The wild side

Few people realise Auckland has a permanent whale and dolphin population, which can be seen on a wildlife cruise. The Hauraki Gulf Marine Park covers more than 1.2 million hectares and is home to the critically endangered Bryde’s whale. Auckland Whale and Dolphin Safari has a high success rate, with a 95% chance of seeing either dolphins or whales. Some sightings have included orca, humpback whales, southern right whales, leopard seals, turtles and manta ray. Read more

Common sightings include whales and dolphins. BROOK SABIN

Common sightings include whales and dolphins. BROOK SABIN

Learn to sail on a real America’s Cup yacht with Explore. BROOK SABIN

Learn to sail on a real America’s Cup yacht with Explore. BROOK SABIN

Sail the City of Sails

As well as its collection of sailboats, Auckland is known asthe location of one of the world’s great sporting clashes. The best way to get excited about The America’s Cup is to take to the helm of a boat yourself. No, not the fighter jet-like foiling yachts that battled it out earlier this year; Explore Group‘s boats are the classic monohulls that were used in the cups of yesteryear. For two hours, you and your fellow sailors will be in charge of racing the yacht, manning the grinders and even steering.

Treetop adventures in the Bombay Hills

Make a detour off State Highway 1 at Ramarama and you’ll find Adrenalin Forest, a thicket of trees slung with ropes, high wires, ladders and flying foxes – all yours for the exploring, just as soon as you’re harnessed up. As you work your way around the course, you gradually get higher into the treetops. Getting from one platform to the other requires tiptoeing between metal hoops suspended at challenging angles, clambering along cargo nets or balancing on logs that spin beneath your feet. Read more

If you can walk up 150 stairs, you’ll be fit enough to walk the Windy Canyon. BROOK SABIN

If you can walk up 150 stairs, you’ll be fit enough to walk the Windy Canyon. BROOK SABIN

The stairway to heaven

Some of the best attractions on Great Barrier Island are free: walks through primeval bush and magnificent beaches. The island is 60 per cent Department of Conservation land, meaning the choice of walks is overwhelming. The most coveted is the Aotea Track around the mountainous interior of the island, the most popular walk is the 45-minute stroll to the Kaitoke Hot Springs, but the most spectacular is a visit to Windy Canyon. The 3km trek walks past canyons, climbs staircases wedged between giant rock faces, before emerging with 360-degree views of the island. Read more

A great way to see the city

Power to the Pedal‘s City Lights tour is full of delightful surprises you never notice in daylight. Lasting just under two hours, the ride spends much of the time on dedicated cycleways, heading through Britomart during the after-work buzz, along the Viaduct and into Wynyard Quarter. You’ll get a great view of the lit-up bridge, before Victoria Park gives way to the interactive glory of the pink lightpath. Then you swoop down Grafton Gully under the historic bridge and past the white lights of the port, back to your start. Read more

Karioitahi is a classic west coast beach. ATEED

Karioitahi is a classic west coast beach. ATEED

South Auckland’s magnetic black sand beach

At the end of an impressively scenic eight-kilometre drive from Waiuku, you wind down through huge grassy dunes onto the black sands of long, open and surf-fringed Karioitahi Beach. Tall, weather-sculpted cliffs rise above the beach, which is well-used by dog-walkers, horse-riders, dirt-bikers, blow-carters, paragliders – and magnet artists. A handful of fine sand can be coaxed, using a magnet, into a wide variety of shapes, abstract or recognisably real. It’s fun, absorbing and immensely satisfying to create something soft, furry and three-dimensional out of that stuff you’re just standing on. Read more

Insider tip: Follow the Lake Wainamu Track near Bethells Beach to find a freshwater lake and giant black sand dunes. Bring something to slide on.

Stephen Heard, travel publishing coordinator

Share.