Te Ika-a-Māui. No, I wasn’t being rude or anything. That’s what they officially named the North Island, but for the correct pronunciation, I think that you would need to consult a true Kiwi…. you know, people that live there and not the bird. Bigger is not always better as much more people live on the smaller North Island than in the south, which accounts for around 77% of the entire country’s population and a third of those live in Auckland, which you would think is the capital, but it’s not. It’s actually Wellington that sits right on the most southern tip of the island, but we’ll get it in a different post.
Usually making the list as one of the most liveable cities in the world, Auckland is also one of the most expensive cities in the world and not shy in their efforts of trying to relieve you of your hard-earned cash. But you’ll have a lot of fun handing them your money, so don’t worry too much about it. Here are all the best things to do in Auckland.
The Sky Tower
Situated in Victoria Street West, this telecommunications tower is 328m tall and the tallest structure in the Southern Hemisphere. Finished in 1997, it cost NZ$85 million to build and attracts around 1200 visitors per day. It has stunning views of the city far down below and has become a landmark due to its unique shape. Built to withstand ground-tearing earthquakes and hurricane type winds, it can even sway a meter back and forth, back and forth, back and forth…. until your morning’s breakfast falls on the floor. Imagine being on the top when a wind like that blows past? I think that it would be a good idea to take some spare underwear with, or wear an adult nappy. This tower really is not for the feint of heart or anyone suffering from fear of heights.
Best view in the city
Costing around £16 or $20 (NZ$32) per person or £6.50 or $8.50 (NZ$13) for children between the ages of 6-14 years, this really is not much, considering you’ll get to experience the best view in the city. Your price of admission will allow you to visit the following areas:
- 182m Sky Cafe – Sit down for an iconic drink and snack while enjoying the 360° views that the tower has to offer. The menu is not that great and only has a selection of cheeseboards and ice creams, but they do have plenty of drinks on offer, ranging between wines, spirits and beers to cocktails, mocktails, teas, coffees and juices. Just don’t climb out the window after your tenth vodka martini.
- 186m Main Observation Level – As the name suggests, this is where you get to view the city in all its glory from way up above. 186m might not sound that high, but wait till you are on top.
- 220m Sky Deck viewing platform – Another viewing platform, but even higher than the main observation level and should your mother-in-law have an accident there, she definitely won’t be able to come back and point fingers.
The following activities have additional cover charges:
- The Sugar Club – Voted as one of the top 10% restaurants in the entire world, with views guaranteed to leave you breathless, this restaurant is the perfect romantic spot to tell your girlfriend that you are married and can’t see her anymore. With a setting like that, she won’t even care and you are off the hook. If she does care, then you can both try and drink all the booze that they have to offer. I don’t think that you automatically get to dine in this restaurant if you paid the entrance fee. You would need to book in advance and they have a minimum spend of NZ$30 per person for lunch and NZ$40 per person for dinner and a two-hour maximum stay. But I do know that dining in the restaurant, get you free admission to the rest of the tower.
- Orbit 360° Dining – This restaurant is one of the main reasons people visit the tower. It’s the only rotating restaurant in the country. Another two-hour maximum stay and minimum spend, this restaurant rotates once every hour to let you experience 360° views of the city far down below. You get to feast on a great selection of food and drink, the restaurant will rotate and you will empty your stomach…. and then you are ready for more food and drink. I wonder if they have a sewer system underneath the tables, covered by grates?
Sky Jump – I’ve done an 80m bungee jump once and I still get the nightmares. This jump let’s you fall for 192m before the wire system stops you from becoming a pavement pizza and all that stands in the way is one little hook at the back. No one has died yet, so I’m sure that it’s perfectly safe, but I’m not sure if I will have the chops to try it. For all you daredevils out there, this type of rush would be incredible, so go and give it a go. Costing around £110 or $150, it might sound a bit pricy, but how often would you get a chance to jump off the highest building in a country. Children over 10 years and students will pay slightly less. Children younger than 10 are not allowed and I don’t think that you can bring your guide dog with if you are blind. It will scare the hell out of them.
And if that weren’t enough
Sky Walk – This one would be more my style, but I still think that it would be scary. They hook you up to two wires and and let you walk around the tower on a platform without hand rails. On second thought, I’m not sure that I would do this one either. You can hang off the edge until you wet your pants or pass out, while taking in views 192m above the ground. It will set you back around £75 or $105, which is a little cheaper, but I think that the rush would be just as adrenaline-fuelled as the jump.
Antenna Climbs – As the name suggests, you can climb the Sky Tower antenna. It’s that needle thin section at the very top and around 300m above the ground. Wind blowing from all sides, the pavement so far away that you can’t see it and no hooks at the very top where you hook your safety line onto, so do this one at your own peril.
Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill)
One Tree Hill, or Maungakiekie, is an important memorial for the locals and is almost 600ft high. Yes, it’s a TV series as well, but I’m not talking about that. The One Tree Hill I’m talking about makes for much better viewing, especially once you have reached the summit. There you’ll have views of Auckland and more importantly, both its harbours. If the Sky Tower didn’t satisfy your viewing needs, then this hill definitely will. It kinda looks like The Shire, so don’t be surprised if Merry or Pippen jumps out at you.
The good thing about the internet is that it does a lot of the legwork for you. Just type ‘Grand Drive Carpark’ into Google Maps and it will take you right to the tourist spot where you can make a day of it. You can either park your car there and leisurely stroll up the scenic route to the summit, or you can drive up and park your car at the very top. I would suggest the walk.
Visit the Māori memorial
Various paths ranging from the 3km One Tree Hill Path to the 2km Mt Hobson and Mt Eden Paths, will lead you up to the summit and once on the top, you’ll get to experience Auckland in all its glory; stretched out beneath you as far as the eye can see and at the very top sits the Māori memorial. Completed in the 1940’s, the memorial consists of a bronze Māori warrior standing in front of a giant stone obelisk. It’s also the last resting place of Sir John Logan Campbell who donated NZ$10,000 to build the memorial. You might not want to visit that spot at night, in case Ole John comes out to play.
It might not look like it, but 60,000 years ago, this volcano erupted and sent lava in all directions that covered around eight square miles of land. Now it’s all covered in lush, green grass that make it looks like a page out of a fairytale. I don’t know if the volcano is still active, so keep your eyes and ears wide open and make sure that you eat breakfast before you visit. We don’t want your rumbling tummy to send tourists running in all directions.
As far as I can see, this adventure appears to be a freebie, so two birds.
Just a stone’s throw from the memorial on the lower southern slopes, sits the planetarium. It doesn’t look like you can purchase just a day ticket. The only pass advertised on the website looks to be an annual pass, which is not expensive. Costing just £22 or $27 (NZ$45) or £17 or $20 (NZ$35) per child, you’ll get to spend some time marvelling at the stars and planets through state-of-the-art telescopes in the courtyard. Count the rings around Saturn or view Mars up close; this will be an unforgettable experience. You can also book a slot to view deep space through Stardome’s largest telescope, The Zeiss telescope. It is so powerful that you’ll be able to see E.T. wiping his behind on Jupiter.
For an extra £7 or $10 (NZ15) per person, you can sit back in a comfortable chair and look up, where a presenter will explain to you all the stars and constellations being displayed on the 360-degree ceiling. If you have any questions while you are there, don’t be afraid to ask the presenter as it will enhance your experience.
Afterwards you can explore the Space Gallery and various exhibits. Learn how telescopes work, check out the meteorites and pieces of moon on display, as well as two NASA spacesuits and even climb onto the weighing machine to see how much you would weigh on another planet. And if you want to end your day by drinking soup through a straw, put your foot on the machine when your wife gets up. Kapow!
Of course they will have something for you to munch on. You can either eat at the observatory or saunter down to the Cornwall Park Cafe.
They have much more entertainment to offer, so please check here for full details.
Visit Rangitoto Island
New Zealand is famous for its landscapes and scenery and Rangitoto Island is no exception. It’s just 3.5 mi wide, but it’s famous for three things.
- Hiking trails – Just a short 25-min ferry ride from the ferry terminal at 99 Quay Street, Auckland and costing around £30 or $38 (NZ$60) per adult or half of that per child, this island is famous for its pristine walkways and 360° panoramic views, which makes this day trip a must do when in Auckland.
- Its distinctive cone shape and New Zealand’s youngest volcano – Emerging from the sea just 600 years ago, this is New Zealand’s youngest volcano, with its last eruption round about the same time it had emerged. If it erupts when you visit, push your mother-in-law out of the way and leg it to the water.
- Pohutukawa tree forest – It has the world’s largest pohutukawa tree forest, so if you are looking to visit a forest that is the largest of its kind and also a word that you cannot pronounce, you have gone to the right place.
They advise you to do the following:
- Take your own food and water with – There are no shops on the island and even the flora is reliant on rainfall as there are also no streams on the island. Given that its just 3.5 mi wide, it’s kind of expected… the lack of shops and not the water streams.
- Wear solid walking shoes – You are essentially walking across melted rock that had hardened and left a rugged landscape. So, unless you want to use up all your kid’s Peppa Pig plasters for the 3,000 cuts under your feet, wear the proper shoes.
- Take a hat and sunscreen with – The sun will get you if you don’t.
- Do not miss the ferry – Don’t be one of those entitled travellers and think that the ferry will wait for you. If you miss it, you will sleep in a forest, because there is no over night accommodation. And that’s when all the creepy crawlies come out to play.
- No dogs or fires when it’s low tide – Not sure why, but I’d do what they say.
- Take all rubbish with you – And that means your mother-in-law as well.
There are much more to do in Auckland and as always, our old friend, Google, can help you with that, but I have just given you four spectacular reasons to visit Auckland. Don’t forget to share this page with everyone that you know. If you don’t and they find out that you’ve been keeping it all to yourself, they will be upset.
Safe travels 🙂
Back to places