in order to enjoy a frothy flat white.
Although they claim to have invented the drink back in the 1980′s this is widely discredited by the Australian’s who will tell you it is of their own design. For many Aucklanders café culture lies at the social heart of city living and consequently coffee shops have become social venues for business meetings, to catch up with friends or simply read the paper.
As every adventurer knows fast paced activity is not sustainable seven days a week. I therefore recommend an afternoon of exploration in search of an alternative buzz and guarantee you’ll soon notice this city takes its coffee rather seriously.
Dubbed by many as one of the best places in the world to drink the velvety black liquid it is hard to find a bad cup in even the most mundane of cafés. However if you’re after the ultimate buzz there are a few coffee houses that have elevated themselves to a superior level of coffee bean ‘geekery’. The art of creating the perfectly extracted short black is rightfully reserved for those with a certain level of skill, and when combined with a quirky sense of urban style the coffee houses of Auckland provide the adventurous traveller with a rather aromatic buzz.
Finding a great coffee in Auckland
Our favourite place to get your buzz is Espresso Workshop – 19 Falcon St, Parnell.
If you plan to spend your day relaxing on the sofas at your favourite coffee house get in early. The city folk have a tendency to indulge their penchant for a caffeine buzz regularly and you’ll often find limited free seating at the more stylish establishments.
Local Secret Adventure in Auckland
Scuba Saturday at Global Dive
If you’re scuba certified Global Dive offer free diving at their monthly scuba Saturday meet – just pay for any gear rental and tank fills.
Every two to three weeks Global instructors take their open water students north to Goat Island Marine Reserve for training and kindly invite certified divers to join them free of charge. A very social affair it’s a great opportunity to meet fellow scuba nuts and get your head underwater to explore the rich waters of New Zealand’s coastline.
Entering from the beach you can find plenty of channels and rocky out crops to explore with your buddy. The depth varies and the terrain caters for both experienced divers and those new to the sport. The diverse mix of marine life you’re likely to encounter includes Snapper, Blue Cod, Goatfish, Parore, Blue Maomao, Sweep, Trevally, Jack Mackerel, Red Moki, Kelpfish, Demoiselle, Big Eye, Triplefins, Stingrays, Eaglerays, Sea Cucumber, Starfish, Urchins, Nudibranchs, Octopus, Hermit Crabs, Crayfish, Anemones, Sponges, Corals and Hydroids.
They’ve even been known to encounter Dolphins and Orca at certain times of the year.
I didn’t get the chance to join Global for their Scuba Saturday meet however I thoroughly enjoyed their weekend live aboard at the Poor Knights Islands, a pristine marine reserve on the east coast of Northland.
Make sure you contact Global Dive to confirm your attendance at Scuba Saturday. If you’re in need of a buddy or transport from Auckland call into the shop and discuss your options with the Global staff, they’re incredibly helpful and will ensure you’re looked after.
Global Dive is located at 132 Beaumont Street near Westhaven Marina in the centre of the city.
If you know the dates you’ll be in Auckland phone ahead and book your place at Scuba Saturday as it is popular with local and visiting divers alike.
You’ll be shore diving so ensure you thoroughly rinse your kit after the dive. Sand gets everywhere and can affect the mechanisms of your equipment if not washed out ASAP. Find out more from their site Global Dive.
Best time of the year to visit Auckland for adventure?
Auckland enjoys a warm temperate climate for the majority of the year and as such has warm humid summers and mild, wet winters. While the winter months provide the surrounding rainforest with the chance to rejuvenate, it can dampen your desire for outdoor adventure so I recommend visiting during the summer months (October to April) to maximise your opportunity to explore.
Finally, the reason I love Auckland for adventure is because…
Sprawled across a narrow isthmus and surrounded by rainforest Auckland is the perfect base for an adventurous adrenaline junkie. With the opportunity for adventure above and below the waterline there’s plenty to keep any explorer entertained for the duration of their stay. From idyllic island escapes to urban cultural retreats, the buzz of the city is mirrored by the vibrant inhabitants who thrive on a balanced diet of adrenaline, culture and relaxation.
In 2010 Charli & Ben made the decision to live a life less ordinary and six months later embarked on an undefined period of travel. Enforcing no restrictions on their itinerary they have chosen to travel at a slow pace and incorporate house sitting assignments in each country they visit.
With no time limit restricting their experience they are content to continue exploring the world as digital nomads. From backpacking through Central America to road tripping around Australia they embrace each and every opportunity for adventure.
How to Make the Most of Your Travels
Traveling is a very liberating and fun experience. Not only do you get to see some incredible sights, taste some amazing foods, and hear sounds you might never have heard before, but you also get to know the people who live in such exotic places. There are 7.6 billion people in the world, and we have created a complex, fascinating collection of cultures that truly need to be experienced to be understood. There is so much potential when you travel, but you need to make the most of your time abroad in order to appreciate it truly. Staying at a hotel the whole time won’t let you learn about places like Egypt, Israel and Peru, it will only give you a taste of what another resort is like. To truly make the most of your travels, you need to:
- Get Out There: Taking Tours
If you aren’t comfortable jetting off on your own, that’s okay! There are tours and packages available that will ensure you have a safe and comfortable trip. For instance, you can extend your South Africa trip and take all-inclusive tours to Israel. This means you get a return flight, your hotel rooms booked, and your food covered all on top of great guides to show you around the most ancient of cities. These kinds of tours allow you to experience the world with the comfort and peace of mind that comes when an experienced travel agency has arranged everything.
- Explore at Your Own Pace: Going Off on Your Own
When you’re experienced enough with traveling the area, you can then go off on your own. When you do, opt for slow travel. This means that instead of trying to see all the top sights in a week, you stay for a longer period of time and explore a smaller area at greater length. Not only is this slower travel better for the environment, but it’s also better for your health, and you’ll gain more insight from your trip.
- Do Your Research
Many activities will have to be booked in advance. Therefore, you’ll need to read up on the activities in advance, so you know the scams you should avoid and the best offers available to you. You should also read up on common dos and don’ts. For instance, you shouldn’t take cabs that aren’t arranged for you through your hotel.
- Document It!
Memories only last so long before they begin to fade, which is why you need to document your travels. Take photos, video, and most of all, keep a journal. This can be on paper or on your phone, but write down everything that you have done that day. Write down what you’ve done and what you felt. This will be the best souvenir that you can take home with you.
Traveling is an amazing experience, but you need to do your research so that you can find the best tours, key information, and safety tips. The more prepared you are and the more you know, the more you’ll get out of your journey.
Travel Photography – Most Photogenic Places in New Zealand
If there is a place in the world no nature enthusiast should miss no doubt the South Island of New Zealand it is. The landscapes there are simply breathtaking, so diverse you can’t imagine such a small country has it all. Throughout this wonderful island are stunning beaches and thrilling waterfalls, turquoise lakes and snow-capped mountains; the list is literally endless. Although so small you only need a few hours to traverse, you a likely to spend days in the blissful amazement of this country.
Take your camera with you. This is a place to remember through the rest of your lifetime. In that regard, below are the most photogenic places on The South Island of New Zealand.
Found on Koekohe Beach, these strange-looking, large spherical concretions rank among nature’s oddest and astonishing sights. Eroded from the shoreline, some of these boulders are up to 2 meters in diameter. The best time to view these natural wonders is at sunset, and some visitors say they look like dragon eggs waiting to hatch.
Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand
At the top end of the South Island, you’ll find an amazing geological occurrence. The Marlborough Sounds are a collection of sunken river valleys, where the ocean has reclaimed the land. The stunning contrast of thick forested hills sinking steeply into the ocean creates some wonderful opportunities for photography.
Church of the Good Shepherd
One of the most visited historical sites in New Zealand, the Church of the Good Shepherd is located in Mackenzie Country area. Located right within the international dark sky reserve in, the placement of the church means you can capture some of the most amazing astrophotographical shots imaginable. Any astrophotography enthusiast visiting must see this little chapel, located in the famous Tekapo region.
St Clair’s Beach – Dunedin
St. Clair’s is a stunningly beautiful sandy beach, one of the many sweeping along Dunedin’s eastern suburbs. As well as being a highly popular surfing spot, St. Clair’s Beach is home to tourist’s bars, café’s and relaxing saltwater outdoor heated swimming pools. At the end of the beach stand old wooden poles, and there is most photographers’ favourite spot.
The Caitlins region is an absolute delight for nature photographers, with countless beautiful locations to visit. One of the best in the region is the Purakaunui Waterfalls. Found at the southern tip of the country, the crystal cascade of water contrasts beautifully with the mossy green rock and lush vegetation it cuts through.
Lake Pukaki, with its amazingly ice blue 180 square kilometer water expanse provides breathtaking colour combinations across a backdrop of snowy mountain ranges. You could be forgiven for thinking you’d suddenly ended up in the Canadian ranges as the scenery is very similar.
Lupin Flowers in Tekapo
On December, during the summer’s peak, pretty beautiful lupin flowers buoyantly bloom for up to six weeks, offering a very fantastic view for nature kids. Each summer these flowers turn into startling bright colours, calling masses of photographers and tourists. Mostly found at the beautiful shores of Lake Tekapo as well as the nearing zones, these wonder flowers flourish best in the first two weeks of the month.
Hikers have a reason to smile whenever they visit the Southern Island of New Zealand. Mount Roy is the place that, besides offering an iconic viewpoint of the Lake Wanaka, stands out as a wonderful area for exciting day hikes. Up there, you get amazing views to the landscape below, which savvy photographers cannot miss.
Hooker Glacier Lake
At the foot of Mount Cook is the Hooker Glacier Lake, an all-year-round stunner you cannot afford to miss while visiting this incredible country. However, most experts recommend winter as the most suitable time for photo taking.
Planted at the centre of Glacier Country and Westland National Park, this lake provides a pretty sight. It was formed 14,000 years ago through glaciations. Its surrounding is rich in ancient native forests that are also a favourite phenomenon for photographers. Lake Matheson mirrors Mount Tasman and Mount Cook—two of the highest peaks in New Zealand.
Milford Sound receives quite much rainfall. The annual estimates are up to an amazing 6.8 meters, making it among the very wettest spots of New Zealand. Due to such high rains, the area is adorned with pretty spectacular waterfalls, many of them cascading into the photo famous fjord on wet days. Milford Sound is found in the Fiordland National Park.
Devil’s Punchbowl Waterfall
Anyone would be excited to see and photograph the Devil’s Punchbowl Waterfall. It is the largest waterfall in the land, standing at 131 meters. It is surely worthy visiting, but remember to take rain jacket. You likely will get wet.
As suggests the name, this is a truly remarkable place. Featuring a rare scene of mountain range, the Remarkables are located next to Queenstown. Moreover, around this top photogenic zone is one of the finest ski fields the island boasts of.
Bennett’s Bluff, Glenorchy Road
Bennett’s Bluff is a popular viewpoint along one of the impressive drives through New Zealand. Glenorchy Road runs from Queenstown to Glenorchy. This particular viewpoint impressively overlooks the Pig and Pigeon Islands, as well as Lake Wakatipu.
The Wanaka Tree
The Wanaka is a symbolic willow tree located off Lake Wanaka shore line. It is claimed to be among the most photographed trees the world over, making it one of the most photogenic places in The Southern Island of New Zealand.
Franz Josef Glacier Valley
This is one of the major attractions on the island’s west coast, an ice glacier descending 12 kilometres. It starts in the high peaks coming down through rainforest to a mere 300 meters above the sea level.
Despite being a small country, New Zealand is one of the most exciting places to visit in the world. You cannot finish in a day or even two, for every corner you go, you will want to take a photo.
Summer Events to check out in Surfers Paradise
The weather is already heating up on the Gold Coast and everyone is getting ready for some hot days on the beach. Christmas is just around the corner and with it all the big summer events and festivals that happen at this time of year. Surfers Paradise is at the centre of it all and makes a great base for exploring the Gold Coast and attending the events on the Gold Coast’s summer schedule. There is plenty of places to stay in Surfers Paradise, so book yourself a room and check out some of these fantastic summer events.
Australian PGA Championship
Pacific Pines Resort is one of the premier golf courses in Australia. The country’s biggest golf tournament will make its way here from the 30th of November until the 3rd of December, where the best golfers from Australia and overseas will compete for the title. This is a must attend event for golfers, and there will be plenty of food and entertainment on offer across the four days.
The foreshore in Surfers Paradise comes alive every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday night, with over 100 market stalls filling up the esplanade. The iconic Beachfront Markets will continue throughout the summer and provides the perfect opportunity to get out and about on those warm summer nights, browse the stalls for some unique buys, and then head out on the town for dinner.
Christmas in Surfers Paradise
Experience Christmas in true Aussie style by attending the popular Christmas in Surfers Paradise event that fills up Cavill Mall from the 13th – 24th of December. The entire mall is transformed into a festive wonderland, Surfers style. Even Santa himself will be wearing boardies and travelling in a surf boat sleigh. The kids will love getting to visit Santa in the mall, and the whole event ends with the popular Carols on the Beach on the 23rd of December. Where else in the world can you experience Christmas Carols on the beach on a hot summer’s night?
New Year’s Carnival
Surfers Paradise is one of the best places to celebrate the New Year in the country. The New Year’s Carnival happens on the foreshore of Surfers Paradise across five days from the 27th of December until the 1st of January. It will be one big celebration with lots of rides and fun filled activities, music and more. On New Year’s Eve, you can enjoy massive fireworks displays over the water, with three different displays lighting up the skies above the Gold Coast. There will even be an earlier fireworks display for the little ones. This is definitely the place to be to bring in the New Year.
Magic Millions Carnival
One of the first big events to check out in 2018 will be the extravagant Magic Millions Carnival. On from the 7th until the 13th of January, the Magic Millions Carnival is the premier event of the summer horse racing season. This is a $10 Million horse race and it is sure to be a huge event, with all the glitz and glamour and socialising that goes with it. On the 9th of January, head to the Surfers Paradise Foreshore for the Barrier Draw, where you can watch the horses on the sand and enjoy food and beverages from the stalls. The big race day will be held on the 13th of January.
Surfing is huge on the Gold Coast and one of the best surf spots is at Burleigh Heads. The Burleigh Pro has grown to become one of the biggest surfing competitions in Australia and will see some of the world’s top surfers compete for the title. Local surfers and visitors should definitely attend this one. The Burleigh Pro will be held from the 25th – 28th of January.
One of the more unique and interesting events to check out this summer will be the 2018 Sand Safari. This arts festival focuses on Australia’s talented sand sculptors, who will compete in the Australian Sand Sculpting Championships. These sand artists carve out incredible, often life sized sculptures entirely of sand, and you will often be truly awed by what they are able to create. The main sculpture competition takes place on the beach along the Surfers Paradise foreshore, however this is a big event from the 2nd to the 25th of February, and you will be able to find special sand sculpture exhibits all over Surfers Paradise.
Summer of Surf
The Summer of Surf is a massive event which will see the country’s best Ironmen and Ironwomen compete in a gruelling six discipline event across six rounds, including the highlighted IronMan and IronWoman competitions. These athletes are the epitome of endurance, and the competition will hit Surfers Paradise for round five of the competition on the 3rd and 4th of February.
The Village Markets
Burleigh Heads is one of the most picturesque and laid back places on the Gold Coast and well worth heading to for a few hours. A good time to visit is during the twice monthly Village Markets which have become an integral part of the Burleigh atmosphere. This popular and laid back market has a beachy, artsy feel to it, and you will find all kinds of unique buys here from the many stalls on offer. Street food stalls are also a big thing here so you can sample some delicious delicacies while browsing the stalls. Finish the day by relaxing on the beach, or sit down for a drink at the Burleigh Surf Club.
Whether you’re looking for a destination for a family holiday or just wanting a quick getaway to unwind this summer, Surfers Paradise is a great choice. With so much happening from cultural night markets to world class sporting events, you are sure to find something of interest in this iconic Gold Coast location.
Meet Cole and Adela
We have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...
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