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With news buzzing about a possible trans-Tasman bubble opening up before Christmas, we can only imagine that a New Zealand adventure will jump to the top of many wishlists. And if you’re not quite sure where to go, the city of Auckland is calling.
Rated the third most livable city in the world, Auckland is an exhilarating mix of natural wonders and urban adventures. Base yourself in one of Auckland’s gorgeous city hotels and you’ll be less than 30 minutes away from beautiful beaches, hiking trails, and a dozen enchanting holiday islands. Adding to the attraction is the sunny climate and Polynesian culture which can be uncovered through outstanding food, wine, and shopping.
With New Zealand likely to be the first place Australians will be able to travel post-pandemic, here are six more reasons why Auckland should be top of your wish list.
1. Great Barrier Island
Enjoy an adventure to the Great Barrier Island (Aotea), the largest and most seaward of the Hauraki Gulf islands in the Auckland region. More than 60 per cent of Great Barrier Island’s 285 square kilometres is public land administered by the Department of Conservation. Visitors can wander through the native forest laced with beautiful walking tracks, natural hot springs and a historic Kauri dam. Or seek out wildlife with excellent bird watching, snorkelling and dive spots.
For the adventurous, Hirakimata (Mount Hobson), rising 627 meters above the sea beckons hikers with the promise of incredible 360-degree views. Alternatively, Great Barrier Island is popular for diving, fishing, surfing, kayaking, mountain biking and camping.
Accommodation options range from tent sites to luxury eco-lodges with optimal opportunity for star-gazing. The island has been designated as an International Dark Sky Sanctuary – joining only ten other locations in the world.
Surfers at Great Barrier Island. Image: supplied
2. World-class wine and dining
Auckland is home to a melting pot of cultures, with over 200 different ethnic groups helping to create Auckland’s exciting world-class culinary scene. Surrounded by fertile land and rich waters, its home to world-class chefs, food producers and winemakers. Along with the city’s impressive range of restaurants, bars, cafés and markets, Auckland’s wine regions are a must for foodies. Award-winning Pinot Gris and rich, full Syrah are among the area’s specialties. Also recommended for all food and wine lovers is Waiheke Island (also known as ‘the island of wine).
From prominent clifftop wineries to small cellar doors, you’ll find award-winning vintages and a wide range of varietals. Enjoy these along with tranquil countryside vistas or sweeping views across the Hauraki Gulf.
Friends walking through a vineyard on Waiheke Island. Image: supplied
3. Muriwai Beach’s beauty
Take in the beauty of Muriwai’s rugged landscape and visit the famous cliff-top gannet colony, where around 1200 pairs of gannets nest from August to March. The viewing platforms give you sweeping views far over the Tasman Sea.
Stroll along the boardwalk that hugs the coastline and breathe in the crisp sea air, alongside the wild waves and rolling black sand dunes. If you’re keen to get active, take a lesson at the local surf school or hire blokarts, kites, mountain bikes or surfboards, or play a round of golf at the nearby course.
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Couple walking at sunset along Mariwai Beach. Image: supplied
4. Rangitoto Island
Rangitoto is difficult to miss. Auckland’s youngest and largest volcano rises 260 metres out of the Hauraki Gulf and is visible across the city. It is impressive from a distance, but even more spectacular up close.
Situated only a 30-minute ferry ride from Auckland, you can easily visit and experience the history, nature and views that Rangitoto offers within a day. The name Rangitoto means “The day the blood of Tamatekapua was shed”. This refers to a Māori battle in nearby Islington Bay around 1350. From the time Rangitoto emerged 700 years ago it has become an iconic part of Auckland’s history. The walk around the island and up to its summit is dotted with historical information, including the restored Bach 38 which contains irreplaceable artefacts of New Zealand’s architectural and social history. Once you reach the top you’ll be treated to breathtaking 360-degree views. The walk up to the summit is suitable for ages and abilities and is the perfect spot for a post-isolation hike.
View of Rangitoto Island from Mt Victoria. Image: Canva
5. Manukau Heads Lighthouse and clifftop winery
With vast panoramas and sweeping coastlines, the walk through Awhitu Peninsula to the lighthouse is just as gorgeous as the destination. The historical Manukau Heads Lighthouse juts out from the tip of the peninsula, located in the Franklin district. The lighthouse is one of only a few in New Zealand that are open to the public and the views are amazing. On your way to the peninsula, stop by Waiuku, a historic town on the Sunset Coast. Don’t miss The Kentish Hotel, New Zealand’s longest-running hotel for a drink or some dinner and enjoy a view of the estuary.
Explore the tranquil bays and rolling pastures of Awhitu Regional Park on one of the short walks and mountain bike trails, or relax with a swim and a picnic at one of the safe, white-sand beaches. On the western side, the expansive and more rugged black-sand beach of Karioitahi is an awesome spot for activities on and off the water, including hang gliding, paragliding, blo-karting, surfing, 4WDriving and more. After the adventures, unwind at a boutique cliff-top vineyard with spectacular harbour views or browse the bustling Awhitu Country Markets, held on the last Sunday of every month.
View of the lighthouse and Manukau Heads at Awhitu Peninsula. Image: supplied
6. Unique and exciting attractions
For something a little different, travel one hour north of Auckland to the Sculptureum, located just outside Matakana. This world-class tourist attraction was voted as TripAdvisor’s ‘No. 2 Best Thing To Do In Auckland’ and is designed to inspire you with a world of art, food and wine. With three sculpture-filled gardens, six art galleries, a vineyard, an events space and Rothko restaurant and bar, there is something for everyone.
Meanwhile, in the city, admire Auckland from above (and without the crowds) on the thrilling the Sky Tower walk. Auckland’s Sky Tower is one of the tallest buildings in the Southern Hemisphere, offering incredible views over the city for those brave enough to do the Sky Tower walk or even the Sky Tower bungee jump.
People enjoying the sunset Sky Tower walk in Auckland. Image: supplied
Find out more: aucklandnz.com/au/visit
Feature image: A woman exploring Sculptureum. Image: supplied
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