If you have some time to spare at the end of your visit, or you’ve got time between flights, there’s no need to spend it in your hotel room or an airport lounge.
There are heaps of great activities and attractions to check out near Auckland Airport – and even if you’re not staying out that way, the fun is all just 30 minutes from the city.
What better way to start the day than hitting the rides at Rainbow’s End, New Zealand’s most popular family theme park. I went straight for the log flume, but I also got to try out one of the park’s newest additions, the Invader (think Disneyland’s twirling teacups on a rollercoaster track) and the new, and very scary, Stratosfear, the only one of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.
Next stop: Butterfly Creek. To say there’s a variety of things to do here would be an understatement. One minute we’re surrounded by hundreds of brightly coloured wings in the tropical butterfly house, moments later we’re up close to two half-tonne saltwater crocs at feeding time. Butterfly Creek also has an area full of cute farm animals, a dinosaur kingdom and a room full of creepy crawlies, including some terrifying tarantulas. It’s no surprise this is such a popular thing to do in Auckland for kids and school groups; it’s every young kid’s dream day out.
Our own day of discovery also included a lot of action. We checked out the driving range, where most of us displayed little aim or form but had a great time, with some beginners vowing to be back the next weekend. After this it was on to more golfing adventures at the pirate themed mini golf . It was then time to suit up and hit the fields for paintball, where we were ducking, diving and shooting, attempting to pull off moves better suited to Mission Impossible movies.
Go karting was a revelation – these machines are much more advanced (and way cooler) than I was expecting. My racing name ‘Wheels of Fire’ didn’t stop me coming last in my group, but hey, I wasn’t in it for the glory. Having said that, between paintball and go karting it was amusing to see the competitive streak come out in even the most easy-going of our group – challenges were laid down, bets placed, bragging rights exercised.
The Auckland Botanic Gardens is another great stopover – it’s huge, with both open parkland and numerous themed spaces, from New Zealand natives to stunning roses, the enticingly named Spring Blossom Valley to the fantastic kids’ playground – though it’s just as popular with the grown-ups we’re told. Equally impressive are the eclectic sculptures scattered throughout.
Later in the day we finished our afternoon at Villa Maria, New Zealand’s most awarded winery. Sipping on a glass of chilled Arneis and dipping into the delicious antipasto platters was the perfect way to unwind after a day of adventure. You can share these platters or enjoy an à la carte lunch at The Vineyard Café, while the cellar door is also open daily for wine tastings, sales and winery tours.
So whether you’re after something relaxing or exhilarating – or both – you can find it here.