If you've left it too late to book a dream bach, don't despair. There is so much to do during an Auckland staycation, writes Hayley McLarin.

House rules

For it to truly be a staycation, you must treat it like a holiday. Would you go to a friend's bach and clean out their pantry? Would you weed the garden of your Air Bnb? Give yourself a break, even if you are at home, don't do the chores. Instead, plan your break, much like you would a holiday to a different town or city, select two or three things to do each day, and have wet weather options.

Harbour contentment

Auckland residents sail on the heritage boats for half price with proof of address. Get out on the Waitematā Harbour and take in the views of the Auckland Harbour Bridge, Sky Tower and nearby islands. There are two boat sailings on Saturdays and Sundays in January. Tickets are $50 for adults, $25 for children and $95 for families (before the discount).

Get out on the Waitematā Harbour and take in the views of the Auckland Harbour Bridge, Sky Tower and nearby islands.
Get out on the Waitematā Harbour and take in the views of the Auckland Harbour Bridge, Sky Tower and nearby islands.

Something old or something new(er)? Sail a former America's Cup yacht for two hours on the Waitematā. Take the helm or work hard on the grinders to hoist the mainsail during this hands-on sailing adventure. Adults are $185 per person, children $130 (minimum age 10 years).


If you've got the sailing bug, you can learn to sail at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron. The two-day weekend course includes theory and practical sailing sessions on either a 7m Elliott or 10m Farr MRX. The weekend course on January 12-13 costs $500-$580.

If you're not on the harbour, get a great view of it doing the Auckland Bridge Climb. You'll be 60m above the harbour and have 360 degree views that may even include a bungy jump up close and personal. Tickets are $90 children for children and $130 for adults.

Take in the scenery on an Auckland Harbour Bridge Climb.
Take in the scenery on an Auckland Harbour Bridge Climb.

Or seek even greater heights and take the Auckland seaplane for a flight over the harbour. Fly over Rangitoto in a 20-minute flight for $225 (adults), or for $470pp (minimum flight of 4 adults) you can choose the route and take in Great Barrier Island, Waiheke, Kawau – it's up to you. Taking off and landing in the sea is certainly unforgettable.

Continuing the water theme, you can fake it 'til you make it with man-made rapids. Vector Wero has two courses – a mild-but-mighty river, and a heart-pounding river rush, as well as the world's highest man-made waterfall – all artificial waterways providing genuine thrills. Based in Manukau, prices start at $55pp.

Eat, stay love

Dining in the Dark is so popular bookings are already being taken for mid to late January. Challenge your senses by eating dinner in complete darkness, where you can't even see your hand in front of your face. Held at the Rydges Hotel on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, you can book in groups of six or more for $95pp for three courses.

Spice things up with a three-hour tour of six Indian and Sri Lankan restaurants in Sandringham, on Saturday, January 12, for just $55.

Or get more hands-on with a cooking class at the Auckland Seafood School. Former head chef of The Oyster Inn, Paulie Hooton will teach you new ways to showcase NZ Scampi in a three-recipe class on January 12 for $110pp.

One of you wants fish 'n' chips for lunch, another wants a curry, sushi for others? Don't despair, there are two delicious and rather diverse new "grown-up" food courts in the CBD. Whether it's Elliott Stables, one block from the Civic or Queens Rise at the lower end of Queen St, you will find something for everyone. Bon appetit!

White bread tacos at Lowbrow in Queens Rise.
White bread tacos at Lowbrow in Queens Rise.

Even more posh and grown-up is a high tea at Bluebells. This on-trend cake shop has limited spaces for its afternoon degustation, so bookings are recommended. The two stores – in Kingsland and Hillsborough - include crust-less sandwiches and mini scones in their line-up of 10 different delectable delights – all for $45.

Good sports

Be a part of the hoopla and join fellow basketball fans, on Sunday, January 6, when the Sky City Breakers take on the Perth Wildcats at Spark Arena. Tickets are $15.

Children aged 2 to 14 are only $6 for the first T20 between the Black Caps and Sri Lanka at Eden Park. Adult tickets range from $32 to $56 for the match on Friday, January 11.

World-class tennis players take centre court as part of the two-week ASB Classic Tennis tournament. It is ladies first, with the Women's Week from December 31. The Men's starts on January 7.

Island time

Spend two hours seeing Waiheke like never before with Segwai. A two-hour tour of Matiatia and the surrounds (including wineries) on a motorised segway is $120 per person.

Climb to the top of volcanic Rangitoto Island, estimated by the Department of Conservation to take two hours to ascend and descend, you'll have amazing views of your home town.

Endangered bird and reptile species have been re-introduced on Tiritiri Matangi. Take a guided walk to see how this island has been rejuvenated to make this a popular sanctuary.

Rotoroa is small enough to explore in a day. Take a picnic and soak up Mother Nature and a collection of art sculptures, explore the museum that pays homage to New Zealand's longest-running addiction treatment centre.

We are family

Odyssey Maze has a series of rooms to test your senses – quirky physical obstacles, illusions, lighting effects and sound effects to navigate your way through. Based in the basement of Sky World Entertainment Centre at Aotea Square, tickets are children (5+) are $17, adults $22 and family passes $64.

The Odyssey Maze, a nice option if the rain shows up during the summer holidays.
The Odyssey Maze, a nice option if the rain shows up during the summer holidays.

Silo Park has a range of free – yes free – events. This includes an outdoor screening of The Incredibles 2 projected against the tank farm on January 4. Take a deck chair, bean bags or blanket. There are food trucks but your own picnics are permitted too. The next day there's Bubble Trouble, a range of machines blowing bubbles big and small, so people big and small can while away their time bursting them. It's on from noon.

Take in a movie at Silo Park.
Take in a movie at Silo Park.

Tap into your creative side by personalising a ceramic piece at Paint the Earth. From small trinkets to large platters, the studio is bursting with a huge range of pottery that you can paint and have fired. Children can create a masterpiece for grandparents in a great rainy-day activity. You'll find them in Rosedale, Albany.

Another fantastic wet-weather activity is an indoor trampoline park. Jump venues are all over Auckland and a wonderful way to tire out the kids (young and old).

For some it sounds like torture, for others it's a great way to bond with family. Imagine being locked in a themed room and you need to solve all the clues to navigate your way out all within a time limit. They're so popular there are now several providers in Auckland.

I would walk 500 miles

Pounding the pavement is free! Get outdoors on a fine day – you could even turn it into a family challenge to take photos along the way – such as 10 red items, five different leaves, something beginning with F. Go west for Muriwai and the gannet colony, Piha, Bethells, Anawhata and more. Or go eastside, Milford to Takapuna, Long Bay, round the bays from St Heliers to Mechanics Bay. Plan a day's walk – 16km literally across New Zealand – from Waitemata Harbour to Manukau Harbour. The walk includes Maungakiekie's 183m summit. Remember to take wet weather gear, plenty to eat and lots of drinking water.

All the world's a stage

Get up close and very personal with actors when you have a groundlings ticket for the Pop-up Globe. For $20 you are so close you become part of the performance. In the first two weeks of January there are several performances of in Richard III and Taming of the Shrew. Disney's Aladdin the Musical will be a treat for young and old. On at the Civic Theatre from January 3. Tickets start at $60.