It is Auckland's exclamation point, the city's transcendent landmark.

Isn't it scary how fast 20 years has zipped by since Auckland's skyline was first redefined by the construction of the beloved Sky Tower.

I was living in Auckland at the time, hosting Newstalk ZB's Overnight Show, and the rise of the tower struck me as the city's coming of age.

I recently enjoyed an Auckland weekender to celebrate the milestone anniversary.


Picking up a Thrifty rental car from the airport, I purred into the city in surprisingly short time, thanks to the recent opening of another engineering triumph - the Waterview Tunnel.

Costing an eye-watering $1.4 billion, the largesse is mind-blowing, but it sure short-circuits travel time in and out of the city centre.

Twenty years on, the Sky Tower is still a record-breaking tall boy, maintaining its stature as New Zealand's tallest man-made structure and the tallest free-standing structure in the southern hemisphere.

Since 1997, it has entertained nearly 15 million guests, whether it's to wine and dine, to indulge in the gut-shuddering adrenalin pursuits or simply to lap up the lofty panorama.
On a clear day, the 360 degree views reach out for over 80km to Great Barrier Island, the Waitakere Ranges and the Bombay Hills.

One of Gusto's tantalizing offerings.
One of Gusto's tantalizing offerings.

In addition to the tower, I took the opportunity to sample some of SkyCity's alluring culinary offerings. For dinner, I headed to the rustic and Italian-inspired masterpiece of Gusto at the Grand.

Showcasing good honest food, classic flavours and fresh seasonal ingredients, the menu is curated by celebrated chef Sean Connolly, and the dishes are designed to be shared.

My recommended share plate dishes include Clevedon buffalo mozzarella, heirloom tomato and basil; Cloudy Bay clams, spaghetti, garlic chill and parmesan; or how about Sardinian ravioli, potato, mint and pecorini sage butter?

The decadent Sugar Club, one of Sky City's finer restaurants.
The decadent Sugar Club, one of Sky City's finer restaurants.

The sharing and pairing and noshing continued the following day over lunch, high up on the 53rd level of the Sky Tower at the decadent roost, The Sugar Club.


This is the fourth incarnation of Peter Gordon's restaurant and the décor evokes 1930s Art Deco Italy with brass fittings, sublime tableware and stone table tops.

The Fusion Cuisine menu is centred around small seasonal plates brimming with flavour, with the finest produce sourced from New Zealand, mixed up with exotic flavours.

I luxuriated for two nights at Skycity Hotel Auckland which offers stylishly appointed air-conditioned rooms and suites with free Wi-Fi, a big flat-screen TV and an iPod docking station.

After a tasty breakfast at Andy's Burgers and Bar it was time to follow in the footsteps of Justin Bieber, Tom Cruise, Michael Buble and Beyonce and ascend the tower for some elevated adventure and a walk on the wild side!

Skywalking around the Sky Tower.
Skywalking around the Sky Tower.

Skywalking gets heart pumping

Strolling around the Sky Tower pergola, 192 metres above ground, sounded like a very relaxing notion.

But what I didn't envisage is the pergola doesn't have any hand railings. So once outside on the circular platform, I felt queasily exposed with nothing but air on either side. Deep breaths, deep breaths!

Despite being harnessed to an overhead safety line, I felt hideously uncomfortable.

Summoning the fortitude to stay on-task, my fellow Skywalkers and I were led on an exhilarating walk around the Auckland skyline, circumnavigating the walkway, while our fabulous guide snapped photos and video as we performed sky-high ledge-leaning exploits.

It's an enthralling, heart-pumping and utterly unforgettable experience. The endorphin rush left me feeling tingly for the rest of the day.

Beyond the CBD, I jumped in the rental car and headed over to the well-heeled, genteel streets of Devonport.

Devonport's North Head.
Devonport's North Head.

The delightful suburb's esplanades, fringed with Victorian homes and cottages, serve up sizzling perspectives on the city skyline and across the Hauraki Gulf.

We then headed up North Head, one of the oldest of Auckland's 50 volcanic cones, formed over 50,000 years ago.

The cinematic harbourside views competed for my attention alongside the historic vestiges of North Head's fortifications.

The view from North Head
The view from North Head

The sweeping collection of military installations date from the late 1800s through to the Second World War.

From the summit of North Head, I gazed over the golden sweep of Cheltenham Beach and the gigantic conical icon of Rangitoto. Auckland's greatest natural letterhead.