As the home of bungee jumping and jet boating, New Zealand has long been a mecca for thrill-seeking travellers. Adrenaline aficionados are usually drawn to Queenstown’s South Island adventure hub, but cosmopolitan Auckland on the country’s North Island also offers opportunities to experience an authentic Kiwi buzz.
Conquering Auckland’s Sky Tower
'Are they mad? Where are the handrails?' With a sheer 192-metre drop on either side, the SkyWalk around Auckland’s Sky Tower is a heart-stopping way to take in one of the world’s great harbour cities. Auckland’s narrow isthmus between the Manuaku and Waitemata harbours is laid out before SkyWalkers in a spectacle that effortlessly trumps Google Earth’s virtual make-believe. Expect to be shuffling around the metre-wide platform for around 30 minutes, but your knees will not stop shaking for the first 15. Options for returning to terra firma include a lift or the controlled rush of the SkyJump.
Blokarting beside rolling surf
Experience Auckland’s love affair with yachting without getting your feet wet. The wide-open black sand expanse of Muriwai Beach on Auckland’s rugged west coast is the venue for a uniquely New Zealand form of land yachting. Blokarts were invented in New Zealand, and provide wind-assisted thrills just a few centimetres off the ground. Muriwai’s sandy natural race-track is bordered on one side by ever-changing sand dunes and by the roiling surf of the Tasman Sea on the other. With just two simple controls, novice Blokarters can learn the basics quickly. Do not be too surprised to get up on two wheels just a few minutes later.
Canyoning on Auckland’s west coast
Concealed in the dense forests above Auckland’s west coast beaches, the Blue Canyon’s progression of cascades and natural swimming pools culminates with the challenge of abseiling down a 25-metre waterfall. Each of the preceding 17 cascades demands a slightly different technique. On some, a spectacular and energetic leap works best. Others demand that wetsuit-wearing adventurers glissade on their backs down slippery natural water slides. At all times native birdsong fills a stunning chasm that is only a few metres across at its widest point. An equally entertaining alternative soundtrack is the stream of laconic Kiwi humour from the laidback guides.
A leap of faith
Repainting Auckland’s harbour bridge apparently takes around 12 years, and for some adrenaline fans, the wait to bungee jump from its iconic arches may seem just as long. After carefully negotiating the bridge’s riveted steel skeleton, travellers’ final leaps are made from a retro pod closely resembling Dr Evil’s escape hatch from a yet-to-be-filmed Austin Powers sequel. A bank of TV screens scans the water 47 metres below for passing boat traffic, and a soundtrack of punchy Kiwi rock music keeps energy levels high. The surreal experience combines excitement and subtlety, and the rush of the impending water is balanced by a silkily smooth series of rebounds.
Kayaking by twilight
Rising smoothly from the Hauraki Gulf, the forested slopes of Rangitoto Island are an iconic feature of Auckland’s waterfront. The city’s youngest volcano – reckoned to be around 700 years old – is best reached on a twilight sea kayaking expedition with Ferg’s Kayaks. Six-hour trips leave from the graceful tree-lined esplanade of Tamaki Drive, and include a brisk walk to the summit of Rangitoto, before returning to mainland under cover of darkness and illuminated by the shimmering lights of Auckland’s business district.
This article was updated in Jan 2012.
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