Plan an adventure out of the city with our top day trips from Auckland.
New Zealand’s ‘City of Sails’ is stunning, and is of course a must-visit during any trip to New Zealand.
There are so many amazing things to do in Auckland but if you have a few extra days, it’s also the perfect base for exploring other areas of the North Island.
There are an array of scenic landscapes and rugged coastlines lying just outside the city, waiting for you.
In this article, we’re going to go through the most popular day trips from Auckland (and a few that can be organised within regional Auckland too).
Whether you’re looking for a good hike, to explore a movie set or a relaxing day on the beach – there will be something on this list for you!
The only question is where you will go first?
This post first appeared on Exploring Auckland.
COVID-19 has come with its fair share of challenges for New Zealand businesses. Though we do our best to share accurate information, this can change quickly as some businesses make the decision to operate under reduced hours or hibernate. We suggest you double-check they are open before finalising your plans.
Day Trips from Auckland
One of the most popular day trips from Auckland is the famous Hobbiton Village.
Hobbiton is the original movie set from J.R.R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and it’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in New Zealand. Fortunately, it’s accessible from Auckland.
During the tour, you’ll get to explore the Shire including the hobbit holes, see the party tree and walk down the same pathway that Frodo followed!
You can also get a pint of Oatbarton Brew or Frogmorten Ginger Beer at the Dragon Inn.
Only guided tours can be taken into the set, but you are free to explore to your heart’s content once the tour has finished.
This place is a must whether or not you’re a fan of the Lord of the Rings franchise, as the set has intricate detail and the scenery is simply beautiful.
Hobbiton is a 2-hour drive from Auckland.
2. The Coromandel Peninsula
The Coromandel Peninsula is a great day trip from Auckland. On a clear day, you can even see the peninsula from the city.
This area is very secluded and isn’t as touristy as other parts of New Zealand. This makes it the perfect place to relax after a few busy days in Auckland.
The Coromandel Peninsula is a large mountain range covered in ancient forests, so you can imagine the views are pretty spectacular.
If you’re looking for more things to do then why not take a cruise out to Cathedral Cove, walk the Coromandel Coastal Walkway or visit Donut Island?
Related: The best things to do in the Coromandel.
The Coromandel Peninsula is a 2.5-hour drive from Auckland.
3. Waitomo Caves
The Waitomo Caves are a large network of underground caves. It is also one of New Zealand’s best natural attractions.
The caves can only be visited with a guide who will give you information about the local area, the history of the caves and the cave formations.
You will then get to take a magical boat tour through the caves, where thousands of glowworms will light the way.
If this sounds a bit too tame for you, there is also the option of black water rafting. This means you’ll raft through the caves in pitch black (whilst floating in the water, in an innertube), with only the glowworms to guide you.
Most commercial operators don’t allow photography allowed within the caves, so just sit back and enjoy the experience!
Waitomo Caves is probably one of the more unique day trips from Auckland and a must-visit in New Zealand.
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Book: Ruakuri Cave Tour. Promo code NZTTPLAY.
Waitomo Caves is around a 2.5-hour drive from Auckland.
4. Karangahake Gorge
Karangahake Gorge lies between the Coromandel and Kaimai Ranges and is a great day trip from Auckland.
The best way to explore the gorge is to walk the Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway which follows the old Paeroa to Waihi railway line. The rest of the walk follows the Ohinemuri River and eventually comes to Owharoa Falls.
To further explore the gorge you can walk the Windows Walk Trail which takes you through the old gold-mining trail which dates back to the 1880s.
It’s also possible to head down into the Karangahake Tunnels. The tunnels follow the old underground railway track and are a great experience – just be sure to have a torch on you.
Waihi Beach is also only a 20-minute drive away from Karangahake Gorge, so you can hit the waves whilst you’re in the area.
Karangahake Gorge is a 1.5-hour drive from Auckland.
Matakana is a huge hit with foodies as it has plenty of beautiful wineries and quirky pubs.
We also recommend heading long to the Matakana farmer’s market to taste delicious local cheeses and fresh produce.
If you’re looking for a unique experience in the area, swing by the New Zealand Honey Centre. There, you’ll learn all about the special mānuka honey, and the strict quality control that comes into effect when producing it.
Aside from tasty cuisine, there are also plenty of shops and art galleries located within the town centre.
As an added bonus, the beautiful coastal town of Leigh is only a 15-minute drive from Matakana. From there you can take a trip out to Goat Island or go snorkelling in New Zealand’s first marine reserve.
The popular beach of Omaha is also only an 8-minute drive away too!
Matakana is a 55-minute drive from Auckland.
The town of Rotorua is located on Lake Rotorua and is famous for its geothermal activity, adventure activities and Māori culture.
Rotorua has a number of incredible geothermal attractions including Hell’s Gate and Te Puia. They are home to different colourful hot springs, boiling mud pools and geysers – each offering something uniquely wonderful.
There’s also the opportunity to go parachute jumping, bungy jumping and zorbing in Rotorua. It is, after all, known as the adventure capital of the North Island.
If you’re looking for something more relaxing, why not head to one of the many thermal spas or hike into the native redwood forest?
As the town is full of geothermal activity, there is a distinct smell of rotten egg/sulfur. It can take some getting used to but it’s well worth it.
Rotorua is one of our favourite tourist towns in all of New Zealand.
Related: Things to do in Rotorua at night (in case you choose to stay over).
Rotorua is around a 3-hour drive from Auckland.
Pro Tip: We would generally suggest overnighting in Rotorua as there’s so, so much to do there. With that said, if there’s one particular activity/attraction that you’d like to see, there’s no reason it can’t be done in a day.
Day Trips in Auckland
If you’re looking for something exciting to do that’s a little closer to home, there are a number of fantastic day trips that can be organised within Auckland too.
7. Waiheke Island
Waiheke Island is one of the most popular day trips from Auckland and it’s not hard to see why!
With an impressive size of 92 km² (36 sq miles), you won’t run out of things to do here.
The island is home to pristine beaches and plenty of walking trails, so make sure to make the most of your visit. Though we’ve included it on this day-trip list, it’s easy to spend a weekend or even longer there.
Of course, it’s not just the natural scenery that Waiheke is famous for. The Island is also known for its wine tasting and delicious cuisine.
If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, you have the opportunity to go ziplining, mountain biking, horseback riding or try your hand at archery.
You can also choose to go on a segway tour of the island if you’re looking for something more unique.
Related: Getting to Waiheke Island.
Related: Getting around Waiheke.
Related: The best things to do on Waiheke Island.
The ferry from Central Auckland to Waiheke takes about 40 minutes.
8. Motutapu Island
Motutapu Island is an impressive 178 million years old making it one of the oldest islands within Hauraki Gulf.
It’s one of the lesser-visited gulf islands so is perfect for a quieter escape from the city.
After the world’s largest island pest eradication programme, the island is now predator-free. This makes it one of the best spots in Auckland to spot native birds including the tīeke (saddleback) and the takahē – two of New Zealand’s rarest birds.
There are also plenty of other sites to visit on the island including the old WWII military sites, Islington Bay, and Mullet beach.
Motutapu Island connects to Rangitoto Island via a causeway, so you can visit both on the same day.
The ferry from Central Auckland to Motutapu takes about 25 minutes.
Pro Tip: If you really want to see stunning bird life, we recommend heading over to Tiritiri Matangi Island – another fabulous day trip.
9. Rangitoto Island
Rangitoto Island is located within the Hauraki Gulf and is probably one of the most iconic islands in Auckland.
Easily accessible by ferry, the island has a very distinctive shape and is the largest volcano in the Auckland Volcanic Field.
Not only that but it’s estimated to be the youngest volcano in the gulf, at only around 600 years old.
The most popular activity on Rangitoto is to climb right to the top, where you will get scenic views of Auckland and the Hauraki Gulf.
You can also explore the lava fields and caves (be sure to have a torch) and the coastline.
It’s important to note that there are no restaurants or shops on the island, so make sure you come prepared with a picnic, plenty of water and a sun hat.
The ferry from Central Auckland to Rangitoto takes about 25 minutes.
10. Waitakere Ranges Regional Park
Waitakere Ranges Regional Park covers an impressive 16,000 hectares running from its rugged coastline to the rainforest located high in the hills.
Known as ‘Auckland’s Wild West’ this is the perfect day trip from Auckland if you’re looking for incredible scenery.
If you love hiking, this is a great place to visit!
There is over 250km of walking trails found within Waitakere Ranges ranging from short 10 minute trails to multi-day hikes (though these are currently closed – check which trails are open before heading out).
There are also lots of shorter (but equally fantastic) walks including the Upper Huia Reservoir Walk, Mercer Bay Loop Track and the Te Henga Walkway.
Waitakere Ranges Regional Park also has plenty of beautiful beaches on its doorstep for you to visit. Some of the best include Piha beach, Karekare beach, and Muriwai beach.
Waitakere Ranges Regional Park is a 30-minute drive from Central Auckland.
As you can see there are so many amazing day trips from (and within) Auckland!
We hope this list has added some amazing destinations to your New Zealand bucket list. With so many wonderful options on our doorstep, there’s no need to spend your next day off at home.
Whether you’d prefer to sunbathe on a beach or take a ferry to a nearby island, the options are endless.
Have you been to any of these incredible spots?
If you have then please drop a comment below of your experience!