Straddling two natural harbours, New Zealand's 'City of Sails' is the country's largest. Encircled by wine regions, native bush, rainforests and beaches - this urban paradise is also known for its world-class shopping, designer boutiques and gourmet cuisine. Dotted with volcanoes and ringed by islands, Auckland is a playground for both the city savvy and those with an eye for adventure. Explore the suburbs of Parnell and Ponsonby with their upmarket galleries, back-alley wine bars, and trendy eateries or wander up high High St or Vulcan Lane to snag a boutique bargain. Venture further afield to the rural community of Clevedon to experience the delights of the country and make time to explore one of over 800 regional parks with deserted beaches, waterfalls and forest walks.
What makes Auckland so special is its vibrant cultural melting pot - a diversity reflected in the cuisine, festivals, art and music. Auckland has always attracted many people of many different cultures. By the 1890s, the city was very cosmopolitan with people from Europe, China and India making this place their home. This theme continued throughout the 20th century, particularly in the 1950s when the post-World War II baby boom boosted the population. A significant number of indigenous Maori moved to the city, followed by pacific islanders in the late 1960s. European immigrants from places such as Hungary, Yugoslavia and Holland began what is now a thriving and diverse food culture. Today, Auckland is the world's largest Polynesian city. Resident Aucklanders come from all round the world - just over half of its residents are of European descent, 11% are Maori, 13% are of Pacific Island descent and there is a growing Asian population of around 12%.
Standing at 328 metres (just over 1000 feet) - the Sky Tower is the tallest man-made structure in New Zealand and offers panoramic views of the Auckland landscape. Travel in glass-fronted lift to one of three spectacular viewing platforms, or for a little more excitement do a SkyWalk - an outside loop around the pergola 192 metres (just over 600 feet) above ground. If you're really bold, Take the quick way down and SkyJump off the tower - a controlled free fall to the base. Inside, the Sky Lounge offers coffee and light meals while the iconic Orbit Restaurant is Auckland's only 360 degree revolving dining experience.
Escape the city centre and cruise the sparkling waters of Auckland's Waitemata Harbour and learn about the most well-known city landmarks. Sail under the Harbour Bridge and take in views of the Sky Tower, the city skyline, Rangitoto Island, North Head as well as the Bean Rock Lighthouse with a complimentary morning or afternoon tea.
A short 25-minute cruise through the Waitemata Harbour and Hauraki Gulf delivers you to Rangitoto Island, the largest and youngest of Auckland's volcanic field. It last erupted around 600 years ago but is considered extinct and safe to explore. Upon arrival, you'll be greeted by your guide and taken to waiting four wheel drive vehicles nearby. Once onboard - journey through rugged lava crops and native bush while you learn about the fiery history and geology of the island. You'll then be dropped off at the base of the summit, only a short climb along a wooden boardwalk to the top. After taking in the 360 degree panoramic views, rejoin the tour vehicle for the return trip to the wharf and back to Auckland.
The world's oldest and most prestigious sporting trophy, the America's Cup is the ultimate yachting regatta. Usually reserved for billionaires and professional yachties, you now have the opportunity to partake in this elite sport. During your two hour sailing adventure you’ll become part of the crew. Either take the helm, try your arm strength on the grinders or simply sit back and enjoy the action as you tack and gybe your way across the harbour. No experience is required for this trip, however children under 10 years are not recommended.
Opened in 1985, the original Underwater World was the vision of Kelly Tarlton - an extraordinary Kiwi adventurer, diver, explorer and inventor, who wanted to share his love of the ocean with others. Today, Kelly's vision has grown to become a world-class visitor attraction, offering a uniquely New Zealand Pacific and Southern oceans experience.
The Antarctic Encounter is home to New Zealand's only sub-Antarctic penguins, offering a rare opportunity to see the magnificent birds up close in their icy domain. A unique snowcat ride brings you within arms length of the 80-strong colony of King and Gentoo penguins to watch their playful antics on the snow and their elegant flight underwater. A walk through replica of Captain Robert Falcon Scott's Antarctic hut (established back in 1911), complete with authentic memorabilia offers a glimpse at what it was like to live 100 years ago in the coldest place on Earth.
Enter Stingray Bay for an awe-inspiring look at the giant stingrays, before delving deep into the Underwater World to see the rich variety of species from New Zealand's coastal waters. Come face to face with sharks, turtles, giant rays and other incredible deep sea creatures on the moving walkway.
New Zealand's rocky shore and tropical species await you in Fish Alley. See everything from crayfish to seahorses, octopus to piranha and moray eels.
Just 30 kilometres from central Auckland lies the city's largest regional park - the Waitakere Ranges. Leave behind the bustle of suburbia and step into the tranquility of its deserted beaches, lush rainforest and New Zealand native bush. Visit the Arataki Centre for breathtaking panoramic views stretching from the Tasman Sea to the Pacific Ocean and learn about traditional Maori carvings. Walk along secluded bush tracks among giant ferns and kauri trees then unwind by a cascading waterfall. Before you leave, be sure to visit the black volcanic sand beaches this area is famous for.
This spectacular AJ Hackett walking tour is the only bridge climb in New Zealand - and the ultimate way to experience the iconic Auckland Harbour Bridge. All walkways are custom engineered and gentle sloping archways mean this activity is suitable for all ages. As you're guided to the top you'll be greeted with a 360 degree, panoramic view of the sparkling Waitemata harbour. See the best of the city from above and learn all about the secrets of the bridge!
Today you'll be leaving the city and heading northwest to Kumeu Wine Country, Auckland's Heritage Wine Region. Enjoy lunch at a contemporary vineyard, sample world-renowned wines and marvel at the rugged surf-fringed coastline nearby. Your first stop is award-winning Soljans Estate Winery. Utilising both traditional and modern techniques, Soljans produce varied and richly flavoured wines. Built with sunshine in mind and a distinct Mediterranean-style, the onsite restaurant showcases fresh seasonal produce from around the region.
Continuing on, you'll visit the Muriwai Gannet Colony - one of the few mainland nesting sites in the world. Situated on the cliffs overlooking the Tasman sea you'll have breathtaking views of the beach and ocean beyond. Your final tasting is at West Brook Winery, one of New Zealand's oldest. These wines reflect true varietal character and their unique regional origins.
This full day eco-tour takes you first to the Arataki Visitor Centre, only a short drive from Auckland Central and the gateway to the Waitakere Ranges. Enjoy views from the Tasman Sea to the Pacific Ocean as you absorb the area’s history. Admire the magnificent traditional Maori carvings and walk through the regenerating rainforest where your experienced guide will local flora and fauna including giant tree ferns, bubbling streams and cascading waterfalls. Venture onto a wild west-coast beach and enjoy a picnic lunch. Before your visit ends, see original untamed rainforest where mature 1,000 year old kauri trees have developed separately from the rest of the world for millions of years. Part of the rainforest is particularly rich in bird life due to a successful programme to eradicate pests.
Situated in the middle of the Hauraki Gulf only a 75 minute ferry trip from Auckland is Tiritiri Matangi Island. One of the world’s most successful volunteer conservation projects, it has been re-vegetated with over 300,000 native trees as well as several different species of endangered birds and reptiles. Tiritiri Matangi meaning ‘tossed by wind’ is an open scientific reserve managed by the Department of Conservation (DOC) in partnership with the Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi.
It’s ‘open sanctuary’ status allows for 150 ferry visitors daily - from Wednesday to Sunday. Here you have the opportunity to see first hand some of New Zealand’s rarest inhabitants in a natural and protected environment. There are numerous walking tracks throughout the island which vary in length and fitness. Forested walking tracks are well established with custom built boardwalks paving the way through coastal bush. Other tracks include a pathway skirting the perimeter of the island and several roads traversing the interior. The Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi are enthusiastic about sharing the wealth of knowledge they have accumulated. You'll join a 1.5 hour guided experience and learn about the endangered bird life, natural surrounds, revegetation and history of Tiritiri Matangi. Your guide will highlight the best spots to see wildlife on the island, and will help you to identify the bird calls and sounds which echo through the trees. You’ll also be taken up to the visitor centre to view its informative exhibits. Your lunchtime and afternoon will then be free for you to wander the island.
Leave the hustle and bustle of the city and discover the beautiful Hauraki Gulf Marine Park - visited by a staggering one third of all the types of marine mammals found on earth. Departing directly from the Viaduct Harbour, be welcomed aboard the 20 metre, purpose-built vessel Dolphin Explorer for an unforgettable marine mammal eco-safari out on the sparkling waters of the Hauraki Gulf. Be surrounded by some of the most abundant marine life in New Zealand, and discover what the beautiful Auckland area has to offer.
Join The Big Foody for a fabulous morning of discovery around Auckland. The city sits in the middle of two oceans providing incredible seafood and delicious fresh produce. Auckland is a multicultural exciting city with a fantastic collection of award winning restaurants and cafes . The Tastebud Tour takes you around the city centre and out to the suburbs where you will visit local producers, farmers markets, cafe's, restaurants, speciality shops and much more. Your experienced, passionate and fun tour guides will give you a day you will thoroughly enjoy! Each tour has enormous flexibility to allow for personal tastes and special interests. Client feedback sums up this tour “I wish we had done this tour when we first came to Auckland. I would have known so much more of what to expect and look for in the rest of New Zealand. The Tastebud tour is not only about the food, it’s about the people, the places and the sites - it’s a must in Auckland!”
Begin your day with a tour of Auckland's scenic city highlights, followed by an afternoon tasting world-class wines amid the beautiful surroundings of Waiheke Island. Travel over the iconic Auckland Harbour Bridge, enjoying views of the harbour and city skyline. Visit the Viaduct Harbour and bustling Queen Street, and explore the Auckland Domain, the city's oldest park. You'll take a break for morning tea (own expense) in Parnell Village, where historic buildings have been transformed into a chic shopping area.
Following your morning city tour, enjoy a ferry ride across the Waitemata Harbour to Waiheke Island, a haven of beaches, eateries and boutique vineyards. Upon arrival you'll be picked up by luxury coach and whisked away on a guided tour of three of Waiheke's premier wineries: Mudbrick Estate, Cable Bay Vineyard and Te Motu Vineyard.
Enjoy tastings of their beautiful wines and indulge in a platter of mouth-watering snacks at Cable Bay Vineyards. The tour concludes at Waiheke's Matiatia Wharf for a picturesque afternoon cruise back to Auckland city.
Just a 20 minute ferry ride from Gulf Harbour lies Tiritiri Matangi, a protected haven for endangered species. The island is a nature lover’s paradise, particularly for avid birdwatchers. Beyond native wildlife, Tiritiri Matangi is home to a 150-year-old lighthouse, a network of trail walks through lush coastal forest, plus pristine beaches and spectacular views. This is a return ticket.
Alberton was a ‘party house’ for the colonial elite. This romantic timber mansion began as a farmhouse in 1863 and was later expanded to 18 rooms, with fairy-tale decorative verandahs and towers. It was owned by the Kerr Taylors, Allan Kerr Taylor was a landowner, investor and provincial and local body politician. His wife Sophia was an outspoken advocate of the vote for women, as well as a singer, gardener and mother of 10. Alberton was famous in the 19th century for its balls, hunts, garden parties and music. It contains a wealth of original family furniture and other possessions, and several rooms retain their 19th century wallpapers.
A full day culinary and sailing immersion combining a morning of food exploration around Auckland City with an afternoon onboard a private sailboat navigating the Hauraki Gulf. Curated alongside America’s Cup experts and top Auckland Chefs, the America’s Cup Full Day Sailing Adventure is full of camaraderie, history, adventure and fun.
Climb aboard Auckland Adventure Jet's purpose built boat and get your heart thumping during a supercharged 35 minute trip upon Auckland's stunning harbour, with fantastic views of the city skyline. The jet boat travels at high speeds in excess of 50 knots under the iconic harbour bridge stopping beneath the Bridge Bungy pod to wave at the fellow adrenalin junkies suspended high above. Auckland Adventure Jet makes a few stops at significant landmarks including the Chelsea Sugar Factory and the tree lined cliffs of Kauri Point to take in the sights and catch a breath.
Get to know Auckland's past and present with GreatSights on this half-day tour of the city's scenic highlights, followed by a spine-tingling Māori cultural performance at the Auckland Museum.
Travel through the city centre, along the main street Queen Street and over the Auckland Harbour Bridge, enjoying views of the Hauraki Gulf and city skyline. On the waterfront, visit the newly developed Silo Park and Viaduct Harbour, home to America's Cup racing for many years. Stop for a short morning tea break (own expense) at Parnell Village, where historic buildings have been transformed into a charming shopping destination. Your tour will then take you along the scenic waterfront route of Tamaki Drive, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the city and harbour from Michael Joseph Savage Memorial Park. Following your tour of the city, travel to the Auckland Domain, the city's oldest park which is situated on a 62,000 year old volcano.
Overlooking the Domain is the Auckland War Memorial Museum - the country's first museum, established in 1852. Here you will enjoy a Māori cultural performance from members of the Auckland-based Ngāti Whātua iwi, including traditional songs, dances and haka. Explore the Museum's collections and exhibitions which tell the story of New Zealand, its place in the Pacific and its people. The Museum holds Māori and Pacific treasures, impressive natural history resources and major social and military history collections, as well as decorative arts.
Auckland is home to the World's First Harbour Bridge Bungy Jump, 40 metres above Waitemata Harbour. You will first enjoy an exclusive bridge walk out to the specially constructed Bungy pod, with stunning views of the Harbour and Auckland City. Here you will take the ultimate leap finishing with an optional ocean dip if you're game.
Enjoy a short scenic flight over the Hauraki Gulf to Waiheke Island aboard a de Havilland Beaver floatplane. Land in one of many locations around the island.
The Sky Tower is the tallest structure in the Southern Hemisphere standing at 328 metres and offering panoramic views of the ‘City of Sails’ in every direction. If you are looking for an unforgettable New Zealand adventure then try the SkyWalk experience, a guided walk around the outer ledge of the SkyTower on a metal walkway, but don’t worry you’re safely harnessed in the whole time and can even have a go at hanging over the edge! This adventure has been described as thrilling, exciting and extraordinary, so shouldn’t be missed.
Devonport is just 12 minutes by ferry from Auckland’s central business district. From the breathtaking sea and city views to the stunning beaches, boutique shopping, charming accommodation and café culture, it’s no wonder it’s rated one of the top spots to visit in Auckland.
Cycle around Devonport on this 1hr - 1.5hr(7kms) tour and explore the delightful, peaceful maritime village.
A scenic 40 minute cruise through the Hauraki Gulf between Matiatia Wharf on Waiheke Island and the Auckland downtown ferry terminal. Waiheke Island just off the Auckland coast boasts 92 square kms of beautiful beaches, vineyards, olive groves, native bush and laid back seaside villages. It’s a great day out from Auckland as well as a superb holiday destination or a weekend getaway.
Enjoy the City of Sails from the water on a relaxed harbour sailing yacht. This cruise offers a uniquely local experience experiencing the harbour under sail with a small vessel with an intimate and engaging atmosphere. View the stunning city sights while sailing on the inner Waitemata Harbour. Sail where the wind takes us while enjoying Auckland's city highlights; including sailing under the Harbour Bridge and other well-known landmarks along the harbour's edge. The crew's local knowledge will give you the best harbour sailing experience Auckland has to offer. Become the crew and help participate with the sailing experience take the helm while you carve through the water, or if you prefer just sit back and relax above deck.
The area in and around High Street in Auckland City has a great deal of character. Running parallel to Queen Street, the two couldn't be any more dissimilar. While Queen Street has chain stores and fast-food outlets, High Street has one-off designer clothes stores, possibly the best bookshop in Auckland (Unity Books), and fine cafes and restaurants.
With its distinctive bier-houses in classic old-style structures, Vulcan Lane adds yet another dimension and is always busy, regardless of the time or day of the week. The Chancery is a fairly recent addition bringing yet more designer shops and cafes to the area.
Things to do:
Departing from Auckland in the morning, this is a wonderful way to explore Hobbiton and the famous Waitomo Caves. Included is a magical journey through Middle-earth to the Hobbiton Movie Set from "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" films. On arrival at Shire's Rest you embark on your Hobbiton movie set tour. You will get to see 44 hobbit holes, the Mill and double arch bridge, the party tree and visit the Green Dragon Inn (where a complimentary beer, cider or ginger ale is included). At this stunning location you can take a photo at the door of Bilbo's house, Bag End and look out over the whole of Hobbiton to the hills in the distance.
Following the Hobbiton tour, enjoy lunch in the marquee beside the Green Dragon Inn.
From here, travel to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves where you will discover an ancient world 30 million years in the making. Marvel at Mother Nature’s light display as you glide through the starry wonderland of the Glowworm Grotto. Experience serene ambience like no other as you enter this galaxy of tiny living lights. The glowworm (Arachnocampa Luminosa) is unique to New Zealand, making the Waitomo Glowworm Caves an absolute must-do.
At the end of an adventurous day, drive north through lush Waikato dairy farms and over the Bombay Hills arriving in Auckland where you will be transferred to your inner-city accommodation.
The earliest occupants of the Karekare valley were the Ngaoho people who lived here in the 13th century for about 300 years. The years following saw the Te Kawerau a Maki tribe inhabit in the area, but in 1825 they were attacked by the musket wielding Ngapuhi tribe who consequently slaughtered all but one of the occupants. For a while the area became known as Mauaharanui – ‘the place of great wrongdoing’. Today's name, Karekare means 'surf' or 'rippling waters' and is a far more apt description of this quiet village.
1845 saw the arrival of the first Europeans to the area and inevitably logging and farming soon started to make its mark on the dramatic landscape. The early 1900's saw the first tourists arriving at Karekare with many staying at Winchelsea House. This luxurious accommodation home had electricity 10 years before Auckland City officially became connected and was just what the travellers needed after a day long horse and cart ride along rough winding tracks.
Today Karekare is a popular spot for summer visitors and its surf and bush walks attract many Aucklander’s for the day. The dramatic backdrop of cliffs, waterfalls, black sand beaches and thick native bush was immortalised when the movie "The Piano" was filmed there.
Things to do:
Muriwai Beach is located about 40km north west of Auckland City. The black sand found on the west coast beaches is a result of the volcanic activity that formed the region.
The Muriwai coastline stretches approximately 60km from Maori Bay in the South to the Kaipara Harbour in the north inviting a wide range of activities. People enjoying surfing, horse riding, 4 wheel driving, land yachting, picnics, swimming and parapenting are common sights along the beach.
One of the finest attractions though, has to be the Takapu Refuge, one of the few mainland breeding colonies of the Australasian Gannet. These birds are spectacular to see as they feed and tend to their young during the breeding season. On Oaia Island about 1.6km off shore, Fur Seals can often be spotted sun bathing on the rocks. Muriwai also boasts a true and challenging links golf course playable all year round.
Things to do:
Muriwai Golf Club is a links course situated in a protected bird sanctuary and famous for its Gannet colony. There are no encroaching buildings, no traffic sounds or large crowds. The only sound you'll hear are the calls of native birds and the surf breaking on the beach.
The course is of naturally rolling fairways and breathtaking views of sea and forests from every hole. To play at Muriwai is to play as the game was meant to be played.
As you lift off from the downtown heliport at Mechanics Bay you will fly across the glistening Waitemata Harbour to the Devonport Naval Base, capturing views of Auckland's Harbour Bridge, flying over the Viaduct Harbour (once home of the America's Cup) and Westhaven Marina before flying past the Sky Tower and over the lush greenness of Auckland Domain, a central recreational park. Heading east you will pass popular inner harbour beaches and suburbs of St Heliers, Kohimarama, Mission Bay and Orakei Basin. Fly over Browns Island, another of the Hauraki Gulf's distinctive volcanic crater islands before travelling out across the Rangitoto Channel to Rangitoto Island, the largest, youngest and one of the least modified of about 50 volcanic cones and craters in the Auckland volcanic field.
The stunning city vista can be seen in the distance from Rangitoto's summit on the flight back to Auckland, prior to returning to our Mechanics Bay heliport
Sea Kayak to Rangitoto Island, the most distinctive landmark in Auckland. After your safety briefing and paddling instruction you will kayak across the Waitemata harbour, meaning 'sparkling waters', where you may see wildlife such as Little Blue Penguins and Cooks Petrels. On arrival at Rangitoto Island, which is the largest and youngest of Auckland's volcanoes, you will start enjoy a leisurely 1hr walk to the summit. Walking up the pohutukawa-cloaked island gives you the chance to explore the baked scoria rocks which support over 200 different native trees and flowering plants. Upon reaching the top of Rangitoto you will be treated to the finest 360 degree views that the Auckland region has to offer. Upon returning to the water's edge, a healthy hearty kiwi lunch will be awaiting you, with cold and hot drinks to match. If time permits, you might even enjoy a refreshing dip in the sea! As you kayak back to the city, perhaps with the help of a sail, you will experience magnificent views of the City of Sails.
Auckland city is surrounded by a number of regional parks and natural areas that are easily explored on foot. Information on the many walking tracks within the regional parks can be found on the Auckland Regional Council website. Two of the more popular walking destinations are the Waitakere Ranges and Rangitoto Island. The Waitakere Ranges Visitor Centre (Arataki Visitor Centre) is located a short 30 minute drive from Auckland CBD and is the best place to start your exploration of this large tract of native forest. Here you’ll also find information on the many native birds you will see and hear. To reach Rangitoto Island you catch a ferry from the Auckland Ferry Terminal and information on the walks on the island can be found on the Department of Conservation website. A brief description of the more popular Auckland walks is outlined below.
Rangitoto Island Summit Track
Time: 1 hr one way from Rangitoto Wharf
The shortest and most popular route to the summit begins at Rangitoto Wharf and climbs through lava fields and forest to the peak at 259 metres above sea level. The summit gives panoramic views of Auckland and the Hauraki Gulf. At the summit another track circles the rim of the crater.
Arataki Nature Trail
A beautiful introduction to the flora and fauna of the Waitakere Ranges and a great addition to any visit to the Arataki Visitor Centre. The track is really a network of three gravelled loop walks. The Identification Loop is short and level, while the upper and lower loops contain graded descents and ascents. Making your way to the kauri knoll at the end of the lower track is recommended as a great example of remnant Kauri forest.
Muriwai Takapu Refuge Walk
Distance 0.8km, Time 45 minutes
From the carpark at Maukatia/Maori Bay, the Takapu Refuge walk skirts around headland then descends to the end of Muriwai Beach Access Road. Two short branch tracks lead to lookouts over the gannet colony.
Auckland City Walk
Distance 1.5km; Time 1 hour
This walk is a favourite for Auckland families. It provides a good introduction to the area and is one of the most beautiful walking loops in the Waitakere Ranges. Marvel at the huge kauri, one with a girth of 6.5m, and the large totara which were once used to make magnificent waka (canoes). A short side track leads up to Cascade Falls, set amongst towering rocky bluffs. Information signs along the way explain interesting features of this forest.
Otakamiro Point, the headland between Maori Bay and Muriwai Beach is home to New Zealand's northernmost gannet colony: the Takapu Refuge. Here you can see these remarkable birds soaring overhead with wingspans of up to 2 metres.
Feeding is a unique and extraordinary sight as the birds dive into the sea from 30 metres above reaching speeds of up to 145 kph! Between July and October many gannets re-establish contact with their life long mates. Just one egg is laid which is incubated by both birds who take shifts. December is the time to see the chicks but the birds can be seen here all year round.
The abundance of fish and edible plants in Tawharanui has provided food to its occupants for the last 1000 years. When Europeans purchased the land in 1873 the timber was milled and the land farmed as well as some parts of it quarried. The parks boundaries were extended in 1981 to create New Zealand's first Marine Protected Area. This prohibits the taking of any marine life from the region and provides a unique environment for snorkelers and divers to experience the many and varied forms of wildlife in this environment. The New Zealand dotterel nests in the sand dunes here and there are many other birds such as the coastal reef heron and spotless crake that also make this place home.
This small group eco tour will show you the beauty and nature of Tawharanui Regional Park & Matakana, stunning white sandy beaches, native coastal forest, bush, and birds. Tawharanui is an open sanctuary just over an hour north of Auckland city. It is one of New Zealand’s best examples of conservation efforts as it has almost completely been eradicated of predators. In 2004, a 2.5 kilometre predator-proof fence was built across the peninsular, leaving the area inside a safe haven for many threatened and endangered bird species. In total, there are approximately 90 different bird species to be seen and heard around Tawharanui.
Auckland's Viaduct Harbour was developed in 1999 following the successful New Zealand campaign to host the America's Cup. There are a variety of restaurants and bars to dine on the waterfront - ranging from street food to gourmet cuisine. The name 'City of Sails' quickly becomes evident as you stroll the boardwalk and many different yachts and small seacraft can be spotted. If you're keen to test your sea legs, you can choose to sail on an authentic America's Cup yacht. Also located here is the Maritime Museum and a unique Hilton Hotel - built to the shape of a cruise ship.
The Waitakere Ranges Regional Park is just 40 minutes drive west of Auckland City. The park covers 16, 000 hectares of native rainforest and dramatic coastline including the black sand beaches of Whatipu, Karekare, Piha and Te Henga. Originally rugged and unforgiving, the arrival of Europeans in the 1830's saw thousands of acres of forest destroyed as the versatile Kauri timber was harvested. Today the remains of the damns and tramlines used can still be seen.
The water here played a crucial part in the development of Auckland with five major reservoirs being built between 1910 and 1970. The park was born in 1900 with the purchase of land by the Auckland City council. This acquisition was primarily to secure water supplies but its scenic beauty was recognised and still thrills visitors today. It was christened Auckland Centennial Memorial Park in 1940 to celebrate 100 years since the founding of Auckland City. Over the years the park has grown through the gifting of lands by many generous donors. The Auckland Regional Council took control of the park in 1964, giving it the name it holds today: the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park.
The visitor centre on Scenic Drive is great place to discover the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park. Knowledgeable rangers and excellent interactive multi media presentations will show you the past, present and future of this wonderful area. Inside the main building are carvings created by Te Kawerau a Maki, the local Maori tribe and guardians of the region.
Welcoming you at the entrance is an 11 metre tall pou telling the story of the tribes ancestors and is one of the largest of its kind in New Zealand. Arataki or "pathway to learning" has extensive decks from which to see the panoramic views to Auckland City in the east and the magnificent bush of the Huia Valley to the west and south.
The local Maori, Te Kawerau a Maki, are the proud guardians of the land and their history can be viewed via the carved pou whenua located throughout the area. The Arataki Visitors Centre is a marvellous introduction to the park with many exhibits on display, depicting history, flora and fauna and its people. These stimulating activities are available to all.
Things to do:
The tour starts with a stop at the Arataki Visitor Centre, perched high on the ridge line there are epic views of both coasts. The centre also has some great displays of the areas Fauna and Flora and early settler's lifestyle. Next, you'll head out to the coast, the first stop is the sparsely populated Karekare beach site of Jane Campions film "The Piano" here you'll walk to the beautiful Waitakere Falls and then out on to the huge expanse of Karekare beach, wild and foreboding one day sunny and fun the next Karekare has a unique and special character. Over the hill is Piha with iconic Lion Rock, you may choose to walk around the coast to "The Gap" to see the ocean thundering through a gap in the cliffs or do a 20 minute walk through lovely regenerating bush to the Kitekite falls or both if you're feeling fit or you may just prefer to paddle in the waves and soak up some salt air the choice is yours. The next stop is the Piha Cafe to enjoy a range of wholesome food with the locals. Time to replenish yourselves and take in the eclectic surroundings. Continuing your journey through the Waitakere Ranges, you'll stop at the Cascade Kauri Park to see some magnificent trees over 1000 years old in an area of fully protected ancient rainforest. From here you'll pop out the other side of the Waitakere's and head back into the city arriving back around 4.30pm.