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.