There’s one word that sums up Auckland – stunning. Named the City of Sails, Auckland is known for its pristine beaches, picturesque harbor and scenic urban metropolis. Hawaiian Airlines is proud to offer non-stop service between Auckland (AKL) and Honolulu (HNL), two isle hot spots which seem to share a lot in common. While these metropolitan cities both boast island beauty, geothermal activity and rich native cultures, Auckland allures with its one-of-a-kind itineraries in a jaw-dropping ecological playground. Read on for five must-do experiences that will make you say “wow.”
The glow worms at the Waitomo Caves is a sight to behold. Don’t forget to make the drive or catch a tour to make this place a must-stop.
1. Seek outdoor adventure
Start your trip with an adrenaline rush by bungee jumping in New Zealand, the birthplace of the sport. Head to the iconic Sky Tower in the center of the city to take in 360-degree views before you leap off the ledge at an elevation of 629 feet. To calm your pulse, soak in one of the relaxing geothermal pools in the area, including one you dig yourself at Hot Water Beach. Here, naturally heated mineral water bubbles up through the sand, so you can bathe in a do-it-yourself hot tub just steps from the ocean. For a magical encounter, book a daytrip to Waitomo Caves to descend into an underground grotto full of thousands of luminescent glowworms. Plus, you’ll want to check out the ethereal stalactites and stalagmites in the neighboring Aranui Cave, too. Animal lovers must stop at the Auckland Zoo to meet the national bird, the Kiwi – not to be confused with the colloquial term for the people of New Zealand, also known as Kiwis. Although nocturnal, Kiwi birds here live in a special purpose-built night habitat allowing visitors to view the flightless fowl during daylight hours.
2. Discover Maori culture
Learn the indigenous greeting “kia ora” (meaning “be well”) and the origins behind it at the Auckland Museum. Admire the vast collection of Maori artifacts across three gallery floors and be sure to catch the twice-daily cultural performances with traditional song, a poi dance and weapons demonstration. Next, visit Auckland’s volcanic cones for spectacular vistas of the city and a glimpse into early Maori settlements set on the terraced slopes at Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill) and Maungawhau (Mount Eden). If your timing is right, catch a rugby game and watch the national team, the All Blacks, perform a haka – a ceremonial warrior dance – to intimidate the opposing team. Otherwise, immerse yourself in a virtual haka at the All Blacks Experience at SkyCity, available year-round.
Waiheke Island is a 40-minute ferry ride from Auckland and is a perfect day trip to dine, explore and relax.
3. Sip wine on Waiheke Island
Just a 40-minute ferry ride from Auckland, spend the day exploring the beaches, quaint cafés and famed vineyards on this charming isle. The coastal terrain is ideal for growing both red and white grape varietals, evidenced by some 30 wineries which call Waiheke home. While you’re at it, pair your wine tastings with local Te Matuku oysters, New Zealand lamb or Ora King Salmon, found at many of the island’s upscale eateries.
4. Shop for one-of-a-kind souvenirs
Head to Parnell, Auckland’s first suburb, to pop in-and-out of antique shops, designer boutiques and cafés in renovated pink-and-white Victorian heritage homes. Browse upscale homewares, exquisite jewelry, local art and exclusive New Zealand-made gifts. Next, travel across town to the Ponsonby neighborhood, a hip, stylish hub where you’ll find New Zealand’s top fashion brands. You’ll also come across locally made crafts, unique accessories and vintage treasures. Foodies will want to stock up on edible souvenirs at the La Cigale Markets on Saturday mornings in Parnell and Takutai Square. Taste your way through the offerings from local farmers, fisherman, butchers and bakeries. Don’t miss the smoked Akaroa salmon and manuka honey! .
Hobbiton is a popular destination for those yearning to explore the lush pastures of the Shire.
5. Immerse yourself in a fantasy world
It’s no surprise that New Zealand’s dreamy scenery is the backdrop to many otherworldly films. Hobbiton, the movie set for Sir Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” trilogies, is a two-hour drive south of Auckland. Step into Middle-earth and explore the lush pastures of the Shire, duck into Hobbit holes and sip a Southfarthing drink at the Green Dragon Inn. At Weta Workshop Unleashed, located in central Auckland, you’ll learn how filmmakers create these movie fantasy worlds. Explore interactive and immersive make-believe film sets, including an epic spaceship and a hyper-realistic galactic robot. Fans of “The Chronicles of Narnia” will want to make the 1-hour drive to Woodhill Forest, also known as the dreaded camp of the White Witch, where you can hike or mountain bike through the dark, thick trees.
Caption: When visiting the small town of Hanapepe, don’t forget to take a stroll across Hanapepe Swinging Bridge.
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