There are many great day trips from Auckland, all offering a lot of variety for those of us who work in the city and need a break. From coastal scenery and beach day trips to countryside hikes and unique attractions, Auckland has many amazing sights just a stone’s throw away.
Since some of us prefer a short day trip from Auckland, and others are after a 2-day trip or even a 3-day road trip from Auckland, I’ve split these day trip ideas into categories based on driving time.
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I have split this post into 3 simple categories:
- Day trips within 1 hour of Auckland
- Day trips within 2 hours of Auckland
- Day trips within 3 hours of Auckland
DAY TRIPS WITHIN 1 HOUR OF AUCKLAND:
The first options on our list are perfect half-day trips from Auckland! The shorter drive times make them perfect for an easy getaway or family day trip.
DUDER REGIONAL PARK
Countryside lovers will adore the walk around Duder Regional Park, only a 50-minute drive out of Auckland. You can choose the coastal walk, the 2.5-hour Farm Loop Walk, or one of the several others. Take a detour to the deserted beaches here to relax too. I meant to choose the Farm Loop walk but completed my hike in an hour, so I’m guessing I went the wrong way hehe. Either way, it was terrific. The scenery here is unbeatable on a sunny day. I enjoyed seeing all the sheep, too, haha.
You could also go further South to Waitawa Regional Park, which has even more walks to choose from and stunning ocean views. and the black-sand Kawakawa Beach.
You can also combine a Duder Regional Park day trip with Hunua Ranges below de to their close proximity.
Hunua Ranges Regional Park makes for an easy day trip from Auckland since it’s just a 50-minute drive from the city. The ‘must-see’ is Hunua Falls, only a 2-minute walk from the car park. However, you can also do the longer 20-minute Falls Track to the top platform for a great view of the Falls as well. This walk follows along the Wairoa River under the cover of forest as you approach the viewpoint.
The Cossey-Massey hike is one of the best-known trails in the Hunua Ranges, winding 8.0km through the native forest from Cosseys Gorge to Masseys Road. This loop walk also starts from the Hunua Falls car park and begins with an uphill climb but eventually evens out. Though the first hour feels deep within the forest, eventually, you’ll reach the view over the Cossey Dam about an hour in. You’ll also see the Cossey’s Reservoir, and the Wairoa stream, though this hike has fewer open views than some alternative day trips.
An alternative is the Wairoa Dam Lookout Loop – both these hikes take just under three hours to complete. The Suspension Bridge Loop Walk is an excellent 90-minute alternative.
At a dainty 600 years of age, Rangitoto is the youngest volcano out of Auckland’s 47 volcanic centres. However, it’s also the largest – Rangitoto’s low cone shape is the backdrop to many views from Auckland, so it’s great when you finally visit the island.
Take the 25-minute ferry from Britomart – and make sure you arrive early since there are only three or four ferries a day, so you don’t want to miss the boat! This especially goes for your departure from Rangitoto, since there are no facilities on the island, and you don’t want to get stuck there. Take your own lunch, snacks, water and sunscreen too.
Once you’ve arrived at the island, you can choose from one of the many hiking trails, with the Summit Track being the most popular. After looking over the volcanic crater, you have amazing views over Auckland and the Hauraki Gulf from the Summit Lookout.
It’s definitely worth taking a detour to the Lava Caves – which you can read more about here in my Rangitoto Day trip post. I also go into more detail about the Beacon Lighthouse, Historic Baches, and alternative trails which I enjoyed on my own visit to Rangitoto.
Piha is perhaps the most famous day trip within the Auckland region itself, and even tourists who generally don’t spend long in Auckland on their road trips have often taken an excursion to Piha’s black sand beaches.
Piha is a must-do for surfers, with its great waves, but anyone can have an awesome day trip here. If you want to try surfing for the first time, you can try a group surfing lesson with Piha Surf Academy. They also offer private surf lessons for a slightly higher price.
Whether you just want to relax on the beach and do the 5-minute walk up Lion’s Rock, or do a detour to Kitekite Falls, it’s a perfect day out that feels miles away from Auckland.
My personal favourite thing to do in Piha was the Mercer Bay Loop trail, a 40-minute walk that has simply breathtaking coastal scenery all around, and is potentially one of the most beautiful places in the North Island.
Discover more things to do in Piha here.
MORE DAY TRIPS IN THE WAITAKERES AND WEST COAST BEACHES:
There are many more things to do in the greater area around Piha!
- Relax on Bethells Beach and see Bethells Cave
- Walk up the massive sand dunes (or sandboard down them!)
- Walk through the stream to Lake Wainamu.
- Walk from Bethell Beaches to Muriwai Beach along the Te Henga Walkway
MORE WAITAKERE RANGES DAY HIKES
Outside of the stunning Kitekite Falls hike or the coastal scenery of the Mercer Bay Loop, which I visited on Piha day trip, there are many more hikes to consider in the Waitakeres.
- Nihotupu Dam Track – a 2.5km track passing the Nihotupu Dam and two small waterfalls
- The easy 0.8km walk to Karekare Falls
- Fairy Falls Track – a 5km, return track from the Atataki visitor centre, involves crossing streams and following a partially maintained track through the native forest before eventually arriving at Fairy Falls.
- Walk along the huge Muriwai Beach, which stretches along for 60km, or go surfing
- Visit the Muriwai Gannet Colony (from August to March you could see over 2000 gannets here!)
Waiheke Island is a 50-minute ferry away from Auckland. With many fun activities to enjoy on a Waiheke Island day trip, it’s a beautiful place to visit.
Even with limited time to spare, you can still enjoy the beaches, go hiking in Whakanewha National Park, and finish the by day enjoying a drink at one of Waiheke’s wineries!
Nature lovers can enjoy bird watching or snorkelling, and I’d also love to go diving someday. If you feel adventurous, you can go on the ziplines or enjoy the art trail and sculpture park for a more laidback activity.
DAY TRIPS WITHIN 2 HOURS OF AUCKLAND:
There are so many places to visit within 2 hours of Auckland!
Mangawhai is one of my personal favourite day trips from Auckland. A two-hour drive North of the city, Mangawhai is a spectacular coastal haven for hiking enthusiasts or beach lovers.
Whilst enjoying a relaxing stop at Mangawhai Heads Beach, you have to do the 9km-return Mangawhai Cliff Walk – or at least the first 20-minutes to the first lookout! The views over the coast here are absolutely stunning. For more hiking, take on the Tanekaha Walking Tracks. This hike winds through luscious greenery, towering trees, and several small waterfalls. It’s not the easiest track, so grab your hiking boots and take water along.
If you have time, you can also visit the nearby Te Arai Beach Reserve. The rock formations here make for a spectacular sunset spot and the waves are great for surfing too.
Read more information about planning a trip to Mangawhai here.
While many day trips on this list will get left out by non-locals, Hamilton is home to a couple of unique spots that even brief holiday-goers will want to squeeze into their New Zealand itinerary.
Firstly, Hamilton Gardens is a worthwhile stop for everyone! Apart from a traditional garden visit, Hamilton Gardens comprises many different ‘themed gardens’ that make you feel as if you’re both travelling the world and visiting diverse movie sets all in one day! From the Alice in Wonderland-esque Surrealist Garden to the peaceful Chinese Scholar’s Garden and the fantastic Italian Renaissance Garden, it’s hard to choose my favourite spot here!
You can also enjoy a Waitomo River Cruise, visit several walking trails or hunt for Hamilton’s vibrant street art while in the area.
I recommend a detour to Bridal Veil Falls, a 55-metre high waterfall with four spectacular viewing platforms. If you’ve got time to make it a weekend trip, drive further into Raglan, a charming surfing town with spectacular coastal scenery.
Read more information about my Hamilton day trip.
Depending on where you visit the Awhitu Peninsula, the driving time could vary from 55 to 90 minutes. But realistically, it’ll end up being the latter, since the Manukau Lighthouse is the must-see at the tip of the peninsula. This 140-year-old attraction has displays describing its history, as well as fantastic views from the lighthouse balcony.
At the other end of the peninsula, is Waiuku, a historic town, where you can visit the Glenbrook Vintage railway and take a 15-km steam train ride. Don’t miss Kariotahi black-sand Beach and the 4km Awhitu Regional Park Walk on your way to the lighthouse too.
THE COROMANDEL PENINSULA
At just two hours from Auckland by car or ferry, The Coromandel Peninsula is another excellent spot for Aucklanders craving coastal scenery. It’s a popular weekend getaway for Aucklanders, especially in sunny weather!
The best-known thing to do here is Cathedral Cove – I recommend the walk from Hahei Beach to enjoy the ocean views along the way. Cathedral Cove is a picturesque natural archway surrounded by several other unique rock formations that appear to balance precariously as they jut out from the ocean.
Hot Water Beach is the other star attraction here since the thermal water beneath this sandy beach reaches up to 64 degrees Celcius! Humans have thus put the beach to another use and dug holes in the sand to create natural hot tubs! Visit in low tide to join in.
I finished my Coromandel Peninsula day trip with a walk-up of Paku Hill Summit, which has incredible regional views. Other things to do here include snorkelling or diving, relaxing at New Chums beach, or hiking along the Coromandel Coastal Walkway or the Kauaeranga Kauri Trail through the distinctive Pinnacles.
DAY TRIPS WITHIN 3.5 HOURS FROM AUCKLAND:
These beautiful places are worth the drive, though you could also make the most of your weekend and make them a 2 day or 3 day trip from Auckland!
A 2.5 drive from Auckland, Tauranga is a lovely beach town. You may have seen photos of the view from Mt Maunganui back over the coastline. This hike is a 30-minute walk to the summit and a fab sunrise location. From Mt Maunganui’s main beach, you can also walk across the footpath to Leisure Island and follow the 10-minute track to see the blowholes. For an alternative hike, take on the Papamoa Hills Walk (the views look wonderful).
Aside from the beach, you can visit McLaren Falls and Kaiate Pools, or if you want to treat yourself, visit one of the hot pools. Mount Hot Pools is just $14 entry, or Mount Hot Pools is $13.
Within the city itself, you can visit the Tauranga Art Gallery, spot the city street art, and stroll through the historic village. For something unique, take a detour to Te Puna Quarry Park or do an evening glow worm kayak around Waimarino!
But best of all? Tauranga’s beaches are gorgeous – so if all that sounds too hectic for you, just sit back and relax!
BAY OF ISLANDS
A fantastic coastal getaway, the Bay of Islands is the perfect retreat for anyone needing some rest outside the big city. Admittedly, this option is better as a weekend trip if you’re hoping to relax since it is over a 3-hour drive from Auckland to get here.
Snorkelling, diving, dolphin spotting and island hopping are great ways to enjoy the coastline, though they can be a bit pricey. Thankfully, during my trip, I found plenty of free activities and enjoyed my budget-friendly stay at Pagoda Lodge campsite. (They also have glamping facilities.) The site is based in Kerikeri, which is home to some historic sites such as the Stone Store and Kent House. I also walked from my tent to Rainbow Falls (a 3-hour round trip).
While the Bay of Islands is heaven for beach lovers, the sheer amount of both natural attractions and historical places (did you know that Russell was the first capital of New Zealand?!) makes it a really well-rounded destination.
My highlights were seeing the amazing coastal scenery, such as during my visit to Tauranga Bay and Matouri Bay. I also spent a day exploring the next town along, which is also home to the important Waitangi Treaty Grounds… I’ll be updating this post shortly with more information on the Bay of Islands – as well as a dedicated blog post – to give you the full scoop on the area!
Between Auckland and the Bay of Islands, there are some great stops on the way, such as Matakana (which can also be done as a Matakana day trip), Mangawhai (above) and Whangarei.
The beautiful subtropical destination of Whangarei is home to more of the Northland’s gorgeous coastlines. It lies just 40-minutes south of the Bay of Islands, making it a great stop along the way.
In the heart of the main town are the beautiful Whangarei Falls, but for the best of this region’s natural attractions, head further down to the Whangarei Heads Peninsula. Here you’ll find some truly breathtaking coastal hikes with views over the bays on one side and the South Pacific Ocean on the other. You can explore the Abbey Caves, spot glow worms, and climb Mt Manaia for more peak panoramas.
Back in the main town, many family-friendly activities such as a kiwi house and glow-in-the-dark mini-golf. For something unique, I recommend the Whangarei Quarry Gardens. I respected how they had turned a disused quarry into an absolutely gorgeous garden, with many paths to choose from and a vast variety of plants and trees.
HOBBITON & WAITOMO
Hobbiton is around a 2 to 2.5-hour drive and a popular day tour from Auckland. As a huge ‘the Lord of the Rings’ fan, I was terrified of visiting Hobbiton. What if it doesn’t live up to expectations? What if the other visitors there aren’t big fans? But truthfully, the idea of visiting without a good friend to enjoy the experience with is what’s stumped me for my first two years in Auckland.
But then, the borders opened! And I was finally able to get to all the North Island Lord of the rings locations of my dreams! I highly recommend Hobbiton for movie fans and novices alike – it’s a truly stunning destination!
Waitomo is often combined on a day trip with Hobbiton since it’s only an 80-minute drive away, though alternatively, it’s under three hours away from Auckland.
The most famous thing to do here is the Waitomo glow worm caves, although they get notoriously touristy. You can also see the limestone cliffs which make up these caves on the 45-minute Ruakuri Bush Walk. Alternatively, the Mangapohue Natural Bridge Walk or Marokioa Falls walk make for a tremendous Waitomo day trip surrounded by the great outdoors.
There are so many hikes and waterfalls to visit in Waitomo, so once you’ve had enough of the glistening glowworms, don’t hurry away from Waitomo too quickly.
Around a 3-hour drive, Rotorua is another one best enjoyed as a weekend trip from Auckland. Rotorua is best known for its unique natural attractions, such as the giant redwood forest and the vibrant geothermal hot pools. Kuirau Park is a fantastic way to explore the crater lake, mud pools and unique natural hot springs. More fun and free activities include the Skyline Nature History Walk, the Kerosene Creek and Okere Falls.
If your budget isn’t so tight, visit Waimangu Volcanic Valley with its amazing views, crater lake and mesmerising rock formations – is likely worth the $45 entry fee (or just 14$ for children). If you want to dip in some of the area’s famous hot springs, adult tickets to Waikite Valley Thermal Pools begin at $20.
I have to admit… I can’t wait to visit Rotorua and hope I can give you a personal overview of the area before too long. I’d probably combine it with Lake Taupo and Tongariro National Park too (hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is going to be epic)!
New Zealand is such a beautiful place!
I’ve always wanted to visit New Zealand. These are great suggestions near Auckland!
This is so great! I want to live in Auckland one day and can’t wait to visit all these places 🙂
The pictures are so gorgeous! I really wish I get to visit Auckland and the day trips mentioned in your post someday. 🙂
Ahhh I’m tormenting myself with places I missed in New Zealand and this has made me want to plan my revisit right now! Hamilton Gardens sound incredible, I totally missed this.
Great post! It’s nice to know that you can do many day trips from Auckland. Looks like I’m going to enjoy it because of the nature.
Love this. So many amazing places I’ve never heard of but of course I would NEED to visit Hobbits. Great post!
I loved the fact you’ve divided the post into the length of trip – super helpful when I need to plan. I’ve been to a few other places in NZ, but never Auckland and now I definitely want to go back!!
So many unique destinations! I’ve always wanted to visit Hobbiton!
Waitomo and Hobbiton look so much fun! Hopefully I make it some day. The other easiest day trips closer to Auckland are really underrated I think – I’ve really loved exploring around here!
hope you make it! Lots to do around Auckland even though it’s often missed on people’s holidays!
The Coromandel is a wonderful day trip! Honestly so much to do around Auckland!
That’s my dream! Not sure if I will be able to go to those places this time around… let’s see!
These are some gorgeous photos! My husband and I cannot wait to go to New Zealand to visit Hobbits and do the Lord of the Rings tour!
I am itching to go back to New Zealand after reading your post! The Coromandel has been on my bucket list for a long time.
This gives me so many ideas! Would love to go in 2021!
Waitomo & Hobbiton were BOTH on my NZ area bucket list… but I had no idea they were kind of close to one another!! How cool! I’m using your blog as a planning guide for the Auckland trip I’m hoping to take in 2021.