I'm planning a trip to New Zealand in early July, 2019, with 3 boys, ages 19-22. High energy, outdoor activities needed. Flying in and out of Auckland, staying for 10 days. Flying to Queenstown for 4-5 days and skiing, but want other activities in and around Queenstown. Thinking of using Auckland as home base for second half of trip, not sure if we should stay in downtown Auckland or on the outskirts. What are best activities within day-trip driving distance of Auckland that involve outdoor activity, especially in early July in potential rain.
Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand, endless daredevil activities on offer. Also, look at skiplane skiing on the Tasman Glacier on Mt Cook. Weather dependent and pricey, but less than heliskiing in North America.
If you are staying in Auckland and enjoy skiing, look at going to Whakapapa on Mt Ruapehu. It is a bit more than a day trip, but an overnight in one of the lodges would work. I found the skiing there far superior to any of the areas in Queenstown, but it is weather dependent, Socked in would be no fun. Skotel lodge is nice.
Wellington is a great city, but may be too far from Auckland.
You may like Hobbitown, the Lord of the Rings Hobbit village, south of Auckland. North of Auckland is Bay of Islands.
What a great trip you'll have! Queenstown and surrounds is perfect for what you are looking for. Some things you may want to consider:
- It's Winter and the weather can be changeable and very challenging to travel plans in all parts the country. For this reason I'd plan to stay longer in Queenstown to make sure (a) you can get there, (b) you get suitable weather for your activities and (c) you can get out again! I fear the 4-5 days may risk some disappointment.
- NZ and Australian school holidays - I'm sure google will tell you when these are, but Australians love to come to Queenstown to ski. You can hear them a mile off. They are loud.
- Queenstown was once a small town with a couple of roads in and out. It now has a lot more visitors, and sometimes the traffic infrastructure can't cope! Be patient. You will get where you want to go. Parking can be a pain if you're not prepared to walk a little bit. People seem to complain about this a lot, but plan accordingly and zen it out. The views make up for it.
- If you're driving, fuel is expensive. If you go to Wanaka it's even more expensive! Other things may be more expensive than you're used to but remember that tax is included (15%) and tips are not expected (NZers don't really tip, but may round up if paying cash, as coins are a pain). It is not rude to not tip.
- Consider Wanaka as an alternative - a bit less hectic but as a result less activities based from here. If you have a car it's worth a visit.
- Queenstown has a nice apres-ski scene. Drinking age is 18.
- There are all sorts of activities - aside from skiing... https://www.queenstownnz.co.nz
- Personally, I'd skip allocating time in/around Auckland, other than having a buffer for your international flights, since your time is limited (and your desire for high energy activities lends itself to Qtown). However you may want to look Rotorua or Waitomo (caving and rafting), although both are a bit far for a self-drive day trip. I'd stay in downtown Auckland, unless you don't plan to do anything in the city centre (eating, museum, sky tower).