In the first 18 months after it opened in August 1997, Sky Tower drew over a million visitors, making it New Zealand's most popular paid attraction. At 328m (1,076 ft.), it is one of the tallest buildings in the Southern Hemisphere, affording unforgettable views over the sprawling mass of Auckland. It has three observation decks, including an outdoor area, a glass lift and glass floor panels, multilingual audio guides, and a revolving restaurant. Access to the observation decks is on three glass-fronted elevators, which can whiz up the building in a speedy 40 seconds. I'm petrified of heights but even I got a thrill out of going to the top. I just closed my eyes in the glass lift!
The Lower Observation level is accessible by stairs (for the very fit) and has two restaurants, Orbit (a revolving restaurant) and Observatory (buffet-style); reservations are suggested. The Main Observation level features the latest technology, with live weather feeds and touch-computer screens that give geographical information. The Outdoor Observation area holds high-powered binoculars and is open to the elements. The Sky Deck is the highest public viewing area, with 360-degree views through seamless glass.
Afraid of Heights? -- Sky Tower was designed to provide a high level of performance in the event of earthquakes, severe winds, storms, or fire. It is built to withstand winds gusting to 200kmph (124 mph); it has protected fire refuges; and analysis shows it would stay standing in an earthquake of 8.0 magnitude on the Richter scale occurring within 20km (12 miles) of the tower. So put aside your fears (if I can, anyone can), and have a breathtaking experience.
Sky Jump -- When we talk about special moments, this may not be what you had in mind, but one thing’s for sure: You won’t soon forget this experience! Sky Jump is one of New Zealand’s wackiest adrenaline rushes—perhaps the ultimate! For details on this 192m (630-ft.) controlled free fall from the Southern Hemisphere’s tallest tower, call tel. 0800/759-586 in NZ, or 09/368-1835, or check www.skyjump.co.nz. It costs NZ$225 for adults, NZ$175 for children (ages 10–15), and NZ$700 for a family (2 adults, 2 children). MasterCard and Visa are accepted. It operates daily from 10:15am to 5:15pm, weather permitting (closed Dec 25). Minimum age is 10 years with parental consent. Maximum weight is 120 kilograms (265 lb.).
And if that isn’t thrill enough on its own, brace yourself for Sky Walk (tel. 0800/759-925 in NZ, or 09/365-1464; www.skywalk.co.nz), operated by the same company, at the same location. Sign up for this daredevil adventure and you’ll be attached to a harness and asked to walk around the pergola ring of Sky Tower, 192m (630 ft.) above the streets below. It requires far more courage than I could muster and costs NZ$145 adults, NZ$115 for children, and NZ$460 for a family. Sky Walk has eight daily departures at 10:15am, 10:45am, 11:45am, 12:15pm, 2:30pm, 3pm, 4pm, and 4:30pm. Closed December 25.