From biking to climbing to golf, Auckland Airport's The District buzzes with adrenalin-fuelled fun, discovers Donna McIntyre.
If, like me, you make the trip to Auckland International Airport usually only to catch a plane or to meet someone flying in, think again. There's a mini-city close to the airport that includes many fun activities.
Runway Mountain Bike Park
Ignoramuses that we are - two adults, two teenagers - we had no idea the airport's The District includes Runway Mountain Bike Park, offering free-to-ride off-road trails. The route loops about 5km, and more trails lie within the park, which resembles a big overgrown paddock. Varying terrain allows novices to grow their ability. Accomplished bikers will relish bumps and tree stump obstacles.
We're impressed. The tracks are good as they are ... but there's lots of potential, too. We'd love to see more natives planted. We used Natural High's hire bikes, but you can bring your own. And parking's free.
Teen verdict: Loop track is the preference; fat air and a jump.
JK's World of Golf
Backtracking to our check-in airport assignment, we collect a decent-sized bucket of golf balls, a driver and iron from JK's World of Golf front desk and proceed to whack the hell out of those little white balls. A few attempts get us into the swing of things and I start calling myself Tigress Woods. If you're keen, sign up for lessons.
Teen verdict: Fun, a few good shots to be proud of.
After the exertion, we relax at Villa Maria's Ihumatao Vineyard. Again, our blinkered, outdated view of the area means we've never ventured out to this South Auckland's jewel. The grounds are magnificent and we tour the sustainable winery before settling in for a Vineyard Cafe lunch.
A 35-minute self-guided walkway overlooks the 40ha property's manicured greenery; and during the winery/bottling plant tour we view the harbour and Otuataua Stonefields. Overseas travellers often leave baggage at the airport and head to the winery for their last hours in New Zealand. Clever them. This may be our first visit but it won't be our last.
Teen verdict: An understated "really good". (Their smiles say more than their words.)
Day two, Rocket Ropes. I marvel at my husband's and the boys' agility as they confidently negotiate the rope course.
My experience starts and ends on the first plank. Guide Brian assures me I have the skills to complete the course. I like that he's encouraging but not insistent. Another time perhaps, but I enjoy spectating, especially watching the kids who easily negotiate the course followed by apprehensive parents giving it a go so they share the experience.
Looks easy from the ground but challenging and confidence-building stuff when you're higher up.
Teen verdict: Liked all levels. Some of it is scary.
At Rainbow's End we delegate riding the $2.5 million Stratosfear to the teens and they are spun around and turned upside down to emerge smiling.
Again, it's been a while since we'd been there so we love how management has spruced up the park's appearance, especially Kidz Kingdom's mini-rides, carousel and play area. The boys ride the Fearfall, we enjoy the Motion Master 4D theatre and the roller-coaster, my eyes shut but my mouth open, screaming.
Teen verdict: Impressed
At Formula E electric indoor racing karts we don helmets, listen to a safety briefing and then the males go full blast (35km/h), while I take a nana-driver approach. On our second run, director Phil Buckley gives me tips and only then do I confidently throw the kart around those corners and accelerate on straights.
Great, adrenalin-producing fun while always feeling safe. I can see why team competitions are popular with work groups and Phil says companies report a few laps on the track fuels participation later in the upstairs conference room.
Teen verdict: Brilliant, awesome.
is only a short drive from all the activities around the airport, including Rainbow's End, Rocket Ropes and Villa Maria Vineyard.
With 12 generously sized apartments and complimentary continental breakfasts for all guests included it's a no brainer for business or pleasure travellers alike. The two-bedroom unit is perfect for us and we appreciate having a balcony. It's a central base, with off-road parking.
Teen verdict: Spacious, and the continental breakfast in room is great as it allows a little sleep-in.
It's time to head home, to school routines, but we're already and more educated on how The District is more than just airport terminals.
Donna and family were guests of Kudos apartments and The District.