North Island NZ

Warm winter activities in Auckland

David Whitley

Auckland is well known as an outdoorsy city — even in winter, you can go sailing, visit the harbour islands and clamber up volcanic craters. However, if you fear the elements may get the better of you during the winter months, there's plenty to keep you entertained, warm and dry indoors. Here are our top picks:

Kelly Tarlton's Antarctic Encounter and Underwater World

While it's never going to win any awards for snappy titles, this hugely popular attraction is a great place for a rainy day.

The Antarctic Encounter gives a glimpse of life in the coldest part of the worldwhat it’s like where it’s properly cold — visitors can go inside a Snowcat and mosey around a life-size replica of the Antarctic hut set up by South Pole explorer Robert Scott.

A highlight for those with easily melted hearts, however, is the colony of sub-Antarctic penguins, for which fresh snow is created every day. On the slightly less icy side is Underwater World, a giant aquarium complex. Everyone has their own favourites, whether it's the sea horses, piranhas or crayfish, but it's hard not to be mesmerised by the bronze whaler sharks and huge stingray. The latter has a two-metre wingspan.


The Sky Tower

You see that big thing jutting out of Auckland's CBD? Yes, the pointy building that utterly dwarfs the rest of the skyline. Well, that's the Sky Tower, and it's higher than Sydney's Centrepoint (and indeed, the Eiffel Tower in Paris).

It's also home to Sky City, a large entertainment and gambling complex. There are a few bars and restaurants on offer, but the casinos are proving the major drawcards for the punters.

If the weather's holding up okay, there are also a couple of tower adventure activities, including on offer that involve the tower. The first is the Sky Walk — the opportunity to walk around the building on a narrow ledge, with no railings or balcony, at 192m high. Only a safety harness will save you if you stumble...

The second insane endeavour is jumping off the tower's viewing platform while attached to a wire — you're eventually slowed down by a big fan. Scary stuff.


Auckland Museum

More than half a million tourists visit New Zealand's oldest, and Auckland's biggest, museum every year. Parked on a hill in the Auckland Domain, the museum dates back to 1852, although, it's only been at the present site since 1929, when the building was created as a memorial to the city's war dead.

More than one million objects can be found across three floors of permanent exhibitions. The first floor concentrates on the Maoris and the people of the Pacific. A whole range of subjects is covered, from traditional arts and music to ancient civilisations and boat-building.

The second floor is where the big beasties hang out — it’s the natural history segment. This is home to two Discovery Centres that are focused on child learning, as well as the impressively interactive permanent exhibition on volcanoes.

Last, but not least, comes New Zealand War Stories floor. As is fitting for a building designed to honour the troops, this covers conflicts that have involved the New Zealand military, from the Boer War to modern day conflicts via the two world wars.

There's an armoury full of weapons for the more bloodthirsty and warplanes for those harbouring romantic visions of flying one.


National Maritime Museum

Another excellent museum is the National Maritime Museum, and it’s only fitting that it should be hosted by the City of Sails. The museum explores the country’s history at sea, from Polynesian canoes to modern commercial shipping.

On the way it explores seafaring industries that (thankfully) no longer exist, such as whaling and sealing, and looks at traditional maritime arts and crafts.

Naturally, boats and canoes are among the exhibits and there's a fascinating section on the coastguard service and lifeboat workers. The National Maritime Museum can be found on Hobson Wharf on Viaduct Harbour.

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Hanging out in Ponsonby

Ponsonby, to the west of the city centre, is generally regarded as the city's coolest area for a drink. This is where café culture has seeped in from Melbourne; it's where a lot of young people tend to live and where many of the best bars can be found.

There are a few good eateries here too for those wanting to anchor the night's alcohol contentThere are also a few good eateries too for those wanting to anchor the later alcohol content. Among the most popular are Logos, Estasi and Prego, but it’s really a case of taking your pick. The options run from classy Italian and burger bar to stylish modern Asian.

Brewery tour

The serious drinker may, of course, be more inclined to go straight to the source, which is where Lionzone comes in.

Lionzone claims to be more than just an ordinary brewery tour, but let's face it; most of them work along the same lines. Still, as brewery tours go, it's fairly impressive, taking in the history of brewing, the ingredients and machines used to make the good stuff and all manner of high-tech wizardry.

Naturally, it also focuses on the Lion Brewery brands, including Lion Red and the altogether more palatable Steinlager. And yes, the tour does include some free sampling.


Stardome Observatory

Located in the One Tree Hill Domain, this is where you can go to explore further afield. On Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays it's possible to look through the centre's enormous telescope, but it's the Planetarium show that really captures the imagination. This features spectacular projections of the night sky (including 3500 stars) in a 360-degree theatre.


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