Standing 328m over Auckland, the Sky Tower has three observation levels offering panoramic views of the city. It’s easy to see why the Maoris called this beautiful place Tamaki Makau Rau, meaning “The maiden sought by 100 lovers”. You can stand on the reinforced glass floor panels and look down on the streets below. There are three circular observation levels: the Sky Deck, Main Observation, and Sky Lounge. All provide the same 360-degree views.
If that doesn’t provoke a sufficient rush of adrenaline, there are two further options for activities in the tallest structure in the Southern Hemisphere. The first is the SkyWalk, where the intrepid can walk along the 1.2m-wide perimeter ledge of the Sky Tower. SkyWalkers are attached by safety harnesses to the tower but there are no rails or balconies to prevent you from tumbling over the edge 192m from the ground.
For the true daredevil, for whom even the possibility of a free fall is not enough, there is the SkyJump. This drops the jumper at a speed of 85km per hour from a secure hoist.
The 11-second plunge is not for the faint hearted.
Afterward you can take a coffee in the Sky Lounge, or if your stomach is still intact, eat at the Orbit or The Observatory restaurants.
Once you’ve returned to terra firma, take the few minutes walk down to Elliott Street. Described as Auckland’s “Epicurean Village”, Elliot Stables is a unique culinary marketplace. Located in refurbished warehouse buildings dating back to the 1800s, the Stables brings together cheese, wine, spirits, meat and other specialist retailers alongside gourmet outlets specialising in everything from Spanish tapas to German sausages and Japanese sushi.
The main facilities are undercover throughout the year, while in spring and summer outdoor dining is possible. Visitors can enjoy this taste of the past from breakfast to late dinners. The cobbled stone floors and wooden furniture conjure up images of bygone Auckland but the menu is a reminder of the city’s modern mix of nationalities.The adjacent Elliott Hotel offers a conference room.
America’s Cup Sailing
Head down to Viaduct Harbour and leave dry land behind for an hour or two. Known as the City of Sails, Auckland has hosted many major yachting championships and regattas, but none have created more impact than the America’s Cup competitions held here in 2000 and 2003. Take either yacht NZL 40 or NZL 41, which took part in the original race, and on their regular sailings you can enjoy a thrill normally only available to expert sailers and the über-rich. You can opt for the lazy option and sit back and take in the views of the stunning Waitemata Harbour or you could take a more strenuous alternative.
Sail NZ allows you to experience, for a few moments only thankfully, the back-breaking efforts involved in setting up, trimming and lowering the sails through the hand “grinders”. No sailing experience is necessary as the Sail NZ team bring along all the expertise you are ever likely to need. Remember to bring your sunblock and a camera to catch that special moment of you at the helm of these multimillion-dollar craft.
No visit to New Zealand would be considered complete without engaging with the Maori culture that predates the arrival of the European colonists. The Maoris called New Zealand, Aotearoa, meaning The Land of the Long White Cloud.
The marae is a traditional Maori meeting place and there are a number of specialist tours you can join, or which will pick you up from your hotel, that provide a fascinating introduction to the culture.
On arrival a traditional welcome ceremony (powhiri) includes the famous process of nose pressing (hongi). You can meet Maori artists, weavers and storytellers, who will explain their art and the symbolic nature of the woodcarvings. You might be encouraged to pick up some simple Maori vocabulary and you might even get to learn the special Maori war dance, the Haka, used by the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team.
Having reached the grand old age of 80, Auckland Museum remains an important treasure trove of the cultural and spiritual history of the country. It contains priceless Maori treasures and natural history collections and has daily Maori cultural events and a rotating programme of special exhibitions.
The museum is only closed on Christmas Day and its opening hours are from 10am to 5pm. Admission is by donation – NZ$5 (US$3.56) per adult is suggested but children are allowed in free. There may be charges for certain special exhibitions.