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.
Your Top Destinations For No-Contact Water Sports
While it can be hard to stay cooped up inside throughout a beautiful summer, there are plenty of other places you head to for some fun in the sun before colder temperatures set in. The best news? If you’re an American, you don’t have to leave the continental US or mess with self-quarantining.
Lake Tahoe, California
A classic vacation spot, Lake Tahoe has it all for visitors. Great climate, little rain, a background of mountains, and one of the largest, most serene lakes in the US. This makes Tahoe not just a great place for spring break partying, but also for some amount of isolation, or at least a bit of peace and quiet. You can find yourself reflected on the water and reflect upon the world around you while out on the lake. Because of the still waters there, it is also a wonderful place for paddle boarding. In case you are looking for quality gear for water sports, you can look into Gili Sports.
Kitty Hawk, North Carolina
The Outer Banks of North Carolina are another classic vacation destination, especially for anyone who loves water sports. The weather remains mild in North Carolina all year round (with the notable exception of hurricane season), so it makes for an outstanding destination through any season. Kitty Hawk, famous for the Wright Brothers first flight, is an outstanding destination, as well as smaller towns like Currituck. You will find slightly rougher currents out in the Atlantic Ocean. However, paddle boarding is also popular here, as is windsurfing.
New Braunfels, Texas
The city of New Braunfels has a river entirely within its limits, the Comal River. This allows for many water sports activities, with tubing as one of the most popular choices. In these times, tubing is a popular choice, as it is a great activity for families that doesn’t involve a lot of contact with strangers. New Braunfels has a huge German influence, with its largest water park named the Schlitterbahn.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Although there is a city in Florida named Venice, the city of Fort Lauderdale is often referred to confusingly as the “Venice of Florida.” This nickname was won because Fort Lauderdale has nearly as many canals as its famous Italian counterpart. Fort Lauderdale boasts 23 miles of beach coastline, but if you add in all the city’s canals and lakes, that puts it at 300 miles of coastline. Fort Lauderdale is also a magnet for yachts, so you can paddle board or kayak past boats in the harbor you’ve only dreamed of. Summers in South Florida can swelter, but there’s also a reason that old folks go down in the winter.
Although it is a huge metropolis, Seattle also offers some of the most pristine coastline in the country. Although it gets colder in the PNW than it might get anywhere in the southeast, the climate in Seattle stays relatively mild. One advantage of Seattle over more southern spots is its glacial lakes, which offer a beauty that few islands can replicate.
Even as the summer wanes, there are so many places in the continental US that you can get out and enjoy the water.
Top of Cappadocia day trek – with Middle Earth Travel
Trekking through the valleys of Cappadocia’s fairy chimneys with Middle Earth Travel feels more like the set of a Star Wars movie than a historical region once carved out and lived in by humans. Churches, homes and pigeon houses are scattered throughout the valleys, all waiting to be explored. The best part is, Middle Earth Travel know all the hidden secrets.
Top of Cappadocia day trek – with Middle Earth Travel
On the 26th of July (which just so happens to be my birthday!) Middle Earth Travel took us on their private and guided Top of Cappadocia day trek. From Pasabag, along the top of Cappadocia and down through the Gulludere Rose Valley to Goreme, we trekked 15kms in one day! (We recommend getting your bearings with this map)
Upon arrival to the Middle Earth Offices, we were warmly greeted by our new friend Atil whom we had met a few days earlier while mountain biking through the Kizilcukur Red Valley. We were then introduced to our guide and given a briefing regarding the day. Normally, the Top of Cappadocia tour would start from Çavuşin, however, since we had already explored Çavuşin Castle, they adapted our tour to compensate ensuring we would explore new terrain!
With charged cameras, plenty of water and our running shoes on, we were driven to our starting point of Pasabag. We wandered through the fairy chimneys, coming across camels and markets – then the true hike began.
It was a slow and gentle incline. With no trees to provide shade, I quickly realised why our tour guide had chosen to wear fully covered clothing! As the sweat quickly set in (a waterfall in Moss’s case) we snapped away with our cameras and enjoyed the entertaining shapes of Imagine Valley and the amazing view. We also passed a lot of rock piles, which according to our guide mean ‘father’ and are built to help lead the way.
The higher we trekked, the more breath taking the views became! As we walked along the summit of Bozdag mountain (the Top of Cappadocia) we could see EVERTHING – Pasabag, Çavuşin Castle, Kizilcukur Red Valley, Gulludere Rose Valley and Goreme. We were on the Father of Valleys! After a quick nod of agreement to the guide, we pushed ourselves the extra distance and made our way to the flag, as this HAD to be the highest point and was definitely worth a photo and a selfie or two!
From the flag we looked down upon Aktepe Hill which is known as a popular destination for watching the sun set and could spot Kizilvadi Restaurant, our destination for lunch! Kizilvadi Restaurant is an attraction of its own. With its own historic winery and Grape church, plus some Middle Earth Travel treks even stay there for the night! After having a massive feed of soup, salad and pasta plus a surprise birthday cake, we made our way down into Gulludere Rose Valley.
The scenery is amazing, with strong colours visible in perfect layers on the chimneys, you would wonder what an artist was thinking, had it been a painting. Also, hidden to the side of the track we walked across a little bridge and not expecting anything to be there we were wowed by the massive church carved. It was absolutely huge and hard to believe that its most recent use has been as a pigeon house!
Middle Earth Travel Review
- The team at Middle Earth Travel were extremely knowledgeable and certainly know Cappadocia’s hidden secrets. They have friendships with local tea garden owners which is also of benefit as it gained us entry to locked churches and hidden rooms that we would not have otherwise seen.
- We covered a lot of ground, however we did not feel rushed. The whole day focused on showing us the region, therefore we had as much time as we needed to explore each church and to take ‘just one more photo’.
- It wasn’t all about trekking. With a whole day and 15kms to cover, there were a few silly poses (especially in Imagine Valley), and we learnt a lot about the myths, legends and way of life in Cappadocia.
- In conclusion I highly recommend Middle Earth Travel if you wish to go trekking or mountain biking in Cappadocia.
- Cost: Day treks with Middle Earth Travel range from 50-90 euro, depending on the number of people taking part. This includes lunch, guide, vehicle transfers and entrance fees to historical sites, but excludes alcoholic and soft drinks.
- Middle Earth Travel are outdoor enthusiasts and offer multi-day over night treks, mountain biking, abseiling, or custom made itineraries, in multiple regions throughout Turkey.
Disclaimer: We were provided with a discount for the trek with Middle Earth Travel, however, as always our thoughts on our adventure travel blog our own.
Most Underrated Travel Destinations
Everyone knows about Paris and Rome and London but there are so many other beautiful travel destinations that are amazingly underrated and they are cities on our list to visit again once the Coronavirus allows. The fact that so many beautiful countries go unexplored by travelers is a tragedy and we want to change that after Coronavirus. Not only because so many people are missing out on rich cultures and picturesque views, but also because a lot of these destinations tend to be a lot cheaper to travel to than popular cities.
But what a lot of people don’t know is that there are gorgeous, underrated foreign cities one can visit for a fraction of the price of touristy European cities. Forbes recently published a collection of the ten most underrated destinations you should consider visiting.
Here are a few of them to learn about while stuck at home due to Coronavirus:
Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, is known for its magnificent sights of Mount Ararat, historical monasteries, and its many striking temple ruins. Armenian cuisine is other worldly with classic dishes like rabbit stew, sautéed eggplant rolls, and lamb tartare.
Telč is a colorful town with Italian influences in Czechia. It boasts of Baroque-Renaissance architecture and has a castle of its own with exciting tunnels and passageways that you can explore underneath the town.
Santiago is the capital of Chile and features gorgeous architecture from the neoclassical era. There are towering cathedrals and, of course, plenty of quality Chilean wine. Plus, the city of Santiago is a great place to kick off your exploration of Chile’s wine country.
Rotterdam, the Netherlands
Rotterdam is often ignored due to the popular neighboring city of Amsterdam, but it is a bastion of underground music and street art. The architecture is strikingly modern since the city was heavily bombed during World War II and thus had to be rebuilt from the ground up. The city is filled to the brim with amazing cuisine and museums.
If you are looking for a big city destination, Lagos is a metropolis that has plenty to see and do so that you’ll never be bored. And whenever you need a break from the urban marketplaces, private beaches are just a short drive away.
Con Dao, Vietnam
Con Dao is a Southeast Asian island that makes an excellent beach destination with two resorts and tons of fascinating history. Once host to a brutal French prison, the island is also home to the tomb of the Vietnamese martyr Vo Thi Sau.
Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay
This is one of the oldest cities in Uruguay dating back to the 17th century. The city has a vibrantly decorated historic quarter and a three-century-old convent. It’s also only a short trip away from the bigger city of Montevideo.
A majority of Americans, when asked about traveling abroad, will likely shake their head and say they can’t afford such trips. Many people deal with multiple monthly bills, such as mortgage or rent, student loans, and title loans, which are all stress inducing.
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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