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Bay of Plenty

Self Drive and plenty at Bay of Plenty

Self Drive is undoubtedly the best way to See New Zealand and I personally experienced the advantages of Self Driving in New Zealand as we started the next leg of our itinerary. We picked up 4 x 4 vehicles from Budget Rent-a-Car from Auckland airport.

Before you plan to Self Drive in New Zealand, let us look at what are the advantages for the Indian traveller. Firstly, driving in New Zealand is on the same side of the road like India. Secondly, your Indian driving license is valid and you do not need to apply separately for an international driving license. However, it is important that your date of birth and name in the driving license is the same as on your passport as at times there may be discrepancy and in such cases your license will not be accepted by car rental companies. Thirdly, you should have an international credit card which is swiped by the car rental company at the time of handing over the keys to you to recover any liabilities that may be due such as fines for speeding, etc.

Personally, I have driven in Switzerland as well as from Montreal to New York and I did find that for a first timer who has not driven outside India, New Zealand is the best place in the world to Self Drive as firstly the roads are not very busy, secondly it is easy to navigate across the country and the only thing you need to adhere to are the basic principles of following the traffic regulations and guidelines and you can definitely explore more of New Zealand self driving rather than taking a seat-in-coach tour.

There are various car rental companies who offer one way rentals. So you could start your self drive from Auckland and cover major regions of North Island and ferry your car across Cook Strait from Wellington to Picton and then explore South Island. You should be equipped with a good map book and have a navigator sitting next to you who can assist you in taking the right route to your destination.

One of the better map books worth investing is the New Zealand Travellers Road Atlas by kiwipathfinder and you can get it at any bookshop in New Zealand for less than 30 New Zealand dollars (under Rs 1000). It is worth the investment whether or not you are self driving as it gives you a detailed maps of the entire country including town maps, North and South Island touring routes and much more. So even if you are taking a seat-in-coach tour, you can keep track of your route with distances by referring to your map book.

After picking up our vehicles from Budget Rent a Car, we first chalked out the route to head towards Tauranga which is also known as Bay of Plenty, a name given by the 18th Century Navigator James Cook as the Bay is a haven for nature lovers, adventure seekers and is set in a natural harbour surrounded by vast, clean, ocean and beaches.
The region is one of the country’s premier holiday destinations and is located 2 hours 30 minutes away from Auckland. We started from Auckland airport and headed south towards the direction of Hamilton. As we reached Bombay Hills, we turned in the direction of State Highway 2 which would take us to Tauranga. Whilst driving on highways the maximum speed limit is 100 kilometres per hour whereas in the city and urban areas the limit to be maintained is 50 kilometres per hour.

We checked in at the Oceanside Twin Towers Resort which is a luxury five star accommodation located at the foot of the Mount and offers stunning ocean and harbour views from private balconies which face the coast.
The resort has a wide range of accommodation starting from one and two bedroom suites which are fully equipped with kitchens complete with fridge freezer, oven, microwave and complimentary tea and coffee. The two bedroom apartments can accommodate upto six people and is ideal for larger families. Then they also have the honeymoon suite as well as executive studios and large luxury apartments.

We were to spend two nights at Mount Maunganui and the Bay of Plenty as the region has plenty to offer. So after a quick check-in we were joined by a local Maori guide Mere who took us for a cultural walk up the Mount. During this 40 odd minute trek up the mount, she narrated to us how the Maoris came here. It was drizzling and the walk was one of the most exciting experiences of our trips as not only did we get breathtaking views of the Tauranga Moana Area but also got an insight into the history of the Maori people.

Later that evening we had the opportunity to explore the area. Across the Main Beach there are a number of cafes and the downtown areas offers a wide array of restaurants besides opportunity to shop in one of the boutique shops as well. The region is very popular for surfers, swimmers and those who want to try out some of the water sports activities and hence one can find many youngsters and sports enthusiasts frequenting this area.

Later that evening we dined at the award winning Latitude 37 restaurant which offers international cuisine. I would highly recommend any visitor to this region to visit the restaurant located at 37 Maunganui Road not only known for its culinary innovation but also for the ambience. It is one of the newest restaurants in the area.
The following morning after breakfast, we headed to Whakatane which is 90 kilometres from Tauranga and in about 1 hour 30 minutes we reached this coastal town which is the main base for trips to White Island – New Zealand’s only live marine Volcano which lies around 50 kilometres off the coast of Whakatane. White Island can be accessed either by boat or by helicopter.

We did not know whether it was possible to step aboard the Peejay and head towards White Island and this would be our first experience to walk on an active volcano. I was pretty excited and before boarding the Peejay we had to check-in at the White Island rendezvous located on the Whakatane wharf where the crew gave us a briefing before we boarded the vessel.

Our boarding the vessel and alighting on White Island was subject to weather conditions and therefore it is always a good option to have a back up plan in case the tide is high and it gets difficult to get to White Island.

There are several places that one could visit such as Te Puke or the Kiwifruit Capital of the World which is located very close to Whakatane and is 25 kilometres away from Tauranga. Kiwi360 offers the largest visitor attraction in the Western Bay of Plenty and is the international home of Kiwifruit. You can climb aboard a Kiwicart and tour the orchards as well as visit the Horticultural Theme Park and discover why Kiwifruit is the world’s healthiest fruit. It grows better in New Zealand than anywhere else in the world.
Although it was drizzling a day earlier and there was cloudy weather as we left Mount Maunganui, there was good news as we were told that the Peejay boat would be heading to White Island. The entire duration including going and returning from the island by boat is 5 to 6 hours. The trip from the wharf is 80 minutes. If you get fine weather you could enjoy a smooth sailing along with view of active marine life. We happened to see a few seals on the way perched on a rock. We were first given a briefing about the do’s and don’ts of the trip and were handed some safety gear which consists of a hard hat. However, we were unlucky as within a few metres of proximity of White Island the sea started getting rough and we were forced to turn back. So we missed out on what would have been an exciting trip.

However, the crew on board knowing our disappointment did tell us what the tour generally comprises of. Once you are close to White Island, you are ferried across on an inflatable boat to a concrete jetty and after climbing a short ladder and negotiating a few boulders, you reach the shore where the tour of the active marine volcano begins. You walk along the inner crater and see the remains of old sulphur mining factory up and close and view the bright yellow sulphur crystals as you reach the main crater’s edge. Here you can here the hissing, roaring and feel the steam rising from the crater lake and feel the awesome power of Mother nature. After this experience, you board your boat and have lunch before heading back to the shore.

In our case we headed back within the first 80 minutes due to bad weather but that gave us the opportunity to visit the Comvita Visitor Centre which is located close to the Paengaroa village at a short distance after the intersection of State Highways 2 and 33 as you head from the Whakatane Wharf back to Mount Maunganui. It is located on the road which leads to Rotorua.

At Comvita we had the opportunity to visit the education gallery to experience live bee displays and sample the native Manuka honey of New Zealand. After a short halt at Comvita, we proceeded towards Longridge Fun park which was a few kilometers away. We were greeted warmly by Geoff and Mary Brown – the owners and operators of this wonderful child friendly place which gives you a truly KIWI experience. After a quick lunch, we spent the next couple of hours on this 125 acres property which has loads of activity for children of all ages and is a place to spend an entire day.

You can do a farm tour and feed farm animals or take a jet boat on the Kaituna river and get the thrill of 360 degree jet spins besides enjoying a 30 minute ride through a narrow, native, bush-clad gorge thru one of North Island’s most scenic river. You can walk in the orchards and pick your kiwifruit or even go on a 4W U-Drive on an adventurous track or even do white water river rafting. No doubt it is extremely popular for kids as we did see a school bus full of kids who were out enjoying themselves on a day excursion at Longridge Fun Park. Later in the day, we visited Blokart Heaven which is in close proximity at Papamoa on the way when you head back to Mount Maunganui. A blokart is a small, highly maneuverable wind-power kart and is a combination of go-kart and a wind surf sail weighing about 29 kilograms and this is the only place in the world where you can experience the thrill of this adventure sport on a purpose-built blokart speedway and maneuver your vehicle keeping in mind the direction of the wind. It’s an ideal place to test your skill and it is the ultimate place to test your skill on this land yacht.

This invention over the years has gained enough popularity that there are international blokarting tournaments and this invention of Paul Beckett has today become the world’s number one land based sail sport. Because of its small size and maneuverability, once you learn the skill to use it blokart can be used anywhere – on beaches, in sports and recreation areas and even on ice. It is portable as the 29 kg blokart can easily fit in the trunk of a car. It takes a few minutes to either assemble or pack it that too without the use of any tools. There are several blokart clubs across the world. Blokart is one more invention from New Zealand – the most innovative country for adventure sports. After a long day and loads of activity that we experienced we headed back to Mount Maunganui and later we dined at Bombay Brasserie- an Indian restaurant in the downtown area of the Mount. Indian food is indeed popular in New Zealand and you find Indian restaurants almost everywhere and not just in the big cities.

Bay of Plenty has plenty to offer and we had the opportunity to try out some of the activities that the region is well known for. The next morning we headed to the birth place of tourism almost a 100 years ago – ROTORUA the land of geysers, spas, adventure and Maori culture and what better way to start our tour of this city than to jump from an altitude of 12000 feet and free fall at the speed of 200 kmph?

Bay of Island

Heading towards Bay of Islands

On day two in New Zealand, we headed to Paihia and we had a representative from Private Transfers and Tours to come and pick us up from the Sky City Hotel in Auckland to take us to the gateway to the beautiful Bay of Islands which is in Northland, also known as the First Region of New Zealand. Paihia is approximately 250 kilometres from Auckland and within 3 hours driving distance from the City of Sails.

En route we had the opportunity to take a short stop to see a Kauri tree. Northland is believed to be the region of Kauri Trees and when the westerners came they cut down most of these trees to make way for farmlands. However, there are more trees up in the north especially in Waipoua Forest where some of the trees date back to almost 2500 years or 500 B.C. One such tree is Tãne Mahuta or the Lord of the Forest as it is popularly known and is the largest living Kauri Tree in New Zealand. At Waipoua, you can take a 4 hour signature tour known as the “Twilight Encounter” which departs in the evening and is organized by Footprints Waipoua.

We also halted at Whangarei to see the Claphams Clocks Museum which has an amazing collection of clocks – the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. Established in 1940, the museum is a major attraction as you come face to face with amazing timepieces, hear the unique chimes and cuckoos whilst learning about the international history of clock making. This is indeed an educational and entertaining experience for people of all age groups. From a variety of cuckoo clocks to music boxes and even a version of the Big Ben, you find an entire range of clocks all under one roof.

We arrived at the Paihia Beach Resort and Spa which is one of the finest resorts of the region having won several awards for its property including the highly coveted World Travel Awards. The 5 star resort has 21 self contained and serviced units on 4 levels and is located on Ti Bay beach which overlooks the Bay of Islands. The resort offers stunning ocean views from each of its balconies and patios and is a couple of minutes drive from the shopping area of the region. The resort is 25 minutes from the Kerikeri Airport from where we were to take the Salt Air flight to Cape Reinga on the following day. The resort besides having one of the finest spas, was also voted by Condé Naste Traveller amongst the top ten spas in Australasia. It also boasts of an award winning sea view cum pool side restaurant called Pure Tastes which is headed by executive chef Paul Jobin and has won numerous culinary competitions and food awards.

The accommodation especially the deluxe rooms and superior suites are fully equipped comprising of private balconies or patios, kitchen facilities, DVD players, Hi-Fi Systems and all amenities that you would find in any high quality luxury resort to give you an ambience of a home away from home. An ideal place for honeymooners or family who wish to visit the Bay of Islands any time of the year as Bay of Islands is well known for its year round pleasant climate in the range of 20 to 25 degrees celcius. Paihia as a place is a town which is on the coast line and has several cafes, restaurants, arts and crafts as well as various accommodation options comprising of hotels, studios and apartments. It is the biggest city in Northland with a population of 1.2 million people. After checking in at the resort, we left our luggage and headed to the historic Waitangi Treaty Grounds – New Zealand’s most historic site where the Treaty between the Maori Chiefs and the British Crown was signed in 1840, the year when New Zealand became a nation. Some of the oldest traces of Maori settlement is found in Northland and today Northland is known for its spiritual peace as much as it is known for the various thrilling adventure activities which we were to experience during our stay in this region.

Before taking our guided tour of the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, we had a brief halt for lunch at the Waikokopu Café which is located in the beautiful setting of the Waitangi Treaty Grounds and is extremely popular not only with the tourists but the locals as well for its extensive range of edibles and coffee including a wide variety of vegetarian cuisine. It is a child friendly place as well and this was apparent from the fact that there were quite a few families present at the Café. Thereafter we started our tour of The Waitangi Treaty Grounds which comprised of visiting the major parts of the Waitangi National Trust estate comprising of 506 hectares. The Treaty of Waitangi was signed on 6 February 1840 at the Historic Treaty House. Entry to the Treaty Grounds is through the Visitor Centre which has an artifacts gallery and Treaty displays as well as an audio-visual theatre and souvenir gallery. The grounds besides the Treaty House also has a fully carved Maori Meeting House, a Maori war canoe and exhibitions as well as extensive park-like grounds with native bird life, heritage trees and offers great views of the Bay of Islands right across to Russell. Russell is a small town which during the 19th Century was branded as the “hell hole of the Pacific” due to the lawlessness prevalent during the 1830s.

It is then that the British Government appointed James Busby as the British Resident in New Zealand who arrived in Paihia in 1833 and settled in Waitangi and later played an active role as a mediator between the British and the Maori people. The main feature of the agreement was to ensure that the two people the Maori and the European settlers primarily from Britain would live and work together as one nation. Even today the agreement guarantees the rights of both the Maori and non-Maori citizens in New Zealand.

As part of our tour comprising of 90 odd minutes we visited the Treaty House, the Maori Waka or Canoe which is on display and is 35 metres long. Known as Ngatokimatawharorua, the canoe requires a minimum of 76 paddlers to handle it safely on water and is on display since 1940 as part of the Centenary Celebrations of the historic treaty. The canoe was made from three massive kauri trees felled in the Puketi Forest and is a larger version of the waka which was used to carry visiting and raiding parties on long coastal voyages before and after the first European settlers arrived in the region. We also visited the Te Whare Runanga or the Meeting House which was also opened for display during the Centenary Celebrations and stands alongside the Treaty House. Runanga which means “to discuss in assembly” is unique as it can be shared by all Maori Tribes. There are various carvings within the house which depict ancestors from several tribes.

Later in the evening, we headed back to our resort and we had the opportunity to experience the facilities at the resort or take a walk along the coast. We ended our day by enjoying some fine international cuisine at the award winning Pure Tastes restaurant at the resort in the pleasant company of Robyn Bolton, the General Manager of Destination Northland who played an active role in co-ordinating the itinerary for our visit to this wonderful region.

The next morning we were glad to experience some fine weather and we were well on track to take the 6 seater Cessna flight which would take us from the Kerikeri Airport flying over 90 mile beach and landing south of Cape Reinga – the northernmost tip of New Zealand and the meeting point of the Tasman Sea with the Pacific Ocean. The entire tour by flight takes around 5 hours and includes one hour flight and thereafter a 2 ½ hour experience on the Top of New Zealand which includes exploring Cape Reinga, and Te Paki quicksand stream where you can do sand tobogganing on the giant sand dunes. Thereafter we took the one hour flight back to Kerikeri Airport. The tour is operated by Salt Air Cape Reinga and you can return back to Paihia in time for lunch if you start at around 7.30 in the morning. However, for those who might experience air sickness it is strongly advisable to go on a light stomach on the Cessna and have a wholesome meal after returning back.

There are options of doing the Ninety Mile Beach and Cape Reinga by road as well. However, that would take the entire day and instead it would be recommended to do a Fly and Drive package which can be done in half a day and would cost 365 NZD (approx Rs 11000) and is well worth a trip. The flight over 90 mile beach including to and fro from Cape Reinga is spectacular and offers panoramic views of this beautiful region. One of the interesting facts to note is that the 90 mile beach is in fact only 55 miles or 88 kilometres long and in 1932 was used as a runway for flights from New Zealand to Australia for airmail. When the tide is low, you can drive along the 90 mile beach also known as the sandy highway on a luxury Waverider Coach and enjoy some scenic wonders of the North of New Zealand.

On our way back we had lunch at Nine which is one of Paihia’s newest restaurant and a wine bar and a popular meeting place for locals. Thereafter, we checked in with Fullers Bay of Islands at the Maritime Building to board the Excitor and take the high speed boat to take a cruise through the Hole in the Rock. The 90 minute cruise takes you zooming through the islands to Cape Brett passing by the Motukokako Island through the “Hole in the Rock” into the majestic Grand Cathedral Cave and back past Cape Brett Lighthouse. We were fortunate to get a glance of some dolphins swimming across although there are exclusive cruises not only for dolphin and whale watching but also you can swim with the dolphins as well as experience a 20 minute Nautilus Submarine Undersea Adventure on Urupukapuka Island on taking a full day cruise with Fullers Bay of Islands. The full day cruise costs NZD 105 ( approx Rs 3200) with a dophin sighting guarantee.

Later we alighted at Russell to do a mini-bus tour of this wonderful town which once was known as the Hell Hole of the Pacific. Around 1820 at the waterfront of Russell, there were several brothels and liquor shops. It was once quite a busy place with as many as 40 ships on shore at Russell at any given time. A lot of people who came here especially prisoners used to jump ships which were heading to penal colonies across in Australia. Today, this town has about a 1000 people living here and in January you find as many as 10000 people here as most of the houses out here are holiday houses and during the summer months you have people coming to stay in their holiday homes as well as there are tourists coming as well. There is Oyster Farming, commercial fishing and big game fishing which are the activities that are popular in Russell. There is also arts and crafts and tourism is a great employer of people of this town. A lot of retired people live here and the new millionaires such as the plumbers, carpenters and electricians have also brought property in Russell.

We boarded our bus and started the one hour tour and the driver cum guide gave us some interesting information about this town. It was Zane Grey, the American Novelist who came to Russell in 1930s and he put Russell on the international map as a place for big game fishing. The holiday homes in Russell are extremely popular and some of the better known properties are sold at a price between 1.5 and 2.5 Million NZD. We started our tour to get a closer insight into New Zealand’s earliest European history and the itinerary included short stops at the Cannon which was first sighted in 1917, the Maritime Visitors Centre, Pompallier, Clendon House, Anglican Church, Russell Primary School and the highlight being the spectacular views that you can get from Flag Staff Hill.

Russell in Maori is known as Kororareka and the legend goes that a Maori chief wounded in battle asked for some penguin broth to be brought to him and after drinking the broth he said “Ka reka te korora” which meant how sweet is the penguin. Eventually the town got its name of Kororareka from korora- the blue penguin and reka which means sweet. The unique feature of the town is that over the years it has continued to preserve its historic character and maintain its tranquility inspite of having a very turbulent past especially in the middle of the 19th Century. Later that evening we had some Indian cuisine at Paihia at The Indian Aroma restaurant which is on the waterfront at the Hansen Café within the Maritime Building itself.

The place that we missed out on was Kerikeri which is in the northern part of the Bay of Islands and is the largest citrus growing area in the country with oranges, mandarins, lemons, grapefruits, kiwifruits, avocados, olives and macadamia nuts also grown in the region. Kerikeri is historically important as it was the first Mission Station where the missionaries came and it also has some of the most historical buildings in the country. The Bay of Islands is a natural harbour and there are as many as 300 yachts a year which come across the Pacific and they come here to enjoy the summer before heading to Fiji, Tonga and other Pacific Islands. We bid adieu to the Bay of Islands and headed back to Auckland the following morning to pick up our 4 x 4 vehicles from Budget Rental Cars to explore the Bay of Plenty. After leaving Auckland airport around noon time we headed south from Auckland airport towards Hamilton in the direction of Tauranga which is a 3 hour drive from Auckland. I must admit that the best way to see New Zealand is by self drive.


Exploring Auckland the City of Sails

My first visit to New Zealand was in the peak of New Zealand summer in December and unlike the summer in India where the scorching sun is beating upon you, the temperatures in New Zealand during summer are pretty moderate, around the mid – 20’s Celsius. If you were planning a visit during our summer holidays which is autumn or the beginning of winter in New Zealand, the autumn hues are truly spectacular and a sight to die for.
New Zealand , in the Southern Hemisphere experiences climates opposite to what we experience in India – the winter months are from June to August, followed by Spring from September to November, Summer from December to February followed by autumn from March until May. As the climate is very rarely extreme –either in winter or summer and places like Nelson receives sunshine almost all year round, New Zealand is pretty much a year round destination to visit.


When you look at New Zealand on the map and its proximity to Australia, you might think of combining both these countries which is not what we would recommend. As the diversity that New Zealand offers across its three islands – it is a stand alone destination that you need atleast 3 weeks or even more to explore.
I started my visit in North Island in December 2006 with a group of other Kiwi Specialists and we flew on Malaysian Airlines with a transit stop in Kuala Lumpur. New Zealand has flight connectivity from India via Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong, Malaysia and South Korea (as on September 2013) . The average flying time is between 16 hours and 20 hours including transit and it may be a good idea for you to break your journey on the way back from New Zealand. Most airlines fly in and out of Auckland, whereas Singapore Airlines also have flights to/from Christchurch in the South Island.
To optimize your flying expenses, it is best advised to plan your holiday for atleast a fortnight if not more as the right balance of a holiday is one where your length of stay should be equivalent to the flight duration to reach your destination.


We arrived in Auckland – the gateway to North Island and New Zealand , also known as the city of sails. If you are transiting Australia to enter New Zealand it is important to have a transit visa for Australia or else you may be denied onward passage to New Zealand.
One of New Zealand’s greatest asset is its relatively geographical location – one of the reasons that the air you breathe in is so pure as it is a country known for its lush vegetation, farming and natural beauty and major parts of the economy are dependent on the country’s environment. Less than 10% of the world’s pest and disease occur in New Zealand and for this very reason, there are restrictions on importing food, plant and animal products and our Destination Experts should be able to advise you items to avoid before your travels.

Auckland Harbour Bridge

On our arrival we check-in at the SKY CITY HOTEL – centrally located in Auckland’s CBD , 45 minutes drive from the airport and in a complex that houses two hotel properties, a casino and the Sky Tower – the tallest manmade structure in New Zealand- known for the adventurous Skywalk and Skyjump as well as a stunning view from its 360 degrees revolving restaurant.
Auckland and its environ has lots to offer and you could easily spend a couple of nights in Auckland. Auckland has over 1.5 million habitants which is more than 1/3rd of the 4.4 million population of New Zealand. Within the area there are 21 regional parks, 50 volcanic sites and a coastline of over 1600 kilometres. The CBD is a good location to stay stretching from the Sky Tower down to Wellesley Street and up to Queen Street – which is the main area for shopping.


A visit to Auckland is incomplete without a sail boat experience and during my visit , we had the opportunity to sail on an ex-America’s Cup Grand Prix racing yacht which was one of the highlights of our stay in Auckland.
Whether it is a Maori Guided Walk, or a visit to the Fish Market on Jellicoe Street, or a sailing course on the Waitemata harbour or a bush and beach half day wilderness experience on a historic luxury launch, Auckland has a wide variety of options for the discerning traveller. The Dolphin and Whale Safari Expeditions or a visit to Snowplanet – an all year indoor snow resort or a spa at Spa du Vin at the Heritage Hotel are some other interesting experiences that Auckland has to offer. For wine lovers, you needn’t go out of the city centre as in the city itself you have New Zealand’s Winemakers Centre where you can do souvenir shopping and take back wine gifts at the corner of Victoria and Elliott Street which is within walking distance of Queen Street- the main shopping street in Auckland. For those who miss out on the South Island and the International Antarctic Centre, you have the Kelly Tarlton’s Antarctic Centre in Auckland. There is also a Butterfly Park which is very close to the airport.

Auckland Wine

During my visit , I got the opportunity to visit the Sky City Complex . Here you could spend an entire day as there are lots of activity which are open up to the wee hours of the morning. The complex itself besides its two casinos, has an east day spa, a rooftop pool and gymnasium where you can burn your calories after eating at any of the 17 restaurants, cafes or bars. The complex has a theatre as well as a convention centre and live entertainment as well. The highlight of our stay at Skycity was the visit to the Sky Tower . We were fortunate to not only get a clear day but also we could see a rainbow across the horizon. The Sky Tower is 4 metres taller than the Eiffel Tower in Paris and stands at 328 metres. The Sydney Tower in Australia is at 324 metres. At the Sky Tower, there are three viewing platforms which offer breathtaking views of the city. The Sky Tower is truly an architectural wonder as it is made from 2000 tonnes of reinforced steel and can withstand winds of upto 200 kmph.


In a mere 40 seconds you can with the help of three glass towers reach the Main Observatory Level located at 186 metres and right below you have the Sky Lounge Café where you can enjoy a coffee and get a fine view of the city. Orbit is Auckland’s only revolving restaurant located at 190 metres and to get a night view of the city, you can even enjoy dinner at the Observatory Seafood Buffet Restaurant located at 194 metres and is well known for serving the finest seafood in New Zealand. The Observatory is the highest dining location in New Zealand. The adventurist can do a vertigo climb which takes 15 minutes and takes you up to 50 metres to reach the height of 270 metres, nearly 1000 feet above sea level.
The Sky Jump is one of the high adventure falls from a height of 192 metres and in mere 14 seconds and at a speed of 85 kph you can reach nearly ground level and you come to a gentle halt. Unlike bungy, you do not hang upside down but you are tied to a harness and all you have to do is jump and the ground rush is unbeatable. This 630 feet jump is New Zealand’s highest jump and is ideal for daredevils who love life. Even Tom Cruise couldn’t resist from Sky Jumping during his visit to the Sky Tower. If your adrenaline has not reached an all time high after the Sky Jump, not too far from the Sky City you can try the reverse bungee where you are suspended by elastic cords and by a push of a button, the chair wherein you are seated leaps into the air and there is an upward thrust which is quite reverse to the Sky Jump.


I was already looking forward to going to Rotorua which was part of my itinerary as I had a few of the adventure activities lined up for me including Sky diving, Bungee Jumping and a few other high adrenaline activities.
Later that evening, we went to the Viaduct Basin or the Waterfront which is the best place to be in the evenings with the cafes and bars lined up and you get a lovely view of the harbour with hundreds of sail boats as well as high speed boats docked along the shore.
Auckland has several Indian restaurants and we dined at the Tagore Restaurant which is in the heart of the Viaduct Basin. Thereafter, we visited the coolest place in Auckland which goes by the name of Minus 5, now renamed as Freddy’s Ice house. Located at the Princes Wharf on Quay Street, Freddy’s Ice House truly offers a unique experience – a not to be missed place when in Auckland. This unique ice bar is the invention of two Kiwis – Barry and Lenin, who found themselves driving across Russia to meet up a friend. These intrepid travellers were driving in extreme climate on icy plains and the car came to a halt. On close inspection, they found out that the radiator had a problem as the water was missing and they were stuck in ice and surrounded by snow.

Local Area

Lenin, removed the car door window and came up with an idea of using it as a magnifying glass and when the sun rose in the morning, it melted the ice, the water of which was used to fill the radiator and they were off in the morning. Sitting in the car without the door, the temperature further dropped and Lenin gasped “it’s got to be below zero” as he had another beer to which Barry added that “it’s bloody Minus 5 and the beers are frozen and asked Lenin to pass the vodka. Lenin added “Of course, the vodka, you want to hear a crazy idea Barry and the crazy idea was to start the Minus 5 ice bar and possibly the franchisee was sold over the years and now you can visit Freddy’s Ice House.

Sky Tower

The amazing experience begins from the front desk where you are handed over a cool gear comprising of an overcoat, a hat, shoes and gloves which you can wear over your clothes and you are all set to enter the ice lounge where the temperature is maintained at -5 degrees celcius. On entering the lounge, you are handed over your drink in the glass which is frozen in ice and you can enjoy your drink in extreme temperature and at the same time have a look at the various ice statues that surround you in various shapes and sizes.
The experience of surrounding yourself with nearly 18 tonnes of hand sculpted ice including the walls, the bar, the sculptures, the seats and even the glasses in which you can enjoy a vodka based cocktail truly makes it a chilling experience and at the same time delights your senses.
Our next stop the following day was at PAIHIA – the gateway to the beautiful Bay of Islands in Northland


Interesting facts about Sky Tower:

  • Sky Tower was constructed in 2 years and 8 months using 15000 cu.m of concrete, 2000 tonnes of reinforcing steel, 660 tonnes of structural steel and 170 tonnes in the mast.
  • You can travel up the Sky Tower by lift in 40 seconds which is 4.6 metres per second.
  • Sky Tower weights 21 million kilos which is equivalent to the weight of 6000 elephants.
  • There are 1267 steps from the base of the Sky Tower to the Sky Deck and it would take a person 29 minutes to reach the Sky Deck walking at 4 km per hour.
  • The glass floor panels of Sky Tower are 38 mm thick and are as strong as concrete.
  • Sky Tower regularly treats visitors to the city as well as local Aucklanders with stunning lighting displays for special occasions like Christmas, the Sky City Starlight Symphony, outdoor concert and major local events.