Looking for An Interesting Day Trip from Auckland?
Best Auckland Day Trips
Looking for an interesting day trip from Auckland?
Need to escape the hustle and bustle of New Zealand's largest city?
Look no further!
Within a few hours drive from Auckland, there is a diverse range of popular day trips that will cater to everyone's tastes!
Take a look through this selection to find the one that interests you and off you go! Enjoy!
8. PIHA BEACH
14. CATHEDRAL COVE
1. MURIWAI BEACH & GANNET COLONY
1 hour - Car only- no public transport
Muriwai Beach is one of the most underrated tourist destinations in Auckland. It is one of the most stunning west coast beaches with its crashing surf, black iron sand, dramatic 50-km coastline, and unique, easily accessible gannet colony. It should be a must-see on every local and visitor's list of day trips and things-to-see around Auckland.
Muriwai is less than an hour's very pleasant drive from Auckland City through green farmland, a couple of rural villages, vineyards, orchards, and some native bush, out to the rugged west coast and Muriwai Beach. This stunning, windswept, black sand beach stretches along 50 km of the Tasman Sea Coast. Experienced surfers love Muriwai for its huge swells and rolling breakers.
THE GANNET COLONY
It’s a great wild and wind-blown beach to walk along, but one of its main attractions is the gannet colony on the cliff tops at the southern end of the beach. To get close up views drive up the hill opposite the beach cafe to the parking area and follow the well-signposted tracks to the viewing platforms that give great views not only of the beach and out to sea.
From August to March you can expect to see and smell about 1200 pairs of gannets mating, and nesting on the exposed windblown clifftops. From the easily accessed viewing platforms, you can observe them going about their daily business. They are large birds with a wingspan of around two meters. If you visit in December and January you will get a chance to see the very cute chicks too. It’s quite a unique sight and well worth the trip.
2. COAST TO COAST WALK
Walk takes about 4 hours but a pleasant whole day walk. Transport required to return to the start.
Did you know that you can walk right across New Zealand from the Tasman Sea to the Pacific Ocean in just four hours or so?
The 16 km walk (or bike ride) takes you across the narrowest part of New Zealand, from the Waitemata Harbour, downtown in Auckland city, across to the Manukau Harbour at Onehunga. The Auckland Coast to Coast Walk is one small section of the 3000 km Te Araroa Trail which covers walking from Cape Reinga at the tip of the North Island to Bluff at the bottom of the South Island.
On the Coast to Coast Walk, Auckland you will-
visit two coasts
two large stunning parks
and climb to the top of two volcanic cones!
You will wander through a variety of interesting places including historic sites that reflect 600 years of Maori occupation, beautiful green parklands with sheep and cattle grazing, past some beautiful old villas and homesteads, and pass through several interesting volcanic sites:-Albert Park, the Domain, Mt Eden and the iconic One Tree Hill.
The walk gives an excellent overview of Auckland and those important bragging rights to-
“I walked right across New Zealand!”
3. PUHOI HISTORICAL VILLAGE
About an hours drive No public bus
MAKE THE DETOUR
About an hour's drive or 50 km north of Auckland on State Highway 1, just past Waiwera, is a turn-off on the left that signposts "Puhoi." It’s worth a detour if you’re traveling north and it's also a great day trip from Auckland.
Puhoi is one of New Zealand’s few historical villages. In the 1860s eighty-three German-speaking emigrants from Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) were offered free land in New Zealand. After a long 124-day journey, the first group arrived in Puhoi to find their allocated pieces of land were steep and covered in dense forest. The only access was by river.
They were determined and hard-working people and they started clearing their land and building their huts to live in. By the 1880s about 3,000 acres had been turned into farmland and a solid community had been formed and was centered around a school, a boarding house, two stores, a hotel, a church, and a small hall.
PLENTY TO SEE
There's plenty to see there today including the old Puhoi Pub with its wall displays of an eclectic range of household goods and memorabilia, the beautiful timber church of Saints Pewter and Paul, the museum in the old Catholic School, the many times flooded very small library on the banks of the river, the old stores, the landing memorial stone, and the cemetery.
The pub and the Puhoi Valley Cheese Cellar and Cafe are good options for a drink, snack or lunch!
4. HAMILTON GARDENS
About an hour and a half easy drive
Who knew that tucked away in Hamilton in New Zealand is this unique 54-hectare international award-winning garden that was once the local rubbish dump? New Zealanders usually just fly through the Hamilton bypass on their way either to Auckland or heading south without giving Hamilton a second glance. However, in 2020 Hamilton won the "New Zealand's Most Beautiful Large City " award and one of the key factors in the win was the Hamilton Gardens.
The Hamilton Gardens are easily accessed in Hamilton East and located on large park-like grounds on the banks of the Waikato River. It is an internationally award-winning garden that won the 2014 prestigious "International Garden Tourism Area," and attracts over a million visitors a year and at this time entrance is free! It is a unique concept! You don't have to be an avid gardener to enjoy and appreciate it!
EASY DAY TRIP
It's an excellent and very easy day trip from Auckland and an easy stop off if you're on a road trip through the North Island.
You can pop in for just an hour or two to check out a couple of gardens or make a day of it with lunch at the riverside cafe or a picnic on a picturesque spot of your choosing.
FIVE THEMED GARDEN AREAS
There are five major themed garden collections including the Fantasy Garden Collection, the Paradise Garden Collection, the Productive Garden Collection, the Cultivar Garden Collection and the Landscape Garden Collection.
Car- about 2 hours. Public Bus - 2.1/2 hours . Plenty of tour options
If you’re a Lord of the Rings fan then this day trip is for you! While many of the film locations for this iconic trilogy are located near Wellington, Queenstown, and around the South Island, you can actually visit the Hobbiton movie set easily from Auckland in just one day!
THE MOVIE SET
Hobbiton is a movie set that was used for filming the Lord of the Rings as well as The Hobbit movies. Funny enough, the set was built and used for the Lord of the Rings movies and then completely torn down once they were done filming. They actually had to rebuild the entire set identically again to use for The Hobbit movies. This set is what you can tour and visit today!
Located about a 2-hour drive from Auckland, Hobbiton is a full-day trip from Auckland. You must visit the movie set on a guided tour. The classic tour option lasts for about 2 hours and costs $89 NZD. These tours bring you to the set with your guide as you walk the set and learn all about it! At the end, you’ll visit the Green Dragon pub for a complimentary drink – they actually brew their own beer and cider!
If you’re a really big LOTR fan then you can book one of their other tours at Hobbiton including the early access tour (fewer people around) or a tour that includes a movie set lunch or dinner experience!
Be sure to book your tour in advance online as they often do sell out! A popular option is to combinr a trip to Hobbiton with a trip to the Waitomo Caves.
By Bailey from My Queenstown Diary
6. WAITOMO CAVES
2 1/2 hour drive. Public buses. Plenty of tour options
A SPECTACULAR SIGHT
The Waitomo Glowworm Caves are known for their population, Arachnocampa Luminosa, a glowworm species found exclusively in New Zealand. Glowworms, as the name suggests, are bioluminescent worms that illuminate the dark caves like stars in the night sky. A spectacular sight! At these caves, you will see not only see these tiny lights but also learn about the cave's history and explore rock formations that have been 30-million years in the making.
Being just a two and half hour drive (191km) from Auckland, the Waitomo Glowworm caves are perfect for a day trip and can be combined with a trip to Hobbiton too! You can get here by car, by bus or even take a tour with transfers included.
EXPLORING THE CAVES
You have a few options to explore the caves. Take a 45-minute boat ride under a sky of living stars in the Waitomo Glowworm Cave (the most popular option), take a 1-hour guided walk through a treasure chest of sparkling formations at the smallest but brilliant Aranui Cave (has no glowworms), and lastly, a 1.5-hour tour of Ruakuri Cave (the longest walking tour). You can also do a combo of two or all three caves. The tours depart every half an hour from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm. So you can plan your cave visits at your own pace.
If you're up for some really exciting adventure, go Black Water Rafting where you'll abseil, zipline, and tube at the Ruakuri Cave. A super-fun experience! There is a 3-hour option called Black Labyrinth and a 5-hour option called Black Abyss.
There are restaurants where the tours finish, so enjoy a delicious meal at the Waitomo Cave Visitor Centre or Waitomo Homestead, before heading back to Auckland.
Visiting the Waitomo Glowworm Caves is an absolute must-do in New Zealand. Why? They're easily accessible from Auckland and house the most unique creatures that create such a magical setting!
Explored by Trisha and Modi from TryWanderingMore.Com
7. BETHELLS BEACH (Te Henga)
An hour by car. No public transport
Bethells Beach is easily one of the best beaches in New Zealand! And the best part is that it is located only a short 45-minute drive from Auckland! Its close proximity to Auckland makes it one of the best day trips from Auckland for both locals and tourists alike. Bethells Beach stretches over about 2 kilometers. It is a stunning black-sand beach that the North Island’s west coast is famous for. Volcanic activity many years ago made the sand the interesting, and beautiful, black color that it is today.
THINGS TO DO
At Bethells Beach you can choose from a variety of different activities. You can go swimming, surfing, visit the nearby O'Neil's Bay, or visit Bethells Cave. At low tide, I highly recommend going to the cave. When you’re facing the water, walk to your left along the beach until the very end. Here, you will find a cave! Also, be sure to visit the nearby sand dunes. Just down the road from Bethells Beach is a trail you can walk to Lake Wainamu. This walk takes you to some seriously epic sand dunes!
There are limited facilities at Bethells Beach. You’ll find a basic toilet, and sometimes during the summer months a food truck is parked there. Also, during busy times there is usually a lifeguard on duty. This is really handy as the waves at Bethells Beach can be quite strong – only confident swimmers should enter the water and always swim in the designated swimming areas!
By Daniel from Destinationless Travel
8. PIHA BEACH
40 minute drive. No public buses
Piha is a 'must-do' on New Zealand’s beautiful North Island. With its volcanic black sand beaches and rugged coastal walks, it’s a fabulous way to escape from nearby Auckland. In fact, it’s just a 40-minute drive away from the city.
BLACK SAND & WATERFALLS
When visiting stunning Piha Beach itself, you can spend your time relaxing on the black-sand shore, do the short walk up Lion Rock for views back over the beach, or learn to surf with a local surf school. No day trip to Piha would be complete without a visit to one of the nearby waterfalls too, with Kitekite Falls being the nearest.
My favourite thing to do in Piha is to do the stunning local walks, with the Mercer Bay Loop Track offering plentiful memorable cliff views over this coastline. This walk begins with fantastic lookouts across the Piha coastline as you follow the track down the Te Ahua headland, passing what was once the site of a Maori pa* settlement along the way. This walk is not far from the splendid Karekare Falls and Karekare beach. Just bring plenty of sunscreen and don’t forget to stop for lunch at Piha Cafe.
MORE INTERESTING WEST COAST BEACHES
To fully appreciate this hilly coast, drive further north to Bethells Beach, where you can climb up the giant sand dunes (or sandboard down them)! Finally, no trip to Auckland’s West Coast is complete without a stop at the fantastic Muriwai Gannet Colony.
By Cassie from Cassiethehag
9. WAIHEKE ISLAND
40 minute ferry ride
BEACHES & VINEYARDS
Stunning Waiheke Island is just a 40-minute ferry ride from Auckland and is the perfect easy day trip from the city. As the second-largest island in the Hauraki Gulf, with over 83 miles of coastline, there’s plenty to see and do on Waiheke. The island is best known for its beaches and vineyards, of which it has plenty. The perfect day on Waiheke could easily be spent between the two, with regular buses traversing the island, as well as taxis or car hire if you prefer.
Oneroa Beach, Palm Beach, and Onetangi are three of the best beaches on the island, all with soft sand and calm waters which are ideal for swimming and kayaking. Visitors could spend the morning at the beach before enjoying a midday hike in the cooler native forest inland, followed by an afternoon wine tasting at one of the island’s renowned vineyards. Many of these have excellent restaurants too - the perfect place for a lazy long lunch with stunning panoramic views to boot. My personal favorite is Cable Bay Vineyards, which I highly recommend visiting!
ARTS & CULTURE
Alternatively, the island also has a bustling arts and culture scene, with its main town Oneroa being home to dozens of excellent boutique art galleries and independent stores. Make sure to drop by the Waiheke Community Art Gallery, which showcases some of the best New Zealand art and offers some great exhibitions, focusing on a wide variety of art forms including ceramics and glass.
HOW TO GET THERE
To get to Waiheke, head to the ferry port in downtown Auckland and jump on one of the regular ferries. There’s no need to book in advance, and the ferry costs just NZD $21.00 per adult each way.
By Claire from Stoked to Travel
10. TIRITIRI MATANGI ISLAND
75 minutes boat ride
NATURE LOVERS' PARADISE
Located north-east of Auckland is Tiritiri Matangi Island, one of New Zealand’s protected conservation projects. The island is a nature lovers paradise, with lush forests, unspoiled beaches, and the sound of birdsong everywhere you wander. Being a spectacular natural attraction so close to Auckland, Tiritiri Matangi is a hidden gem just waiting to be explored.
70 SPECIES OF BIRDS
This unique island is home to over 70 different species of birds, many of which can only be found in New Zealand. While walking through the forests, the rare birds make it effortless for visitors to spot them, as they perch and sing just a few meters away.
280,000 TREES PLANTED
After most wildlife was destroyed by farming, volunteers aimed to create a new habitat for all species living on the island. Over
280,000 trees were planted, helping Tiritiri flourish into what it is today. The island is also free from any mammal predators, allowing endangered bird and lizard species to survive and grow in numbers.
HOW TO GET THERE
Tiritiri can be accessed by ferry, departing from Auckland or the Gulf Harbor on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula. Return tickets cost $82 for adults and $50 for children and must be purchased online from the Fullers Ferry company. The ferry ride from Auckland takes 75 minutes, or from Gulf Harbor, 20 minutes. We recommend booking well in advance, as only a limited amount of people are allowed to visit the island each day, to help preserve its nature and habitats.
When purchasing tickets, you have the option to take part in a free 90-minute guided tour by a volunteer. They explain the various bird species on the island and show the best spots to see and listen to them.
If you are looking to escape the city for a unique day trip, Tiritiri Matangi Island is the perfect place to visit!
By Matt Potton from www.nohassle-travel.com
11. WAIPU CAVES
About 2 hours by car. No public transport
ALL ABOUT WAIPU CAVES
Waipu Caves are beautiful caves located in New Zealand's North Island, near the town of Waipu (about a 2-hour drive from Auckland). Waipu Caves create a picturesque limestone karst area where you can find stalactites, stalagmites, and most importantly glow worms! It is the largest cave system in Northland. Waipu Caves are open to all visitors without any fee. The great thing about the Waipu Caves is that you can see the glowworms at any day or night time.
WHERE TO ENTER. WHAT TO EXPECT.
The entrance to the cave is approximately 50 meters from the car park - just across the meadow. At the borderline of the forest, there is a stream and cave entrance. It’s good to be prepared to get wet and muddy because there is water down to the cave (except for the first chamber – so if you don’t want to get wet, visit the cave during the night).
The second chamber is great for seeing glowworms even during the day. If you continue to the third chamber, the water is deeper (above the knees) and there aren't many more glow worms than in the second chamber.
If you are entering the cave be a respectful visitor:
- keep noise to a minimum,
- don’t use any insect repellent,
- use only the minimum light to get through the cave,
- and never touch glow worms.
There is a freedom campsite right at the Waipu caves car park – so there are toilets and an outdoor cold shower. Unfortunately, there is no cell phone coverage, but you can purchase Wi-Fi access if necessary.
By Adriana Plotzerová from Svatbeni.cz
12. BAY OF ISLANDS
3 hour drive
Within a simple three-hour drive North of Auckland, you will find yourself at one of New Zealand’s most beautiful natural wonders.
The Bay of Islands is best explored by a passenger ferry service ($13 for adults, $6.50 for children), however, plenty of New Zealand cruises also frequently visit this gorgeous area. Here, you will find miles on miles of pristine beaches and rugged coastlines surrounding the bay, which is dotted with 144 tiny islands.
The beauty of the islands is exactly why you need to take this day trip. While at the Bay of Islands, you can explore the beach, go dolphin sightseeing, try sea kayaking, and take fishing trips. If you prefer to get into the refreshing waters, there are two notable wrecks in the region—the Rainbow Warrior and the HMNZS Canterbury. These popular dive sites offer options for both beginners and advanced divers starting at $130.
Another great option to discover a birds-eye-view of the Bay is through parasailing. If you are an adrenalin-junkie, this activity is definitely for you! Prices start at $77 where you will soar over 1,300 feet above the water, witnessing a remarkable view of the area.
To learn more about the history of the Bay of Islands, head inland to the Russell Museum. For $7.25, you will receive an in-depth explanation of this Bay’s past. The museum contains plenty of exhibits and a large collection of Maori artifacts, historical photographs, and even a massive replica of Captain Cook’s ship for you to explore.
KERIKERI'S RAINBOW FALLS
Lastly, head out to Rainbow Falls in Kerikeri to discover one of New Zealand’s most accessible and stunning waterfalls. This 88-foot-high waterfall is beautiful from all viewpoints, whether you hike to the top or bottom of the falls.
By Ellie from Ellie's Travel Tips
13. COROMANDEL PENINSULA
2 hours+ by car. Ferry-2 hours Bus 3 - 4 hours depending on destination in Coromandel
HOW TO GET THERE
One of the best day trips from Auckland is the Coromandel Peninsula, located on the east coast, only two hours from Auckland City by ferry or car. You can find rocky inlets, sandy bays, and Kauri forests. To reach the Coromandel Peninsula, you have the option of driving, hiring a car, exploring on a 'do it yourself' tour, or you can opt to go on a paid trip with a local expert. These tours will cost around $200, depending on which activities you choose to do.
The top tips to remember for your Coromandel Peninsula day trip, are to wear comfortable walking shoes, bring swimwear and take some water, so you're ready to hike, swim and bathe.
PROPOSED DAY ITINERARY
In a day, you can see many of the main attractions that the Coromandel has an offer. A day itinerary could include some (or all) of the following highlights. Driving the Creek Railway Train through the rainforest and seeing the mighty Kauri Trees up close. Visiting Hot Water Beach where you dig your own bath in the thermal waters below the sand. The temperatures rise to 60-degrees. Remember to visit at low tide to experience this natural phenomenon, and if you go on a tour, they will factor this in for you.
MORE STUNNING PLACES TO SEE
Another famous spot on the Coromandel is Cathedral Cove and the beautiful scenery that surrounds it. It attracts many tourists because of the white-sand and the out-of-this-world rock formations. Nearby, if you want to get more off-the-beaten-track, you can explore New Chums Beach, The Pinnacles and The Coromandel Coastal Walkway. The spectacular scenery and variety of outdoor adventures makes this one of the best day trips from Auckland. It's time to unwind!
By Rachel from Average Lives
14. CATHEDRAL COVE
2-3 hours drive. Plenty of tour options
ESCAPE THE HUSTLE & BUSTLE OF AUCKLAND CITY
The biggest change from the hustle and bustle of Auckland you can get within only a 2-hour drive has to be the Coromandel Peninsula, and the best spot on the Coromandel Peninsula is without a doubt Cathedral Cove. This place has all you could wish for in a day trip; perfect golden sand beaches, stunning coastline scenery and the most beautiful natural rock arch you’ve ever seen. Oh, and did we mention that it is completely free too?!
HOW TO GET THERE
Start your day by driving to Hahei and park at the Hahei Beach Car Park, or at the Hahei Visitor Car Park if the one at the beach is full. If it is a hot day you’ll feel tempted to run across the beach and take a dive into the water, but we assure you that a much nicer beach awaits, so hold on a bit longer. Instead, pack yourself some food and drinks for a picnic lunch and start walking to Cathedral Cove.
The walk there takes about 45-60 minutes and takes you over the coastal cliffs along the coastline, showing off sweeping views the whole way there. Along the way, you’ll also find two short side-tracks. The first leads to Gemstone Bay which is a great spot for snorkeling, and the second is Stingray Beach where you can often find stingrays in the shallow water.
THE GRAND FINAL!
Finally, the grand final is Cathedral Cove itself. With its perfect sandy beaches and a massive rock arch that provides passage from one side of the beach to the other, it is a truly mesmerizing sight. Through the archway, a huge pyramid-shaped rock is visible in the shallows, and after rainfall, you’ll see countless little waterfalls coming down from the rocks surrounding the arch. Words can barely describe the beauty of this place, you honestly have to see it with your own eyes.
Less than 3 hours by car. 3 1/2 hours by bus
SO MANY THINGS TO DO!
At just under three hours outside of Auckland, Rotorua makes for an amazing day trip! There are so many different things to do in Rotorua you’re bound to find something to fall in love with. You can spend your day zipping through the treetops on a canopy tour ($149+) while learning about the ecosystem and the history of wildlife in New Zealand. Or you can spend your day taking a gondola up a mountain and riding a luge down ($50+)! Rainbow Springs Nature Park ($30) is also a great place to spend time exploring as you get a chance to get up close and personal with kiwis and countless other birds native to New Zealand. I highly recommend visiting in the afternoon and then coming back at night as the kiwis are nocturnal and much more active after dark!
If nature is more your scene, the Whakarewarewa redwoods are just five minutes away from downtown Rotorua and features New Zealand’s largest trees. It’s completely free and even opened to four-legged family members. It’s great for a walk in the woods but they also have mountain bike trails if you’re looking for something a little more fast paced. For the adventurous types, try the Treewalk ($30). It will suspend you 20 meters up while you walk between 28 different swinging bridges. If you were hoping to find geothermal activity without going all the way to Waiotapu, Rotorua has got you covered there too. The Kuiaru park has natural mud pools, hot springs, thermal foot baths and a crater lake. Plus, it’s open to the public and free!
Rotorua is also home to Mitai Maori Village. This experience gives an authentic glimpse into Maori culture through a cultural performance and traditional hangi meal ($80). You’ll learn about Maori customs and about the art of Ta Moko. If you’re lucky, you may even get to spot some glow worms at the end of the night! Rotorua is a hub for adventure of any kind and the perfect glimpse into the culture and history of New Zealand.
By Samantha from Have Seat Will Travel
3 hours drive
SMALL COASTAL TOWN
While Auckland may have the largest population density in New Zealand, just north of Auckland is a nearly empty land, full of beauty. The small coastal town of Tutukaka on North Island, New Zealand makes for a great escape from the big city and can be visited on a day trip as it is only about three hours away!
FAMOUS SCUBA DIVING SITE
Tutukaka is best known for its location near Poor Knights Island, one of the most famous scuba diving sites in the world. Underwater explorers can find sea turtles, scorpionfish, and many other living varieties that are not found anywhere else in New Zealand. Note that if you do want to scuba dive at Poor Knights Island, most tours start in the morning, so you will have to leave Auckland very early—5am or earlier—to arrive on time. Book a tour through Dive! Tutukaka, which costs around $340 for two dives, or less if you have your own gear or just want to snorkel.
Beyond scuba diving, Tutukaka also has many beautiful and practically empty beaches. One that requires a short hike down to it is Whale Bay, where you can swim, picnic under a tree, and take in the gorgeous sights of turquoise water.
GLOW WORM CAVE
Not too far from Tutukaka is a glowworm cave that is much easier to book a tour with than the popular Waitomo Caves near Hamilton. These caves, called Kawiti Caves, offer small walking tours of glowworms in an intimate setting. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about glowworms from a knowledgeable guide and enjoy viewing them close up.
Grab a bite to eat before heading back to Auckland at Wahi Restaurant, where you can dine outside on fried potatoes, seafood, and fresh salads. Tutukaka may not be well known, but it is a beautiful, secluded place worth visiting and makes for a great day trip from Auckland!
By McKenna Hurd of One More Step Travels