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From heli-fish­ing to canyon­ing in pris­tine na­tive for­est, Auck­land’s pop­u­lar­ity with na­ture and ad­ven­ture lovers is truly war­ranted

The Courier-Mail - QWeekend - - THE TRAVELLER -

Tucked away on the west coast of Auck­land is a lit­tle beach­side vil­lage called Piha, pop­u­lar with hol­i­day­mak­ers, surfers and lo­cals who like the quiet life. Hugged by waves and the prom­i­nent Lion Rock, it’s also the place to head if you want to ex­pe­ri­ence some iconic New Zealand scenery.

The Waitakere Ranges Re­gional Park has more than 250 kilo­me­tres of walk­ing and hik­ing tracks through lush na­tive rain­for­est with wa­ter­falls, all just 45 min­utes from Auck­land city.

A half-hour hike up through leafy-green pris­tine rain­for­est, just a few min­utes drive from Piha, brings you to the start of a half-day canyon­ing ex­pe­ri­ence with lo­cal and AWOL Canyon­ing guide Cam Bowen. Ab­seil down wa­ter­falls, slide through caves and swim through fresh­wa­ter swim­ming pools shaded by soar­ing cliffs and the rain­for­est canopy. No phones or bags, just wet­suits, hel­met, ropes, moss cov­ered rocks and an incredible cou­ple of hours with na­ture – an amaz­ing ad­ven­ture.

If you like to test your lim­its, head to the city’s SkyJump ex­pe­ri­ence at Sky Tower. Like a pin ris­ing above the Auck­land sky­line, SkyJump is not for the faint­hearted; rush­ing through the air at around 85km per hour, it’s an adren­a­line-surge for 11 sec­onds. Jump and emerge eu­phoric, tak­ing in the amaz­ing views out to the Hau­raki Gulf as you sail down. The (slightly) less pulse-rais­ing Sky­Walk is an al­ter­na­tive to the jump – step out­side and inch your way around the Sky Tower for a 360-de­gree view of Auck­land and sur­rounds.

Skyjump­ing may not be for ev­ery­one, so if you pre­fer your thrills from the ground, check out Bu­larangi Mo­tor­bikes tours which can take you on the back of a Har­ley-David­son through the city and out to the east­ern bays. Don your hel­met and black leather for a ride that will take you along the beau­ti­ful Ta­maki Drive where lo­cal run­ners and cy­clists en­joy the road as it hugs Waitem­ata Har­bour. The beaches are flled with Auck­lan­ders and vis­i­tors en­joy­ing sunny days while cafes, shops and gela­te­rias in the ad­ja­cent beach­side vil­lages buzz with lo­cals.

For some­thing a lit­tle more in­dul­gent, take to the air with Hele­tranz for an ex­tra­or­di­nary heli-fsh­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. They’ll pack bait, rods, lunch and snacks and then fy you to some of the area’s best fsh­ing spots on neigh­bour­ing is­lands. If you love the idea of heli-tour­ing Bond-style, they also of­fer din­ing, golf and sight­see­ing ex­pe­ri­ences with your per­sonal pi­lot and guide to help you dis­cover all there is to love about Auck­land. Try their sun­set trip for a beau­ti­ful way to see the area as the sun sinks over the har­bour.

Over on Wai­heke Is­land, the unique com­bi­na­tion of na­ture and ad­ven­ture con­tin­ues with EcoZip Ad­ven­tures, which uses dual zi­plines to give you an ex­pe­ri­ence frst over vine­yards, then over and into spec­tac­u­lar na­tive for­est. Run by three Ki­wis, it’s a bril­liant way to see the great New Zealand out­doors in a to­tally new way.

If the sun is out and the wind is right, Auck­land also of­fers a great range of sail­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties. Dur­ing the warmer months, the har­bour is flled with yachts and boats as Auck­lan­ders en­joy near per­fect sail­ing con­di­tions. For your own sail­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, join Ex­plore’s daily Amer­ica’s Cup-style sail­ing ex­pe­di­tions where you can help take a rope, steer the helm or just sit back and re­lax as you de­part the Viaduct to en­joy the har­bour un­der the power of wind.

NA­TURE AND THRILLS (from far left) Omanawanui Track, Auck­land’s West Coast; EcoZip Ad­ven­tures, Wai­heke Is­land; a Hele­tranz scenic fight.

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