A trip to New Zealand often starts in Auckland, the largest city in the country. After about three days you’ve seen the city and it’s time to travel to the next destination. NO! Not just yet! The immediate surroundings of Auckland offer much more beauty.
Did you know that you can make all kinds of day trips from the city within a two-hour drive? Continue to wander around Auckland and surf along black or white sandy beaches. Look out over the azure sea from the top of grassy hills while enjoying a picnic with local wine. We give you a taste of the most beautiful places in the area that you really want to see. Here is our list of day trips from Auckland.
TRAVEL TIP: Before discovering the wonders of Auckland, make sure your luggage is secure. Check out mindmybag’s storage locations in Auckland.
- Taste wine and olives on Waiheke Island
- Meet the newest island: Rangitoto Island
- Discover the history of Motutapu
- Go on an adventure through the pristine nature of the Waitakere Ranges
- Waitakere Ranges Regional Park
- Unwinding from your adventure on the Coromandel Peninsula
- Climb the dormant volcano, Mt. Eden
- Auckland Museum
- Shopping in Parnell
- Viaduct Harbour
- Industrial with fish: Silo Park and Fish Market
- View Auckland from above: Sky Tower
- Sushi and other good food in Auckland
- Across: Devonport (and Takapuna)
Taste wine and olives on Waiheke Island
Green hills are covered with leafy forests, vineyards and olive groves. That’s what you see when you approach the coast of the eastern Waiheke Island by boat from the azure waters. It’s not for nothing that this island was in Lonely Planet’s top five best destinations in 2016.
Once the boat is docked, explore the hills via the Matietie Walk or one of three Stony Batter Historic Reserve walks. Along the way, sample a Merlot or a Cabernet Sauvignon at one of the vineyards. Atop the hills, you’ll have sweeping views of the green surrounding islands and Auckland’s mainland.
Meet the newest island: Rangitoto Island
One of Auckland’s most iconic islands in the northeastern, symmetrical Rangitoto. Auckland’s youngest and largest volcano. Rangitoto rose from the sea 600 years ago.
Bring a torch and adventure through the black lava caves you’ll encounter on the way to the summit. Or let the 4WD train take you around the island. Get on at the quay and let the train take you to the start of the summit. For the last three hundred steps, you climb to the top yourself. At the top you’ll look out over the emerald islands of Hauraki Gulf, right up against the Auckland skyline and even the peaks of the rugged Waitakere Ranges on Auckland’s west coast can be seen.
Discover the history of Motutapu
Where Rangitoto is the youngest volcano, Motutapu Island was first inhabited some 180 million years ago by the Taikehu people, the ancestors of the Maori. Later, the island was used as a military base during World War II.
Explore the island and bend over the remains of World War II barracks on a hike along the Motutapu Walkway or to the North Junction. Along the way, keep your eyes open, you might spot the kiwi or the takahe. This small blue bird with green feathers looks a bit like a small peacock.
Go on an adventure through the pristine nature of the Waitakere Ranges
Do you prefer the unspoiled nature? Then you need to be on Auckland’s west coast, where the hiking trails of Waitakere Ranges Regional Park lead you to a somewhat unusual coast. Indeed, through pristine jungle, home of the Kauri snail, glow worms and the native long-tailed bat, you emerge from a black sand beach.
Take a hike on the Fairy Falls Track that leads you through the jungle of the island from the endpoint of the Fairy Falls past the overflowing pools to the starting point of the falls. After your hike, take a dip in the sea on the black sands of Piha Beach. Clamber up the rock a little further to take in a sweeping view of the sea from Tasman Lookout with the wind in your hair.
The Northland, the northern peninsula northwest of Auckland, is one of the most beautiful parts of the North Island.
– Bay of Islands
About 3.5 hours drive from Auckland is one of the most popular destinations on the North Island, the Bay of Islands.
A beautiful bay, where the clear blue colour of the water contrasts beautifully with the poison green hills and golden beaches. The 16 km long bay is a draw for fishermen, sailors and all types of tourists.
Paihia is the tourist centre of the Bay of Islands. From here you can make pleasant boat trips to the surrounding islands. Along the way, you may see dolphins.
– Giant Kauri trees
On the west coast, north of the town of Dargaville, there are still some real primaeval forests, with the world’s largest trees, the kauri trees. Of all the kauri forests in New Zealand, Waipoua Forest is the best known. Just a 5-minute walk from the main road you will come to the Tane Mahuta, probably the largest tree you will ever see in your life. This “Lord of the Forest” is about 2,000 years old and is located in a green oasis of green rainforest, with rare birds, immense ferns and many other giant trees. One tree in Waipoua Forest is even older, the Te Matua Ngahere, “Father of the Forest”: it is estimated that this tree is between 2500 and 3000 years old.
Waitakere Ranges Regional Park
West of Auckland is the Waitakere Ranges in the Auckland Centennial Park, hills that continue to the west coast, where they turn into rugged cliffs. The entire park includes more than 16,000 hectares of jungle and coastline, 250 km of hiking trails, beautiful beaches, breathtaking views, waterfalls and cliffs.
Piha Beach is one of Auckland’s most famous black sand beaches. It is a popular haven for swimmers and surfers. The beaches on the west coast of New Zealand are generally wilder than those on the east coast.
Unwinding from your adventure on the Coromandel Peninsula
But the real paradise is found on the Coromandel Peninsula. This peninsula is adorned with snow-white beaches and overgrown white cliffs that stand out against the azure sea. Further, into the peninsula, you drive between mystic hills. This idyllic piece of New Zealand is about a two and a half-hour drive east of Auckland. Coromandel in New Zealand is among the most popular attractions. Azure waters, idyllic beaches surrounded by lots of greenery and white rocks make for a beautiful setting. Twelve minutes south, dig out your own hot tub on the volcanic beach of Hot Water Beach and paddle in the warm water. Or drive all the way to the tip of the peninsula, where you’ll have a romantic picnic on the hills while peering over the water at the end of the world.
P.S. Did you know the movie Narnia was shot at this location?
After traveling in a southerly direction for 2.5 hours, you will reach the town of Waitomo. The region is hilly and covered in vegetation. The glowworm caverns in Waitomo are the primary draws for visitors to the area.
You navigate through the pitch-black caves on a boat, which are naturally illuminated by the thousands of glowworms that inhabit the vault.
Less than a 3-hour drive from Auckland is the volcanic area of Rotorua. The city is often mentioned as the most beautiful city in New Zealand because of the special nature you will find here. The geothermal activities in this area provide impressive natural phenomena, such as geysers and fluorescently coloured pools. The most famous pool, with orange shores, is the Champaign Pool. Orakei Korako is known for the largest volcanic terrace in New Zealand, the Emerald Terrace.
TRAVEL TIP: Want the best accommodation during your stay in Auckland? Check out our list of the Best Hotels in Auckland.
Climb the dormant volcano, Mt. Eden
If you want to enjoy a wonderful active morning or afternoon, then a trek up the dormant volcano Mount. Eden in Auckland’s eponymous district is for you.
Mt. Eden is located in the city’s eponymous district. The bus is the most efficient mode of transportation to use because you are going to be doing a lot of walking that day anyway (check with your hostel staff for more info and bus times to Mt. Eden).
The trail to the summit of Mount Eden is quite clearly defined; however, the most direct route there is by one of the hiking routes.
The Auckland War Memorial Museum (or Auckland Museum for short) is the best place to learn about New Zealand’s history, its people and everyone’s role in the Pacific. The Auckland Museum is definitely worth a visit. The museum is located in the middle of the Auckland Domain, that big park in the middle of the city. Admission costs NZ$25 for international visitors. For all that you get to see at the Auckland Museum, this is well worth it. A unique cultural experience.
Location: Parnell, Auckland 1010, New Zealand
Shopping in Parnell
Auckland as a whole is a great place to shop, as you’ll see when you walk down Queen Street. Along that wide and long street, you will find many stores and a number of shopping malls. Really nice and unique shopping is done in Parnell, the area you will encounter if you go from Queen Street straight through Albert Park and Alten Park, then via Parnell Rise you enter Parnell (or take the Inner Link Bus). In Parnell, you will find all kinds of boutiques and independent stores with jewellery, art, chocolate and more. Plus cosy restaurants and cafés. Parnell is a really nice area.
If you are at the end of Queen Street (near the water and the Ferry Building), turn left and walk to the harbour or Viaduct Harbour. There you will find (in addition to the many yachts and boats) many restaurants and cafes. If you walk a little further, you’ll come to the Wynyard Crossing bridge. There are many benches, and you can sit on the steps near the water. It’s great to hang out in the summer with your feet in the water of the Viaduct Basin while enjoying a bowl of sushi or a pie you just bought (lunch tip!). Summer living is easy to do in Auckland.
Industrial with fish: Silo Park and Fish Market
After you’ve had a nice rest at the Viaduct Basin, you can continue walking straight ahead along the former quays of the cargo port, where all sorts of hip cafes are now located in industrial style. You will also come across the Fish Market, where you can buy the freshest fish ever. And it is the best place for the classic New Zealand dish: Fish & Chips (with a bottle of L&P lemonade on the side). The park at the end of the street is Silo Park, recognizable by the high silos that are still there. You can lie in the grass, enjoy outdoor movies in the summer, food trucks, markets and more. Silo Park really never gets boring. Just look at the many free events organized there in the (after) summer.
Location: 22-32 Jellicoe Street, Auckland CBD, Auckland 1010
View Auckland from above: Sky Tower
This iconic tower is not to be missed in Auckland. It’s also the ideal navigation point if you’re at a loss for where to go. Walk up to the tower, and you’ll be back on Queen Street in the centre in no time. A visit to Auckland is therefore not complete without a visit to the Sky Tower. You can go up and enjoy the view, or you can jump off (a bit different than a bungee jump), but you can also walk on the roof if you choose the Sky Walk. All info and prices for your visit to the Sky Tower can be found on the official website.
Location: Victoria Street West, Auckland CBD, Auckland 1010
Sushi and other good food in Auckland
If you love sushi, New Zealand is the place to be. It’s as delicious and fresh as you’ve ever tasted. Once back in your own hometown, you won’t want the boring, old sushi they serve here anymore… Once you arrive in Auckland, you will see how much choice there is in sushi, from small independent restaurants to chains like St. Pierre’s (which you will often find in shopping malls). For $6 to $10 you can have a delicious bowl of sushi. But besides all the delicious sushi, you will also find super New Zealand food (Fish & Chips or the gourmet burgers at Burger Fuel or Velvet Burger) and many other international cuisines: Indian, Italian, Thai and many more. There is a wide choice of simple, good and affordable food away from home, from cosy coffee shops to street food-style eateries.
Across: Devonport (and Takapuna)
About Queen Street and the Ferry Building, we mentioned earlier. From there you can take the ferry to Devonport, the district directly opposite the centre of Auckland. There you can walk, eat and drink. Takapuna is a little further away and is best reached by bus or car… Well worth it. 9. Doing an evening movie or theatre in Auckland
Fancy doing nothing for a change in Auckland? Well nothing, just have a relaxing evening and chill out at the movies or a theatre show or comedy. The Skyworld Indoor Entertainment Centre houses the film complex of Event Cinemas where all the popular (international) movies are shown. There is also a bowling alley, pool tables and many slot machines, If you are more in the mood for alternative movies or movie house-style films, you can go to Rialto Cinemas in New Market (near Parnell). For theatre and stage performances, there is the Civic Theater.