1. Harbor Bridge Climb
For those of us who are not content only experiencing life from the ground, the Harbor Bridge Climb offers participants the chance to view Auckland from above. The one and a half hour climb over the Bridge, which connects Auckland City to the North Shore, is a culmination of giddy excitement and pure terror, with an experienced guide available to point out all the sights and sounds that one might otherwise miss. Having climbed the bridge myself, I can tell you there is nothing quite like standing out over the road, being honked at by indulgent truckers as their hulking vehicles slip away beneath your feet, with Auckland Harbor gleaming on one side of you, and crystalline waters stretching out as far as the eye can see. And for you dare-devil types, there is also the opportunity to bungee jump from the bridge, while your fellow climbers watch on in awe from close by. A day you are sure never to forget—and I say that from experience!
2. Auckland Zoo
If heights aren’t your thing, then Auckland Zoo is the perfect alternative for a day out with the family. I first went to Auckland Zoo as a child, cooing over the meerkats and lion cubs, and laughing hysterically as my parents chased me around and around the playground in Kidzone, which now houses a giant multi-colored dragon, and eggs that are perfect for hiding in. Even now, as an adult, I still can’t resist walking past Kidzone without having a go on the slide. I went back to Auckland Zoo only a few months ago and found it to have the same indescribable power to captivate me that it did when I was a kid. The Aussie Walkabout, in particular, was a great place to rest, sprawled out on a bench in the sunshine while Wallaby’s, Peacocks and Ostriches roam around, unrestricted by fences or gates. My friend even plucked up the courage to hug one of the ostriches, and the look of childish delight on her face as she curled her arms around its soft neck was something I will never forget. Auckland Zoo is a place where the magic never dies, no matter how old you get.
3. Sky Tower
The most recognizable and breathtaking building in the Auckland skyline has got to be the Sky Tower. Again, this is not a place for the faint of heart, being the tallest overall structure in New Zealand, and with people throwing themselves from the top of it at regular intervals (the Skyjump), or standing on glass floors to peer down at the city below. The Sky Tower is part of the SKYCITY Auckland casino complex, with the upper portion housing two restaurants, one of which revolves, and a café, from which visitors can enjoy the spectacular view of all of Auckland. It is from this building that fireworks explode every New Years Eve, and the tower itself has been known to glow in different colours to celebrate different holidays and events, such as blue for the local rugby team, and red and green for Christmas. And for a bit of local flair, the firefighter stair challenge is held every year to raise money for various charities. This is where hundreds of firefighters are sponsored to battle their way up the Sky Tower, one stair at a time, carrying firefighter gear weighing up to 25kg. Clearly, the Auckland Sky Tower is the heart of the city, and certainly should be high up on any traveller’s list when visiting New Zealand.
4. Rangitoto Island
Rangitoto Island is an icon of Auckland, sitting about 8 kilometers northeast of Auckland. It’s name has been translated to mean ‘the day the blood of Tamatekapua was shed’, after a major Maori battle waged at Islington Bay in 1350, and was purchased by the Crown in 1854 to be set aside as a recreation reserve. There are 10 possible summit walks, resulting in stunning views of the Hauraki Gulf, the Waitemata Harbor, and Auckland City. For those who enjoy a day away from civilization, hiking the trails of Rangitoto is a most glorious escape. With the sun on your face and the air tasting of seawater, and views so beautiful they make you want to cry, Rangitoto should be your priority when in Auckland.
5. Eden Park
For those of you who just came for the Rugby, why not catch a game at Eden Park? Though not an avid fan of the sport myself, I have spent many an occasion within the stadium that saw some of the biggest matches of the last Rugby World Cup. The atmosphere, even for a domestic match, is palpable. And when the Rugby is abandoned for the season, the cricketers descend, bringing a whole new life to the suburbs of Auckland. The epicentre of New Zealand sport, Eden Park is a great place to spend the day, eating gluttonous food, bonding with the family, and screaming hysterically for the local team — whether you support them or not.