Most Aucklanders live well outside the city centre, only venturing in for business or a night out. There’s plenty to do during the day though, especially when you’re out exploring the sparkling Waitemata harbour. Take a break when you’re in town, and try some of the best things to do in Auckland’s biggest harbour.

Jet boating

For the fastest 35 minutes on the Waitemata harbour, you have to jump in the Auckland Jet Boat Tour’s 600-horsepower “Ruby Red Lips”. This bright-red beauty will take you through a series of drifts, slides and spins — and the iconic high-speed 360-degree spins, dead stops and ‘turn on a dime’ cornering that Hamilton jet boats are famous for. If the timing is right, you’ll also see our next activity… but from below.

Ruby Red Lips... Looks fast when it's not moving

Bungy jumping

It’s only a 40-metre jump, but the Auckland harbour bridge is the only place in the world where you can touch the sea during your dive. You also might have to dodge a couple of super yachts as they cruise below, but that’s all part of the fun!

And if you wanted to know what I looked like with dreadlocks, check this out:

Bridge climb

While you’re at the bridge, take the time to walk over the bridge, learn about Auckland’s early history and the Nippon Clip-ons, and see amazing panoramic views of the natural harbour and the southern hemisphere’s largest marina.

Get a different angle on Auckland's harbour bridge

Kelly Tarlton’s

The first aquarium in the world to have bent acrylic ‘glass’ to move under, Kelly Tarlton’s has added an Antarctica section with penguins and information about the world’s first Antarctic explorers, and several more areas as well. There’s regular interactive feeding displays and special, seasonal events. Kids will love it, adults enjoy it.

Penguins at Kelly Tarltons

Eastern bays

The eastern bays of Okahu Bay, Mission Bay, Kohimarama and St Heliers all offer something different, but they’re all great beaches with plenty of space, located just 10-20 minutes by bus from the central city. If you’re more energetic, it’ll take you about two hours to walk from the city to St Heliers, passing the other beaches on your way. There’s good swimming at high tide, lots of places to fish off the wharves, and gear to hire if you want to skate, ride a bike or paddle a kayak. There’s good bars, cafes and restaurants at Mission Bay and St Heliers.

Mission Bay's famous fountain

Sea kayaking

Unless it’s winter, you can head out with Auckland Sea Kayaking. I loved the trip to Browns Island; a comfortable distance to paddle, a well-preserved volcanic island with an interesting Maori and European history, a swim, and a fantastic freshly-cooked lunch after a hike to the summit for great views of the eastern bays.

Time for lunch and a swim before we head back to Auckland

Whale and dolphin watching

The Hauraki Gulf Marine Park is home to many marine mammals; a day on the ExploreNZ Dolphin Explorer gives you a chance to find some. The big comfy boat is equipped with multiple viewpoints, and a fairly-priced little bar to help you celebrate spending time with rare dolphins or whales.

Their 99% success rate didn’t fire on my trip; I am the 1%. But I console myself with the knowledge I can go back out any day that I like… A guarantee that’s available for all customers.

Staff on the lookout

Wine tasting on Waiheke

Waiheke Island is one of the most prestigious islands in the Gulf, with a large selection of accommodation and things to do. There’s lots of local art and craft to explore, but perhaps wine-making is the highest craft of all.

Many of Auckland’s islands, including Waiheke and Rangitoto are accessible from the downtown ferry building, located at the bottom of Queen Street.

Most Waiheke wine finds itself on the tables of top overseas restaurants, so expect boutique experiences and boutique pricing. In fact, Waiheke was one of the first places to mainstream pay-for-a-tasting pricing in New Zealand; it’s easy to drop over NZ$100 on a day of swirling, sniffing and sipping, although you can get away with less.

Te Whau winery, Waiheke
Big 360-degree views from Te Whau winery

Climb Rangitoto

Nearby Rangitoto Island could be on a different planet for all you know. Instead of Waiheke’s rich sedimentary soil, this almost-symmetrical, shield-shaped cone is pure scoria. Literally exploding onto the scene around 600 years ago, it’s the youngest island in the country, and that gives its slopes a dramatic quality. All that dark volcanic rock reflects the sun like nothing else, so if you’re visiting in mid-summer, aim for a morning trip and take plenty of water and snacks, as there’s no shops — or anything else — there.

Rangitoto's symmetry, seen from Mt Victoria

Now, we all know Auckland has not one, but two harbours — the city-facing, east-coast Waitemata which we talked about today, and the Manakau. But the west is for another day.

More festival posts

This post on things to do in Auckland’s Waitemata harbour is part of the Nearcation blog festival. The next in the series is this little beauty from Jen at Gear Up and Play:

One of the coolest things about living in Portland is that so many great places are within reach; the ocean, the mountain, the desert. But sometimes it’s good to get farther away, to a place that is a little more… theatrical. Ashland is a great escape with entertainment that can take you to other worlds.

Read about Ashland here, or see all the entries at the Nearcation blog festival.

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Your thoughts on "Things to do in Auckland harbour"

  • You've long ago convinced me that I need to visit New Zealand (not sure I ever really needed convincing, actually!) but now I have a few more things for the list ...

    on June 1, 2012 at 8:18 am Reply
    • You'll have to make sure your trip co-incides with when we're in the country, Amanda! Summer of 2013-14 sound about right?

      on June 1, 2012 at 8:31 am Reply
  • I've been to Kelly Tarlton's and it was a good place to visit with family. Planned to go for whale & dolphin watching too last time but had to canceled it due to some problems.. Your post makes me wanna visit Auckland again!

    on June 4, 2012 at 11:50 pm Reply
    • It's definitely worth the trip. Love it there :) Did you get up to anything else you'd recommend?

      on June 5, 2012 at 4:06 am Reply

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