Auckland is a beautiful harbour city in its own right, with its excellent restaurants serving fresh, local produce and international cuisines, and abundant bars, clubs and theatres. But the crystal waters of the gulf, imposing black sand beaches, wild native rainforest and outlying islands give visitors to Auckland the best of both worlds: a cosmopolitan city surrounded by opportunities for outdoor adventures.
To the west of Auckland lie stunning black sand beaches. Pounded by the raging Tasman Sea, these beaches feel untamed and remote, despite being less than an hour from the city. The black sands are due to the high iron content, a result of the area’s volcanic origins, and add to the otherworldly atmosphere. The beaches on this stretch of coastline are well-known surfing spots, but many have strong and unpredictable currents, so if you’re planning on swimming (especially with kids), choose a patrolled beach, or head to Bethells (Te Henga) with its shallow lagoon. Many beaches offer walks into the surrounding wilderness: stroll to Karekare Falls from Karekare Beach (where The Piano was shot) or along the trails at Muriwai to see the gannet colony.
To the east of the city, closer in than the beaches, lies volcanic Rangitoto Island, visible from Auckland Harbour. Catch a ferry to the island and take a walk up to the summit to enjoy the view of Auckland and the surrounding islands. Or, for a more unique experience, take a sea kayak and glide across the glassy harbour, with the scent of the sea and the calls of the birds to accompany you. Auckland Sea Kayaks offer a sunset tour, which includes a BBQ dinner on the beach, and the chance to see the sun sink behind the city and the Waitakere RangIf your tastes run to the more extreme, the Waitakere Ranges may have what you’re after. AWOL Adventures offer canyon tours into the Ranges, with the chance to abseil down cliffs, squeeze through canyons, skim down rock slides and be showered by waterfalls. There are four adventures to choose from, and no experience is necessary. AWOL will take you there and back, provide all equipment, train you and provide experienced guides, who will also teach you about the natural history of the park.
Of course, there are plenty more activities to choose from. Your Auckland accommodation should be able to provide advice, or point you towards recommended tour organisations. Visit New Zealand is a great place to start your research.
Where to stay? Auckland accommodation is plentiful and good quality, but if you want something right in the heart of the city, you can’t go past Econo Lodge City Central. With SkyCity Casino, Convention Centre, Aotea Centre, Entertainment Centre, Crown Plaza Convention Centre, universities and all major public transport centres all within walking distance, this hotel is convenient to everything. All room sizes are on offer, from studio to triple – some with balconies – and all have ensuites, tea and coffee making facilities, a fridge and flatscreen TVs. As its name suggests, Econo Lodge City Central is a great value Auckland accommodation, freeing up your
budget for more Auckland adventures.