If you’re a tree hugger or a photo taker, a bird nerd or a beach bum, you’ll want to fly to Auckland faster than a native falcon, because nature is having a veritable field day here.

FYI: The native falcon (kārearea) can fly at speeds of over 100km/ph.

With a landscape adorned with close to 50 volcanic cones, scaling any one of them is a powerful experience with views to savour. Or cover more ground and climb more craters by hiring an e-bike, these remarkable machines make molehills out of mountains.

The coast is also exceptional - from city beaches like Takapuna, to the white sand prettiness of the east, to the black sand beauties out west. And the Hauraki Gulf, over a million hectares of ocean, much of it marine reserve and dotted with islands, it’s easy to see why Lonely Planet described the Hauraki Gulf as one of the highpoints of a visit to New Zealand.

The islands of the gulf

Thumbnail
Waiheke Island, Hauraki Gulf

Let’s start with Waiheke. A mere 40 minutes from downtown by ferry, indulge your fondness for wine at any one of the magnificent vineyards or soar over native forest on a zipline. Neighbouring Rangitoto, our youngest island, exploded onto the scene around 600 years ago and a clamber to the crater’s top is a buzz. Alternatively, 75 minutes from downtown by ferry, pay a visit to the pest-free paradise of Tiritiri Matangi, abundant with native bush, this open sanctuary is home to a wealth of wildlife. Furthest flung of the islands, the largest and least affected by so-called progress, Great Barrier Island is a revelation. Off grid and comfortably rugged, it’s been declared a Dark Sky Sanctuary, and stargazing there is out of this world.

The ocean’s bounty

Thumbnail
Auckland Dolphin & Whale Safari, Hauraki Gulf

It’s not just people who enjoy the Hauraki Gulf, charismatic sea creatures also flourish there, and sightseeing tours with Auckland Whale and Dolphin Safari are sensational. Or experience the thrill of sailing an authentic America’s Cup yacht with Explore.

The wild west

West of central Auckland, discover a chain of beaches unlike anywhere else on earth. Their black sands buffeted by the elements, Piha, Bethells and Karekare are renowned for recharging human batteries while Muriwai has the added attraction of a gannet colony, the elegant birds nesting there from August to March. Further inland, Tree Adventures offers an exhilarating high ropes course, while Woodhill Mountain Bike Park is home to 50km of forest trails.

Northern thrills

Goat Island Marine Reserve is a fishy fiesta and, if it’s too cold to don your bathers, there are glass-bottom boat tours, even see-through kayaks. And if you’re more equine than marine, hop into the saddle for a canter along Pakiri Beach.

Covering ground

Walking is another delightful way to experience Auckland, whether you tackle the 16km Coast-to-Coast Walkway from Princess Wharf to Onehunga or take on one of the many beautiful tracks to be found among Auckland’s Regional Parks. Awhitu, Duder, Shakespear and Tawharanui all offer seclusion, flora. fauna and fresh air.

So many adventures in nature, and all so easy to access, Auckland is a tonic for the soul.