Auckland’s love affair with its waterside location has earned its name, ‘City of Sails’. Sparkling waters trickle along narrow isthmus of the Waitemata and Manukau Harbour. A cover of rainforest sprinkles over the surrounding hills, forty-eight dormant volcanic cones dot the landscape.
There is never a boring moment, from travelling up to the top of the Sky Tower, to plummeting off the top in a bungee jump. Or propel off mountainous summits, or the Auckland Harbour Bridge.
Explore the Ranges
Hunua Range’s bush walks take you through 14,000 hectares of native forest. Relax in the rippling water from the Hunua falls. Hear the call of the native pigeon, kaka, kakariki, fantail, kingfisher, shining cackoo and tui. Abseil, bird watch, fish, horse ride, sightsee, or take short and long walks over the ranges. Precariously make your way over the suspension bridge to a lookout platform to get a breath-taking view of the forestry beyond.
Travel to the North Shore and explore the Waitakere Ranges. Wander through 16,000 hectares of native rainforest and coastline, to beaches, rocky outcrops, streams, waterfalls and farms. Rimu, totara, miro and kahikatia trees shadow the path, Pohutukawa rolls down the cliffs.
Plunge into the Waitakere Ranges by the Rain Forest Express. A narrow-gauge railway that takes your over wooden bridges, through tunnels; lit at night with a multitude of glow worms and housing the old cave weta.
Rumble along the upper Nihotapu Dame, while listening to the driver narrate the story of the Rain Forest Express.
After enjoying the vast landscape of the Ranges, journey to Henderson to visit Collard Brothers. Specialising in Viognier, Chardonnay, Merlot and Chenin; this family-owned hundred year old vineyard was one of the first vineyards to grow Viognier. You can grab a great deal on case wine and mix and match for the different occasion.
The Island Retreats
But perhaps what Auckland is most loved for is not for what is in it, but what surrounds it. The many islands that dot the ocean offer a range of activities sure to delight.
Rangitoto Island is one of the favourites. Walk or ride to the mountainous summit. The lava rock sleeping volcano which emerged from the sea in a fiery explosion. The lava field providing a deep brown soil housing the largest Pohutukawa forest in the world, surrounded by native trees and a Maritime Park.
One can easily explore the unique island that is a well-known New Zealand icon.
If you are into diving, then you cannot by-pass Goat Island. Home to a pool of friendly, colourful fish; this island offers a fun snorkel or diving experience.
Kawau Island is a little more unknown, even to some Aucklanders. Explore the island and try to spot some of the peacocks and wallabies in the native forest.
Great Barrier Island is home to land and sea activities. Biking, trekking or visiting the local museum is a fun way to get around the island. Bush tracks taking you to natural hot springs and kauri tree dams.
Or on a hot summer day, try kayaking, diving, fishing, sailing and surfing the crystal clear waters.
The kids will love the Glenfern Sanctuary; birds living in the natural environment, crossing over a suspension bridge into the crown of a 600 year old kauri tree.
But if you only have time to see one island, it’s got to be Waiheke Island. Blend of farmland, forest, beaches, vineyards and olive groves. Biking, yachting and scenic flights.
Journey on the Fullers Vineyard Tour, taking you to three award-winning wineries and olive estate, with a light lunch and tasting.
Take a walk on the wild side with Whankanewha Regional Park, 2.5 hours of coastal forests, cascading streams and beaches. Other walks will lead you through Oheroa Village, historical highlights, reserves, beaches and bays.
But perhaps what the island is most known for is the many vineyards that are scattered across the island. A variety of tours offering you the best of Waiheke Island’s vineyards.
Te Whau in Oneroa is well-known for their Bordeaux-style bends and Chardonnay. Located above the bay, the 2.5 hectare vineyard grows internationally and nationally awarded wines. Sit back and sip a glass of wine while enjoying the top-quality New Zealand produce with a European influence, with over six-hundred of the very best of New Zealand wines on offer.
Matakana is well-known for its fabulous destination for weddings on the sandy beaches, with its vineyards, galleries, gardens, sculptures, gourmet food, Regional Park, cruises and horse riding it is definitely worth the trip.
Heron’s Flight vineyard specialises in Sangiovese and Dolcetto wines, well-known for making elegant Italian-style wines. Resembling a New Zealand villa, running on solar-power, the restaurant provides a generous view over the Matakana countryside. Relish an Italian red while crunching into a slice of wood-fired pizza, and unusual varieties of Maori potato. With the wines only available locally, be sure to indulge in the tasting options and purchase a bottle (or two) of these unique wines.
But don’t overlook Auckland itself. With the tumbling waves of Piha, to the laid back cafes of Mission Bay, meandering along the coastal walkway, to look out across to the islands beyond.
Visit Devonport, the historic seaside village with petite galleries, and renowned chocolate shop.
Auckland Zoo is a wonderful day for the children to come into close contact with the native animals, and perhaps even pet and feed some of them on tour.
Cruise along the Hauraki Gulf on the Auckland Whale and Dolphin Safari. Exploring the home of twenty-two species of dolphins and whales. With a ninety per cent dolphin sighting, the kids won’t be disappointed. Watch the dolphins sped along with the boat, birds flying upward, plummeting to the sea.
Voyage under the sea in the Kelly Tarlton’s Antarctic Encounter and Underwater World. Walk through the underwater glass tunnel and see real life King and Gentoo penguins, or… be adventurous and swim with stingrays and sharks.
Off the Beaten Track
There is nothing quite like surveying the landscape on horseback. The Pahiri Beach horse rides through native bush, farmland and white sand beaches. You can start off with one hour, or even take a week to discover this wonderful landscape.
And of course, for the wine enthusiasts you cannot by-pass Kumeu – the wine country. Kumeu River Wines offers a delicious and light Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Pinot Noir. Eighty per cent of grapes are directly sourced from Kumeu, allowing you to taste across a wide range of vintages.
Journey out to Vin Alto to enjoy the taste of little Italy in Clevedon. Wander the slopes above Clevedon to see the olive groves, farm deer and some friendly donkeys. A special treat is the Italian tradition of enoteca – serving local wine with regional food. Fresh seasonal food is served over the afternoon, matched with the perfect wine. Envision yourself back in Roman times, as dish after dish is presented over the course of four hours. An array of hand-made cheese, freshly baked bread and home-made Italian pasta with fresh produce will be at your fingertips. Finished off with melt-in-your-mouth liqueurs, such as Limoncello, made at Vin Alto.
Appreciate the history of the architecture that dates back hundreds of years.
The ‘City of Sails’ offers a variety of escapes for the novice to expert traveller.
Auckland New Zealand, “Auckland’s highlights”, Accessed 01/08/11
Vin Alto, “Vin Alto Vineyard”, Accessed 01/08/11
Peter Janssen, “Auckland Vineyards”, “150 of New Zealand’s Best Vineyards”, HarperCollins Publishers 2007