Predominantly gay group of men who meet monthly for hiking. Recent medium/hard trip: five hours to cover 18 kilometers. From Overnight at Rotorua, drive to north end of Lake Okataina, trek from Okataina Outdoor Pursuits Camp to high above western Okataina lakeshore, mostly through bush. After a couple of hours trail as ascends to the Whakapoungakau Trig take lunch. Then steep climb for 20 minutes for dramatic views of Lake Rotorua, Lake Okataina and Lake Tarawera. On return take a well-earned soak in thermal pools at Hot Water beach or Polynesian Pools in Rotorua. Next day climb up Mount Ngongtaha, or take time to meander the mature Redwood groves in the Whaka forest.
The historic Auckland Town Hall is a fascinating building used for both civic government purposes as well as performances in its famed Great Hall and Concert Chamber. Built in 1911 and having gone extensive renovation and restoration since then, the Concert Chamber is home to the largest pipe organ in the country, and is world-renowned for its acoustics – it regularly hosts everything from classical orchestras to rock concerts. The Town Hall sits on Aotea Square, the city’s main public space, used for concerts, events, and political rallies. The square features some lovely public art. In the centre a large bronze fountain locally called the “mountain,” and at the Western entrance is a wood and copper arch called “Waharoa” (Maori for “Gateway”) featuring traditional and modern symbols of New Zealand. Also flanking the square is Aotea Centre, the city’s main theatre venue.
A group put together by two Auckland gay motorcyclists to meet up and ride with other gay men who enjoy taking the bikes out for runs around the beautiful countryside of New Zealand.
Underwater World is a unique aquarium experience and the brainchild of New Zealand marine archaeologist Kelly Tarlton. The aquarium was built in former sewage storage tanks with visitors travelling on a conveyor belt through the tanks in a curved acrylic tunnel. The aquarium’s Antarctic Experience includes a penguin habitat and a recreation of the hut used by Robert Falcon Scott during his 1912 expedition to the South Pole. Other exhibits focus on sharks, stingrays, and tropical fish.
New Zealand is famous for its rugged natural beauty, so try to get out of the city and see the North Island. Active Earth offers 10-day hiking and camping excursions that begin in Auckland and end in Wellington, passing through some of the island’s most pristine natural wonders. Each trip includes the rainforests of Whirinaki/Urewera, kayaking the Rotorua lakes, and hiking in Tongariro National Park and on the volcano Mt Taranaki.
From pretty much anywhere you are in Auckland, you’ll be able to spot the iconic Sky Tower – the 328-meter tall observation and telecommunications tower dominates the sky and is the tallest structure in the southern hemisphere. The top levels of the tower include a revolving restaurant (it’ll rotate the full 360 degrees over the course of a one-hour meal) and café, and a glass-floored “skydeck” allowing unobstructed views straight down. From the highest observation deck – 220 meters – you can see up to 82 km! If you’re truly feeling adventurous, you can take a “SkyJump” – a 192-meter guide-cable-controlled jump from the observation deck, on which you rocket to the ground at up to 85km/h!
For a day in paradise, take a 45-minute ferry to Waiheke Island, which is full of nature and wineries. The Te Whau Vineyard is located on a bluff overlooking one of the most beautiful sites. Give a call to the folks at Waiheke Art & Vineyard Tours (0800-529-252) to take a look around at a very reasonable price. The Waiheke Winegrowners Association has more information.