New Zealand's most populous city offers the best of both worlds. Visitors in Auckland can experience the bustling, modern city and miles of pristine, sandy beaches islands, and a diverse set of scenic hiking trails on the same day. The activities available for visitors of all ages can seem almost limitless. From must-see stops like the Hobbit movie set to action-packed adventures like kayaking out to the volcanic, Rangitoto Island, you'll never run out of things to do in Auckland.
Get out of the city and hike to the top of Mount Eden. The extinct volcano is now flush with a plush, green plateau that has a fantastic panoramic view of the city. On the opposite side, you can experience a treat with a 5.5-acre garden. Complete with colorful flowers that change with the seasons, rock formations, babbling brooks, and waterfalls, it's well worth the trek. For a spectacular view, visit during the springtime for the annual Tulip Festival that features 14,000 multicolored tulips.
If you want a similar view from the comfort of the city, take a different type of hike to the observation area of the Sky Tower. Guests that don't want to walk the stairs can take the glass-front elevators to experience the tower's different floors. The 1,076-foot tall building has been an Auckland icon for over 20 years has several points of interest. First, head to the Sky Deck on Level 60 which is open to the public. It offers the best, 360-degree views near the coast. For a real rush, take a plunge off the tower on the Skyjump.
From fans of the Hobbit books and movie trilogy to anyone looking for a unique Hollywood learning experience far from the lights of Tinseltown, a day trip from Auckland to the Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata, New Zealand is a must. A short drive from the bustle of the busy city, visitors, start their journey with a ride through the rolling, 1,250-acre sheep farm in the fictional Middle Earth. The amusement area offers several tours that include the movie set alone or a combination of different, nearby sites such as the Waitomo Glowworm Caves that are exclusive to New Zealand. The Hobbiton site also includes a few eating establishments and a gift store.
Auckland features dozens of beautiful, sandy beaches. The hardest part of this favorite activity is choosing one. Orewa Beach along the Pacific Coast is an excellent spot for lounging on the beach, swimming, or water sports. The urban, oceanside destination offers canoeing, windsurfing, and sailing along the Hibiscus Coast. Another popular spot with white sand is on the Pohutukawa Coast, a 40-minute drive from the city. The beach in the Omana Regional Park is sheltered, making it a safe area for swimming. It also offers a picnic area with barbecues, tables, and a playground.
The Matakana Wine Trail is the perfect addition to any Auckland vacation. The New Zealand wine country boasts 28 different varieties of red and white wines. Choose one or more wineries to stop at or take a wine tour that travels to a few locations in one day. Most offer tours of their facilities and have a wine tasting and the ability to purchase full bottles at the end of the event.
Auckland's black sand beaches are a mixture of iron oxide and volcanic sand. Although it heats up faster than sand that's lighter in color, it's perfectly safe. One of the more popular spots is the Piha Black Sand Beach. The destination is also famous among surfers around the world for epic waves to ride. Another top option is Whatipu Beach about an hour's drive outside of the city. The area also has coastal trials that take visitors to the nearby Whatipu caves to explore.
In Auckland, you can explore entire islands. The Great Barrier Island in the Hauraki Gulf is one activity nature lovers can't miss. Visitors can stay on the beach, relax, swim, and enjoy several water ventures such as surfing, kayaking, or fishing. For even more adventure, take the hour-long walk into the jungle to soak in the natural hot springs and see the island's wildlife.
Another great destination for nature lovers is the Tiritiri Matangi Island. The entire place is an open wildlife sanctuary. To get here, guests can take the downtown Auckland ferry. Upon arrival, it's your choice of a guided tour or exploring the sites on your own. If you plan on staying for the day, bring a lunch. There are no places to purchase food on the island. The location is home to more than a dozen bird species and several other animals and insect varieties such as different types of geckos, butterflies, and skinks.
The Auckland Zoo is a great place to spend a few hours in the city's downtown area. The zoo also offers behind the scene experiences such as feeding the giant Galapagos tortoise and learning how zookeepers take care of various animals like the tigers and meerkats. The amusement location also houses four dining establishments, a kid's zone, and a gift shop.
The young, volcanic island just off the coast and a short ferry ride from Downtown Auckland is an amazing place to spend the day. Once there, choose from hanging out on the beach or take an hour hike to explore the inner areas on the islands such as the lava fields and tunnels that are open to the public. You don't have to take the ferry. Guests feeling more adventurous can take a guided sea kayaking trip there instead.