Auckland is known as the “City of Sails,” but rarely is it considered a popular Polynesian beach town. But just because this booming urban metropolis has over a million people doesn’t mean you can’t find some secluded pieces of shoreline. In fact, there are literally dozens of different beaches that ring the Auckland city center, and the fact that Manukau Harbour nearly separates Auckland from the North Island makes it one of the only cities in the world that’s literally surrounded by beaches. So, for a brief look at where to leave some footprints in the sand, the following are some of the best beaches in Auckland for enjoying a day in the sun.
There’s the initial excitement when you see the splash towards the distant, cobalt horizon, and then the added excitement when a flipper confirms that the splash wasn’t simply a whitecap. The captain turns and motors the boat in the direction of the flipping and splashing, and the next thing you know there are dozens of dolphins swimming in front of the bow. Best of all, if conditions permit and you’re a strong, competent swimmer, there’s the chance that you could strap on a mask and dive right in and join them.
Cities aren’t usually the types of places where you expect to find lots of wildlife. Wellington, however, is a notable exception—and even though it’s the nation’s capital and has 200,000 residents, there’s a surprising amount of animal life in reserves as well as the wild. While it isn’t a place like Anchorage, Alaska, where bears roam free in the streets, it’s still a place where pods of dolphins will occasionally visit the harbor—or a couple of orcas might swim near shore while chasing stingrays or fish. Aside from the isolated marine life encounters, there are a number of places back on land for viewing native wildlife, and the following are some of the best places for seeing animals in Wellington.
Don’t look now, but New Zealand is quickly becoming one of the world’s most popular and well-known wine regions. What started with sweet Sauvignon Blanc in the rolling hills of Marlborough, has turned into a massive business with wineries across the country. In fact, as of 2014, New Zealand was estimated to have 700 wineries on the North and South Islands combined, which—when adjusted for total land area—gives New Zealand approximately the same density of wineries as the U.S. state of Oregon.
After dismissing Europe (too close to home) and Asia (been there, done that) we settled on New Zealand, the home of hobbits, kiwis and Maoris. Its location on the other side of the planet, its wealth of outdoor adventure and the spectacular scenery on offer made New Zealand the perfect choice, and within a few days of deciding, we’d bought our flights.
Ask anybody who’s spent a bit of time exploring New Zealand what their highlights were, and there’s a good chance that a Lake Taupo adventure will feature. The lake sits in the middle of New Zealand’s North Island and has, over the years, built up a reputation for its breathtaking beauty and impressive range of extreme outdoor activities. My wife and I rolled into town in our camper, having booked onto the Huka Falls Jetboat and Tongariro River Rafting combo. It just seemed like that was the best blend of high-octane thrills and outdoor adventure, though alternative and perhaps more relaxing combinations including helicopter ride and scenic lake cruise were available.