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