Piha Beach, on the wild Tasman coast, is famous for the Lion Rock vistas, black sand beaches, great surf and deadly rips. If you venture into the water, do so only between the lifeguard flags. Changing rooms, a shop and campground are available. If coming in summer, bring plenty of sunscreens and a hat as it can be blistering hot on the black sand. The beach is also spectacular on a wild, windy day. From north Piha, there are walking tracks to more secluded beaches.
Surrounded by the water, Waiheke Island is known to be the second-largest island of the Hauraki Gulf. Freckled with an abundance of caves, the island branches into several peninsulas, breaking up the coast into a series of tranquil bays. The island's beaches are spotless and a popular choice for family picnics. Visitors may also wander around the island along the various trails that riddle its cliffs and slopes. Waiheke houses many art galleries and sports facilities, as well as a cinema, a theater and various wineries. Waiheke Island's prime attractions include the Whakanewha Regional Park, the Waiheke Community Art Gallery, the Oneroa Bay, Onetangi Beach, the Cascades Waterfall and Pohutukawa Reserve.
Located in the heart of Piha's tropical forests is Kitekite Falls, a beautiful tri-level 40 meter (131 feet) waterfall that that flows into a pristine pool. After a comfortable trek through lush forests, visitors are rewarded with the sight of gorgeous white ribbons of cascading water bordered by tall towering trees and Nikau Palms. Take along a picnic and enjoy it on the banks of the pool after a refreshing swim. The adventurous can swim under the falls to emerge behind the sheet of tumbling water. This place is great for a casual hike or a picnic with family and friends and should not be missed.
Just a short walk east from the city center, Auckland Domain is New Zealand's oldest municipal park. Founded in 1840 by Governor Hobson, the Domain features the Auckland War Memorial Museum, an outdoor fernery and botanic The Wintergardens, a band rotunda (watch for free concerts on summer weekends), sculptures, lawn bowls, kiosks and more. The Domain is the location of the huge concerts such as Coca Cola Christmas in the Park when 300,000 people jam in for a night of music and fireworks.
Fo Guang Shan Temple is a beautiful example of Asian temple architecture and is a place of true peace and serenity. The temple welcomes visitors and features fantastic and awe-inspiring statues of Buddha, well-maintained grounds, a small eatery that serves delicious meals, and a souvenir shop. Prayer services are frequently conducted for the religious. A visit to the Fo Guang Shan Temple is definitely a must when in the city.
Piercing the sky like a needle, the Sky Tower is known to be one of the tallest man-made structures in New Zealand and is a part of the SkyCity Auckland casino complex. To best experience the view from the top, visitors are provided with not one, but two observation decks that offer sweeping views of the city skyline. The first is at a height of 186 meters (610 feet) while the Skydeck is perched on the 60th floor, exactly below the main antenna, offering unrestricted views of Auckland's ever-expanding cityscape. The Sky Tower also features restaurants, bars and thrilling activities such as Sky Walk and Sky Jump. The Sky Walk involves a strolling a platform that encircles the tower at a height of 192 meters (629 feet) whereas the Sky Jump is for true adventurers, offering visitors a chance to leap off the Sky Tower while safely suspended by a wire that runs the length of the Sky Tower.
Jonathan Grant Galleries were established in 1984, specializing mainly in 19th and 20th century English and continental paintings. They also deal in antipodean painting and historical New Zealand watercolors. Some more recent New Zealand artists found at Jonathan Grant include Jan Nigro (painting), Josephine Davis, Ion Brown and Ken Kendall (bronze sculpture). The Galleries also provide a specialized conservation and restoration service, valuations, an art consulting service, and they make gold-leafed frames. In 1988 the galleries were expanded to include Artists Gallery next door, specializing in contemporary New Zealand work, and Dilana Artists' Rugs, a permanent display in "the Basement".
Hauraki Gulf Marine Park is an expansive water reserve that is home to thousands of wildlife and plant species. Covering an area of almost 1.2 million hectares, this amazing park covers almost 50 islands and offers you an array of exciting experiences to engage in. One of the most popular activities here is island hopping where you can get a front seat to all the beauty this massive marine park has to offer. Engage in a hiking trail, go bird watching, or simply take a walk on the beach and unwind with your loved ones.
The Muriwai Gannet Colony sits on the cliffs overlooking Muriwai Beach, Maori Bay, and two offshore islands. This place is all action between September and February, with chicks hatching in the spring and flying off to Australia at the age of 15 weeks. They return three to seven years later to repeat the process. The views from the lookouts are spectacular with booming surf, extruded pillow lava formations in the cliffs and gannets soaring in the breeze.
The New Zealand Tsi Ming Temple is entered through a large, elegant gateway of traditional design. There is a fine statue of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva in the garden. The temple itself is in finely decorated traditional Chinese-palace style. The doors are finely carved with symbolic wheels. You can light incense and make offerings. A large statue of Sakyamuni Buddha, flanked by two other Bodhisattvas, stand inside the temple. Contact the abbess, Master Chang Shuen, for service times. Visitors are welcome. Most services are in Chinese (Mandarin), and there is also an English session. Services are generally followed by a free vegetarian lunch.