Auckland New Zealand
It’s hard to imagine a more geographically blessed city than Auckland. Its two magnificent harbours frame a narrow isthmus punctuated by volcanic cones and surrounded by fertile farmland. You’ll be astounded at how close the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean come to kissing and forming a new island. As a result, water’s never far away – whether it’s the ruggedly beautiful west-coast surf beaches or the glistening Hauraki Gulf with its myriad islands.
The 135,000 pleasure crafts filling Auckland’s marinas have lent the city its most durable nickname: the ‘City of Sails’. Within an hour’s drive from the high-rise heart of the city are dense tracts of rainforest, thermal springs, deserted beaches, wineries and wildlife reserves. Yet big-city comforts have spread throughout the Auckland region: a decent coffee or chardonnay is easy to find. As well as being the largest, it’s the most multicultural of NZ’s cities, with a sizable Asian community and the biggest Polynesian population of any city in the world.
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The impossible-to-miss Sky Tower looks like a giant hypodermic giving a fix to the heavens. Spectacular lighting renders it even more space-age at night. The colours change for special events and shooting fireworks make it even more phallic on New Year’s Eve. The tower is the best part of the SkyCity complex, a tacky 24-hour casino with restaurants, cafes, bars and a hotel. At 328m it is the tallest structure in the southern hemisphere. A lift takes you up to the observation decks in 40 stomach-lurching seconds; look down through the glass floor panels if you’re after an extra kick. It costs $3 extra to catch the skyway lift to the ultimate viewing level. Late afternoon is a good time to go up:
you can sip a beverage in the Sky Lounge as the sun sets.
The Sky Tower offers an ever-expanding selection of pant-wetting activities. If you thought the observation deck was for pussies, Sky Walk involves circling the 192m-high, 1.2m-wide outside halo of the Sky Tower without rails or a balcony – but with a safety harness (they’re not completely crazy).
Sky Jump is an 11-second, 85km/h base wire jump from the observation deck of Sky Tower. It’s more like a parachute jump than a bungy and it’s a rush and a half.
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