Top 10 adventure activities in Auckland
As Editor at Large of Let’s Travel Magazine my enthusiasm and inspiration comes from discovering new and exciting outdoor experiences but it became obvious that there was no dedicated New Zealand guide at the time (2010) that covered the adventure industry comprehensively in the air, on land, out at sea or on rivers and lakes.
In New Zealand it’s the thrill of skiing on a volcano, the exhilaration of jetboating on the Waikato or rafting the Shotover in Queenstown, the chance to experience wilderness horse riding or hiking spectacular trails around the country. In Auckland it’s all about experiencing the surf beaches of Great Barrier Island to 4-wheel driving and mountain biking in Woodhill Forest, as well as sailing on the Hauraki Gulf or hang-gliding on West Coast beaches.
For me it’s all about experiencing the great outdoors, enjoying a healthier lifestyle and having fun – for people full of life it’s about seeking out new activities and about overcoming your fears, stepping out beyond your comfort zone and being adventurous in one of the most spectacular countries in the world.
To start the heart beating a little faster I’ve picked out 10 of the best places and adventures to push the adrenalin envelope in the Auckland region. The rest is up to you.
AJ Hackett Bungy – Auckland Harbour Bridge
It’s true that AJ Hackett rules the “airwaves” when it comes to bungy jumps in New Zealand with four locations in New Zealand alone. This is a 40 m high jump from the Auckland Harbour Bridge that includes a walk beneath the traffic to reach the bungy pod. If you are limited for time, then this is the fastest and most exciting way to see the Waitemata Harbour. Lasting for 1.5 hours.
Canyoning – Piha
Just 40 minutes from downtown Auckland you’ll find yourself at the foot of the largest commercial waterfall abseil in the Waitakere Ranges. The Piha Canyon in which the waterfalls are located is a majestic sub-tropical rainforest. During this adventure you’ll spend an exhilarating day or half-day abseiling or jumping over a variety of waterfalls that cascade into pools below. www.awoladventures.co.nz
Quad Biking – Kumeu
This is a quick and easy way to get into the bush on a quad bike. After just 15 minutes training you’ll be zipping along on a one, two or three hour quad bike safari through the 36,000 acre Woodhill Forest and the wild, black sand beaches of the West Coast just outside Auckland. All you need to do is sit comfortably and follow your leader, as all tours are guided. www.4trackadventures.co.nz
Tandem Hang Gliding – West Coast
This is a spectacular way to become airborne as you are catapulted into the sky, high above some breathtaking West Coast scenery. You’ll then fly in a nice relaxing float or adrenalin surging aerobatic swoops. Aqua Air Adventure is based in Auckland but fly where the conditions are best, often on the West Coast from Muriwai to Kariotahi. www.gethigh.co.nz
Horse Riding – South Kaipara
This is a family-run half-day, full day or the overnight horse trek that begins with an easy Woodhill Forest ride to the lakes. In the afternoon the forest tracks open on to an historic farm of 1,012ha. The night is spent in shearers’ quarters that sleep up to 12 people in six rooms. The return journey takes you to the tip of the South Head peninsula. Crossing the wilderness flats you can then ride on sand dunes up to 20m high. The last leg is 16km of Muriwai Beach before re-entering Woodhill Forest. www.horserides.co.nz
Sea Kayaking – Auckland and Gulf Islands
Just an hour north of Auckland is Mahurangi Regional Park, a region perfect for the paddler with abundant rivers, sheltered bays, sea caves, estuaries and even a shipwreck. Other popular coastal kayaking venues include, Rangitoto, Motutapu, Motuihe and Rakino. For people wanting some solitude, point your bow out to the eastern end of Waiheke where the islands of Rotoroa and Ponui offer great kayaking adventures. www.kayakwaiheke.co.nz or www.seakayakauckland.co.nz
Sailing – America’s Cup Yachts
Very few of us will ever race in an America’s Cup yacht race, but the next best thing is NZL 40 and NZL 41. These former America’s Cup yachts offer the opportunity for everyone to participate in sailing one of these grand prix racing machines. You’ll be part of the crew and encouraged to take the helm and work the grinders as both yachts tack against each other down the harbour. www.explorenz.co.nz
Sky Walk – Auckland Sky Tower
Look mum no hands. Yes this little escapade might put the wind up you… there are no guardrails, just the air that you breath 192 m up on the 1.2 m wide Sky Walk outer ledge. If you want to experience life on the edge then give this a try. It’s a 360-degree walk around the tallest tower in the Southern Hemisphere. If you have the nerve, you can hang your rear-end off the edge with just the harness holding you aloft. www.skywalk.co.nz
Surfing – Great Barrier Island
Travelling out to the rugged isolation of Great Barrier Island is an adventure in itself, and the bonus is the beautiful deserted beaches on the eastern side of the island. The four best-known spots are: Medland’s Beach with its famous Shark Alley. Kaitoke boasts a number of good surf breaks. Awana Beach is noted for its year-round surfing conditions. Lastly Whangapoua has great surf across the mouth of the Whangapoua Estuary. www.aucklandnz.co.nz
Whale & Dolphin Watching – Hauraki Gulf
Established in 2000, their record says it all. Dolphins are viewed on over 90% of trips and whales viewed on 75% of trips so they claim. Once on board the crew will search the Hauraki Gulf until they locate whale and dolphin activity. This operator specialises in making the most of a day out on the water. This is not a swimming experience, just a chance to view the hugely diverse range of mammals. www.explorenz.co.nz
Auckland Harbour Bridge Bungy
Common Dolphins in front of the boat with people
NZL 40 & 41 Infront of Rangitoto Island
AWOL Canyoning Adventures
Sky City, SkyWalk
Kayaking on Waiheke Island
Tay Pattison at Kaitoki beach, Great Barrier Island