What to see and do in Auckland?

Rather than a list of activities that are basically paid adverts, here is my list of activities that include both free and paid options with my tell it like it is description.

Auckland is a wonderful varied city with multiple harbours, 50 volcanoes, loads of beaches and a slice of culture.

Attractions & Museums

Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT)

View Auckland like it was back in the 1800’s and check out the trams, buses, planes and rail and military vehicles from days gone by. They also have an interactive area for kids.

www.motat.org.nz

Auckland Zoo

For the most part its your normal zoo containing critters from all over the world. The main point of difference is that they have some of New Zealand’s native and endangered species.

www.aucklandzoo.co.nz

Devonport, North Head & Mt Victoria

Just a 10 minute ferry trip from down town Auckland gets you to relaxing Devonport. Old architecture, beaches, specialty shops and greet the visitor. It’s also worth checking out the military installations on Mt Victoria and North Head dating back to 1880.

www.devonport.co.nz

Waiheke Island

For a day or a weekend Waiheke relax and enjoy the beaches, vineyards, restaurants, or explore the military installation of Stony Batter.

www.waiheke.co.nz

National Maritime Museum

This museum is dedicated to the rich history New Zealand has with the sea fro  its earliest settlers to modern day races.

www.maritimemuseum.co.nz

Spookers & Corn Evil

They have an R16 rating for a reason. The actors take their job seriously and Spookers is located in an old mental asylum.

The corn maze has a limited season between January and April.

www.cornevil.co.nz
www.spookers.co.nz

Sky City’s Sky Jump

Day or night, 192 metres above the ground you jump off the Sky Tower and assisted to the ground at up to 83km/hr.

www.skyjump.co.nz

Horse Riding

Murawai and Parkiri are probably two of the best places to ride horses in the Auckland area.

Mountain Biking

There are a number of mountain bike parks around Auckland including Riverhead Forest , Whitford Forest and Hunua Ranges. The cream of the crop with the most and varied trails is Woodhill Forest.

www.bikepark.co.nz

One Tree Hill (Maungakiekie) & Cornwall Park

One of Auckland’s most prominent volcanoes set in the lovely Cornwall Park. Although it’s missing its tree, One Tree Hill remains one of Auckland’s iconic land marks with its monument with great views over the city. Yes, its the one U2 wrote and sung about.

www.aucklandcity.govt.nz/whatson/places/parks/onetreehill.asp

Mt Eden

The highest volcanic peak in central Auckland rises to just under 200 metres. Great views over the city.

www.aucklandcity.govt.nz/whatson/places/parks/mteden.asp

Coast to Coast Walkway

Starting at the viaduct in downtown Auckland walk the 16kms passing through Auckland’s urban landscape and parks until you reach the Manukau harbour.

www.aucklandcity.govt.nz/whatson/places/walkways/coasttocoast/index.asp

Stardome Observatory

Located on One Tree Hill, learn about planets, stars and constellations as viewed from New Zealand. They also have a variety of shows.

www.stardome.co.nz

Sky City’s Sky Walk

192 metres above the ground with no hand rails you walk around the outside of the Sky Tower (you are clipped in my a harness).

www.skywalk.co.nz

Rainbow’s End

As long as you aren’t expecting a Disneyland or Dream World there are certainly a few rides to get the juices flowing.

www.rainbowsend.co.nz

Bungee Jump off the Harbour bridge

The world first Harbour Bridge Bungee Jump. A 40 metre drop to the water and a bit further if you want to get wet.

www.ajhackett.com/nz

Harbour Bridge Climb

90 minute guided tour sharing the bridge's colourful secrets, architectural features and the myth and legend surrounding this New Zealand landmark.

www.aucklandbridgeclimb.co.nz

Harley Davidson Tours

Cruise the streets of Auckland taking in the panoramic views.

www.harleytoursnewzealand.co.nz

Auckland Brewery Tour

Visit four of Auckland’s local breweries and taste some of the local boutique beers.

www.absolutetours.co.nz

Markets & Shopping

Retail Hubs

The best shopping areas are High Street in the City, Newmarket, Ponsonby and Parnell.

Dressmart Outlet Shopping

A huge number of New Zealand and International brands at discounted prices all under one roof.

www.dressmart.co.nz

Clevedon Village Farmer’s Market

Pick up the local seasonal offerings of fruit and vegetables, fresh pasta and other goodies. Every Sunday 8:30am-12pm.

www.clevedonfarmersmarket.co.nz

Matakana Village Farmer’s Market

Pies, beer, fresh berries and greens, coffee, olives, mustard, macadamia nuts, chocolate, wine, cheese, organic meat and eggs.  Every Saturday 8am-1pm.

www.matakanavillage.co.nz/farmers_market.php

Bars & Restaurants

Viaduct Harbour & Princes Wharf

The bar and restaurant heart of Auckland city.

Minus 5

Don a fur coat and go inside the bar with a sub-zero temperature. Worth a visit for the novelty.

www.minus5experience.com

 

Whale of a time for Mid-Winter Xmas

What was once an attempt at bringing the European cold wintery Christmas to New Zealand has turned into a sort of tradition or at least an excuse for a gathering.

Every winter, groups of friends and/or family get together a celebrate a mini Christmas type event. This year I organised a group of kayaking friends to have a mid-winter Christmas at one of the beach Bach’s provided by the Auckland Regional Council.

The weather looked terrible however the trip was in sheltered waters. In the end we decided to at least check out the situation in person and back track if need be. The conditions in the sheltered harbour were fine so we loaded up our kayaks and headed across to Big Bay.

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Only accessible by boat Big Bay is located on Mahurangi North and we were stoked with this 8 person bach. We could have booked any number of weekends and was immaculately kept. Even the cutlery and crockery was better than most peoples homes.

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Upon arrival is it was straight into preparing the Turkey and getting it into the oven as it would take a few hours to cook. We then managed to relax over a few wines and snacks. As the evening wore on, we told stories of our traditions and memories of Christmas spanning 5 different cultures.

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Dinner was now ready so with table set, candles lit it was time to consume the stupid amounts of food we had prepared and after that we attempted dessert.

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The next morning we awoke to find a rather large Whale on our doorstep complete with her baby. The Southern Right Whale (named after being the “right” type of whale to kill as it floats) had been cruising the waters for a few days. Being sure not to annoy the mammals a couple of the group kayaked out and drifted while the whales came to check them out. What a marvellous way to start the day.

After packing up we headed back to Sullivan’s Bay where we had parked the night before. Low and behold our friends the whales had   gone across while we had breakfast.

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Disclaimer: No whales were harmed during the making on this blog entry (or breakfast)

More information
  • My photos of the Mid-Winter Christmas at Big Bay
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    Kayak Fire and Ice in Taupo

    To make the most of the weekend we made sure we were down in Taupo for an early start the next morning. The Loose Goose in Tirau provided sustenance along the way and after a quick scout around the All Seasons Holiday Park in Taupo before we settled in for the evening.

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    Saturday morning was beautiful although the wind was planning to get up and we couldn’t see the mountains across the lake. We popped in to see Steve at the local Canoe and Kayak shop to get some local advice and go through our plans. He gave us some great tips so we set off for our first explore.

    Part 1: Jerusalem Bay to the Maori carvings

    After driving around to Jerusalem Bay (just around from Acacia Bay) we launched and headed around the point to check out the Maori carvings at Mine Bay. Created in the late ‘70s, Matahi took four summers to create the carvings. Not the best shot but due to the waves and swell it was a shot all the same.

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    The southerly wind was cold and the 60km of open water ensured the waves were big and steep. This made the trip uncomfortable so as soon as we found the carvings we put our tails between our legs and hi-tailed it out of there. Back in the sheltered waters of Jerusalem Bay, the conditions were quite different . The  sun was shining and it was warm, the perfect spot for lunch.

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    Part 2: Lake Hinemaiaia

    P1030950That evening I was considering a night paddle so we at least went to check it out. Just before Hatepe (about 30 minutes South of Taupo on SH1) we darted inland and found a small hydro lake. We launched and after only about 10 minutes we entered the river system above the lake. It was cold and the sun had a hard job making its way into the valley to melt the frost at the sides of the river so it was no surprise we struck ice. Not just a little big but whole sections of the river sheltered from the main flow.

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    P1040038Further upstream the canyon walls closed in so we headed further up stream in smaller groups. Stalactites made of ice from the dripping foliage lined the walls of the canyon and some were massive. The only flowing water was the fast moving main flow and a water fall up on the left. There was just enough room to turn the sea kayaks before we headed back out down river.

    After the canyon, we explored a lagoon area where the last of the days sun was hiding in a corner, the birds were playing in the trees whilst we played in the ice covered water. It was then back to the camp ground for a well deserved soak in the hot pool, dinner and a spa.

    Part 3: Orakei Korako on the Waikato River

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    Sunday was another beautiful day and this time we could see the snow capped mountains 80kms South of Taupo. We headed out of Taupo and up to Orakei Korako. The directions took us to the shop and ferry where there were no launching points (Actually the camp ground was a building site and due to OSH regulations they didn’t want us using their Jetty). We headed back and found a bridge with access to the Waikato river where we entered the water. Brett feeling a bit poorly minded the cars sitting in his chair on the jetty covered with his blankie.

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    We set off down stream keeping in mind we would need to travel back up stream against the flow but it wasn’t that strong. We quickly discovered jet boats use this section of the river and although the signs said 5 knots through the gorge it was obvious that this apparently didn’t apply to the jet boat. The water acting as a mirror buckled with the wake but never broke in the gorge which was a weird feeling. We continued downstream paddling through the mist until we came across the geothermal activity.

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    Hissing, gurgling and plopping could be heard from beyond the river banks. The surface of the water was hot and warmed the bottom of the boats. Keeping our distance from the more violet places we took our time checking everything out. We came across a bathing area complete with warning signs and moved along.

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    The main feature “Orakei Korako” was off limits with access from a private jetty although we explored the river side. Hot water flowed over the large white coloured rocks. A closer look revealed more detail and colour.

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    As time was pressing on we returned to the cars for our journey back to Auckland.

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    All in all this was an amazing adventure and a perfect reason why winter should not stop you kayaking.

     

    6.6 Degrees of Separation

    We have all heard of the Six degrees of separation to explain how everyone in the world is connected to everyone else but is there any proof? Am I connected actually get to, for example a

    A bored research team at Microsoft decided to find out by analysing the Windows Live Messenger traffic for a single month. Sure this doesn't take into account all cultures and walks of life but its a good start and their results point at 6.6 degrees of separation.

     

    Tramp Whatipu 2009

    Having not been to Whatipu in in quite a number of years it was time to return. Starting at Whatipu we took Gibbon’s track straight up onto the cliff top and from here we headed North admiring the wild west coast below. On the exposed ridge the track was quite muddy so definitely not one for your best Nike sneakers.

    Looking down at Whatipu from Gibbon's Track

    Before long we started dropping into the Parahaha Valley with its lush Nikau Palms and Kereru (Wood Pigeons) just hanging about. Cold wind was funnelling up the valley so used the shelter to prepare our lunch before continuing.

    A Keru/Wood Pigeon

    The Parahaha stream was higher than usual so we needed to get our feet wet and wade through the murky waters. Once on the other side of the river it was easy walking to get out onto the sand dunes and through the swamp. We then turned South to head back to Whatipu via the sand dunes.

    Renate crosses the Parahaha Stream

    I love this area with wind blown sand, small lakes and swampy areas. Popping in and out of the dunes not quiet knowing what you will find. Wind and water constantly changes the landscape.Lagoon's at Whatipu
    Looking North from Parahaha Valley

    Lagoon's at Whatipu

    More information
  • My photos of the Whatipu tramp
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    Tramp Waihaha Valley 2009

    The weather forecast for the central plateau put the kybosh on our plans to go up into the mountains to instead we opted for a valley that provided protection from the elements. We left Auckland on a perfect winter morning not a wisp of wind or a cloud in the sky.

    Misty Kaimai Ranges

    Driving down through the Waikato we could see a the base of the Kaimai's were shrouded in mist and as we made our way further south entered the soup. Slowly the outside temperature gauge dropped to 3 degrees so we were happy to stop for tea and coffee in Matamata (otherwise known as Hobbiton).

    Starting the Waihaha Valley Track

    It wasn't long before we found the start of the track and we all set. It isn't easy to spot if it's your first time (the car park is on the southern side of the bridge that crosses the Waihaha river at the bottom between two steep hills). It was fresh but the weather wasn't too bad so leaving the car in view of the road we set off up the valley.

    Antony and Renate

    Waihaha Valley is one of the easiest walks in the area 9km into the hut taking about 3hrs each way (2.5hrs for us with short stops). I’ve completed this track a few times before as a day walk and biking it (which takes about an hour each way) but this was my first overnighter here. Some parts of the track were still frozen from either a recent snow fall and the cold temperatures. Ice crystals were in the ground.

    Shortly before getting to the hut, coming the way other were two groups of about 15 people. These were the only people we seen on the walk except for the single car in the car park. They warned us that the hut was full but we were prepared. We found our tent sites and settled in for the evening. The bulk of the people at the hut (sleeps 10) were kids doing their Duke of Edinburgh along with their parents. The parents could use the hut whilst the kids had to sleep outside so it wasn't too busy.

    Waihaha Hut

    The bird life in the area seems more prolific than I recall. Perhaps its the result of a recent 1080 poison drop. The Kaka squawked and flew in the tree tops.

    After a lovely meal it was off to bed well after everyone else. The tent and sleeping bags were cosy although it did take 15 minutes or so to warm up once we started walking.

    In my opinion Waihaha Valley is one of the nicest one day walks in the North Island at least. Views are few and far between but the scenery constantly changes and the river is never too far from the track. It’s one of those many places that have different moods throughout the year.

    Snow Berries

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    More information

     

    Kayak Urupukapuka 2009

    Waitangi Day on the Monday means a long weekend so why not make the most of it? In order to do so we headed up to Rawhiti on the Friday night. Managing to get a glimpse of Urupukapuka Island (our destination for the evening) we loaded up the kayaks and paddled across to Cable Bay in the dark.

    Day 1: Saturday

    It wasn’t a rushed morning but we got out onto the water with plenty of time. Due to the number of people and varying levels of experience we broke into pods and headed off for 3 different trips. Some went for a circumnavigation of Urupukapuka, others out and around Motuarohia Island and some for a more leisurely trip.

    We set off across to Motukiekie Island but the wind started to pick up and by the time we entered the gap between Motukiekie Island and Moturua Island the wind was being funnelled through. We popped into a nearby beach to let it die down and while on the beach it was peaking at 35 knots. After a longer than usual morning tea we made the call to head back to base. A water fight then unfolded without much help.

    Looking down on Cable Bay on Urupukapuka Island

    Instead of veging for the rest of the day we had a stroll around the island taking in some great views of the outer Bay of Islands. Back at camp we settled in for the evening and before long it was 4am.

    Sunset on Urupukapuka Island

    Day 2: Sunday

    The next morning we were a bit slower to rise  and since the wind still wasn’t playing ball so we explored the sheltered Eastern side of the Island.

    Rather than head straight back a few of us hung out in the bay and put our rod’s down. We pulled up a variety of fish including Snapper and Gurnard. Whilst heading and gutting the fish in one corner of the beach a bunch of Stingrays gathered to feast on the remains.

    Stringray feeding on our scraps

    We prepared a spread of different fish cooked in just as many different ways. Sashimi and Ceviche to flour dusted and lightly fried and even fish head soup.

    Day 3: Monday

    The day we had been waiting for! Beautiful calm clear weather, perfect for a trip out to the hole in the rock (33kms) but bugger. Some of us needed to make it back to Auckland before the evening so we wouldn’t be able to go the whole way.

    The swell was large but very flat so it felt like we were paddling uphill as the swell rolled under our boats. It took its toll on some who fed the fishes along the way and at some points we were paddling through thick foam. Even though we were paddling in calm water the waves crashing against the rocks generated huge amounts of foam.

    Foamy water heading out to Deep Water Cove

    Deep Water Cove provided us with a place for morning tea although with the steep rocky beach making it a bit more interesting for those who use composite boats.

    A short break in Deep Water Cove

    Afterwards, we split up with one pod heading out to the Hole in the Rock which was fantastic. Only two paddlers were game enough to go through the hole whilst the tourist boats could only watch. The rest headed back down the coast. This time we had the swell from behind and were were on the constant lookout for large pleasure boats and yachts we were constantly losing in the large swell.

    It was then time to go our separate ways, back to Urupukapuka Island for a couple more days whilst the rest of us went home. The next day those left on Urupukapuka Island enjoyed a dolphin encounter.

     

    Kayak Hot Water Beach

    Day 1 - Hot Water Beach to Cathedral Cove (23kms)

    What a stunning morning! After a hearty breakfast we drove the 500M from the camp site down to the water and got ourselves ready. Perfectly formed waves rolled across the still water and although the waves were large everyone made it out without incident except for Brett who took the opportunity to get in some early morning surfing.

    Sitting on Hot Water Beach 
    Breaking through the surf at Hot Water Beach

    From Hot Water Beach we headed north hugging the coast, rock gardening and popping in and our of the various caves so of which required a torch to explore further. By the time we reached Hahei our stomachs started to rumble but we continued past the crowds and popped into Cathedral Cove (well Mares Leg Cove actually).

    Kayaks sitting at Cathedral Cove

    P1010886We probably spent a couple of hours there for lunch jumping off rocks, swimming, snorkelling, sun bathing and exploring the beach. Afterwards we headed straight out making through the rock tunnel
    on Poikeke Island then around Motueka, Waikaranga and Mahurangi Islands before using the tail wind and swell to return to Hot Water Beach.

    Arriving back around 6pm there was only one last hurdle to get back through the surf. The right hand end had the least surf and relatively few people. Everyone made it back safe and sound some showing off their newly found surfing skills.    

    That night we commandeered one of the camp site BBQs and proceeded to stuff ourselves silly (again).

    Day 2 - Hot Water Beach to Tapuaetahi Bay (14kms)

    Some people wanted to soak up the runs rays and/or recover from the previous night so only seven of us set off again making it through the larger surf. We headed South but due to the larger waves we weren't able to get too close to the rocky coast although we did play around the islands.

    It only took 1.5hrs to get to our destination which was a beautiful little beach only accessible by boat and we plan to head back at some point in the future.

    Tapuaetahi Bay (aka Boat Harbour)

    The trip back was a bit harder as the forecast 10 knots picked up to 15 knots but we still made it back in the same time. Some went shore whilst some headed to the Northern end of Hot Water Beach to tackle the biggest surf we have encountered in a kayak. It was only a matter of time before we retired exhausted back to the Southern end of the beach. We dragged our kayaks into the hot river and made our way back up the camp site ending our day on the water.

    Day 3 - Tairua and Pauanui Canals

    After tossing around a few plans postponing some to a future date we opted for a short paddle in the Tairua estuary that allowed us to get back to Auckland avoiding most of rush back. We put in at Tairua and paddled across to Pauanui where we explored the canals and fancy houses. Although there were some nice designs, no one came away thinking "I would love a place like this".

    The Tairua harbour is one of those lawless places on the water. Jetskis, children, kayaks and speed boats sharing the space as fast as everyone can go with no regard for speed limits or other vessels. I couldn't believe boats just metres from us were passing each other at top speed whilst only a few metres apart in the channel.

    All in all everyone had a great time (well that is what they said) and there weren't too many bumps and bruises.

    Lunch at Tirua

     

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