Auckland is the biggest city in New Zealand. There are many things to see and do in and around the city. In this post we are going to share some of the best one day trips from Auckland.
All of the trips on this list are within 1-2.5 hrs drive from Auckland. Living in Auckland we made lots and lots of one day trips over the years ourselves. Take it from the local – below is the list of 15 Best One Day Trips from Auckland. We are including lots of pics – so that you can get a glance at the places and to make it easier for you to choose which ones to visit.
Waitakere Ranges and West beaches
Let’s start with the iconic west coast beaches less than 1 hour drive from Auckland.
Piha, Muriwai, Te Henga (Bethells) and Karekare are scenic black sand beaches of Tasman Sea on the west coast of Auckland. They are great for walking, nature, views and surfing. Piha and Muriwai are perhaps the most popular of them.
Muriwai beach is a favourite with surfers. It also has a gannet colony with a scenic lookout point above. Piha beach is loved by surfers too. It features Lyon Rock with a walking track with panoramic views.
West Auckland is also the place of Waitakere Ranges – a regional park with mountain ranges, many walking tracks, streams, waterfalls and wildlife. It’s a good idea to combine west coast beaches and Waitakere Ranges into a day trip from Auckland. As many of the tracks and waterfalls are close to the coast.
Read about some of the Watakere Ranges’s waterfalls in our post about 5 Best Waterfalls near Auckland.
Matakana is just 1 hour drive from Auckland and often mentioned as the home of the Farmers Market popular with the locals. Apart from that, the Mataka region is famous for its vineyards. There are many wineries in the region and some of them offer wine tasting and dining.
Also, there are several beautiful beaches nearby, such as Omaha beach and the beach of Tawharanui Regional Park.
If you are travelling with kids, visit Matakana Country Park – to enjoy a playground, train rides and feeding farm animals. Make sure to also visit Charlies Gelato ice cream shop (be ready to queue for it in summer – locals love ice cream and this place is always busy in summer (but it’s still totally worth it!)).
Orewa and Wenderholm Regional Park
Wenderholm Regional Park is one of our favourite places to meet with friends over a barbeque or a picnic by the sea. The park is located on the east coast and is only a 40 min drive from the center of Auckland.
It has a nice quiet beach in a closed bay (great for kids or inexperienced swimmers as it doesn’t get high waves). Lots of green trees and in particular, Pohutukawa, also known as Christmas trees as they bloom with bright red flowers in December. Few walking tracks, one of them leading to a hill with stunning views over the regional park. And Couldrey House & Garden – a historical colonial house (open to visitors only during weekends from 1 to 4pm).
After you visit Wenderholm Regional Park, on the way back to Auckland, stop at Orewa – a small seaside township just north of Auckland. There are few nice cafes and restaurants to have a meal or a drink. The town lies on the Hibiscus Coast – a long strip of beautiful sandy beach popular with holidayers and Aucklanders in any time of the year.
Not far from Orewa is Whangaparaoa Peninsula. You may combine visiting it with Orewa, or do it as a separate one day trip from Auckland.
There are many beautiful sandy beaches in Whangaparaoa. Stanmore Bay and Big Manly Beach on the north coast of the peninsula are our favourites. Both are good for walking, swimming, paddle boarding and, when weather permits, bodyboarding.
On the far end of the peninsula is Shakespear Regional Park. That’s our other favourite spot for picnics and barbecues with friends. There is a big green area, few walking tracks, a sandy beach on its southern end and a small waterfall in the park. You will also see lots of pukekos (Australasian birds) and maybe even a peacock or two (they live near the campground in the park).
Hunua Ranges Regional Park, 1 hr drive from Auckland, is a native forest park with few lakes, dams, reservoirs and walking tracks.
One of the most popular places to visit in Hunua Ranges is Hunua Falls. It’s a 30 metres high waterfall with a swimming hole at the base.
There are few walking tracks in Hunua Ranges. We recommend a short Hunua Falls Loop Track or a longer (8 km) Cossey-Massey Loop Walk.
Tip: Hunua Ranges park is half way from Auckland to Karangahake Gorge, so you can continue to Karangahake to combine it into the day trip from Auckland.
Rangitoto Island is a 600 year old volcano in Hauraki Gulf of Auckland. It’s the only destination in our 15 Best One Day Trips from Auckland that is not reachable by car.
To get to Rangitoto you will need to catch a ferry. Ferries depart from either Auckland Downtown Ferry Terminal or Devonport Ferry Terminal. There are a limited number of ferries per day (depending on the season) and it takes around 30 mins to reach the island. Check Fullers website for the timetable and tickets.
There are few walking tracks on Rangitoto Island. The most popular one – Rangitoto summit track – takes about 2 hr return. You can also walk around to explore lava fields and a few beaches on the island. Alternatively, you can book a tourist ‘train’ that will take you almost to the top of the volcano, with a short walk to the summit afterwards.
Read about other volcanoes in Auckland in our post 20+ Volcanoes to see in Auckland
Another popular island in the Auckland region is Waiheke Island. It’s much bigger than Rangitoto and has permanent residents (and hence, regular ferry services, rental cars and bikes, a township with cafes, stores, etc.).
Visit Waiheke Island for its beautiful beaches, landscapes and wineries!
To get to Waiheke Island you can catch either a passenger or a car ferry (going by car gives you the convenience of travelling around the island). It takes approx 40 minutes by ferry. If you don’t want to go by car, there are transport options on Waiheke. You can rent a bike at the island’s ferry terminal. Just keep in mind Waiheke is quite big and hilly, and you’ll have to do a lot of pedalling. Another option is to rent a scooter or a car locally. Or you can use local buses (they run not too often and only take you to a limited number of locations on the island). Or you can buy a ticket to Hop on/off Explorer bus if visiting on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
Alternatively, you can take one of the wine tasting tours. At least you won’t need to worry about drinking and driving while on Waiheke 🙂
Goat Island is a marine reserve 1-1.5hr drive north of Auckland.
If you like diving, snorkelling or kayaking Goat Island Marine reserve is the place to go. The reserve is protected and there is a lot of marine life in the waters between the beach and the tiny island.
You can snorkel right from the beach to see lots of fishes, shells and other marine life. You can rent a wetsuit and snorkelling gear, or a clear kayak, or take a glass bottom boat tour.
There are also few walking tracks in the area and a Discovery center where you can learn about the marine life of New Zealand’s ocean.
Hamilton is the third biggest city in the North Island of New Zealand, and it’s only 1.5 hr drive from Auckland.
The city lies on the banks of Waikato river and has some nice views, green areas, museums and galleries, restaurants and bars. Hamilton hosts an annual Balloons Over Waikato event where you can have a ride in an air balloon or simply enjoy watching them flying above. Hamilton Zoo is a large zoo with a wide range of animals, it’s especially worth visiting when travelling with kids.
Perhaps, the most popular place to visit in Hamilton is Hamilton Gardens. It’s a huge park with more than 20 enclosed gardens, each dedicated to a different civilization, historical era or other topic. Hamilton Gardens are open all year round and the admission is free.
Next, I’m moving to destinations that are a bit further from Auckland. But they are still within 2-2.5 hr drive, and can be done easily and without rush as one day trips from Auckland.
Waitomo Caves are the furthest from Auckland destination on our list of one day trips. But because visiting the caves only takes a couple of hours, you are still good to do it as a day trip from Auckland. I’d suggest trying to combine it with visiting Hamilton Gardens or perhaps Hobbiton (below).
Also, not far from Waitomo Caves are Marokopa Falls, Piripiri Cave Walk and Mangapohue Natural Bridge – something to see if you are in the area and still have time after visiting the caves.
You can visit Glowworm cave, Ruakiri cave or Aranui cave (or all of them). Each one is spectacular on its own and worth a visit. Another activity you can do there is black water rafting – an underground water adventure through rapids, waterfalls and caves.
The Hobbiton is a filming location of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit’ movies. It’s located in the Waikato region of New Zealand and is about 2 hr drive from Auckland.
The Hobbiton filming set is located on private land and can only be visited as part of a guided tour. Tours to The Hobbiton depart from ‘The Shire’s Rest’ café and souvenir shop, located at 501 Buckland Road, Matamata. You will get a chance to walk in Hobbiton Village, see Bilbo’s house on the top of the hill and even have a drink at The Green Dragon inn.
Read our dedicated post on Visiting The Hobbiton in Middle Earth.
Karangahake Gorge region is just under 2hrs drive to the south of Auckland. It offers some of the best historical trails, former gold mining sites, gorgeous waterfalls and scenic nature walks.
Historically, the Karangahake Gorge area was known for its gold mining. Nowadays, it conveniently combines its gold mining history with scenic nature that makes it a perfect site for some of the best walks and tracks.
Take a Karangahake Gorge Windows Walk through some old gold mining tunnels with ‘windows’ carved through the rocks. Or walk to the summit of Karangahake mountain to enjoy the sweeping views from the top. Visit beautiful Owharoa Falls. Or take a train on the Goldfields Heritage Railway.
Read our dedicated post on Karangahake Gorge – gold mining and scenic walks.
Whangarei is a small city in the Northland region of New Zealand. It’s just over 2hr drive from Auckland and it offers lots of things to see for a day trip.
Start with a coffee/snack at the small and cosy town basin by Whangarei Marina. Visit Claphams National Clock Museum – a compact museum with a huge collection of historic clocks and watches. Check out Whangarei Art Museum in the nice interesting building that’s impossible to miss when walking at Whangarei Marina.
Next drive to Whangarei Falls and take a short 30 min loop track to the base of the waterfall. Then take a forest walk in the Kauri Park nearby to see beautiful New Zealand kauri trees.
In the dry season make sure to also visit Abbey Caves (in wet season it can be very muddy and flooded in places). There are many other tracks, nature walks, lookouts and beaches in the region. Such as Marsden Point, Whangārei Heads, beautiful long Uretiti Beach and Ocean Beach.
Last two trips on our list are Coromandel Peninsula and Rotorua. We would actually recommend spending more than a day there. Not because of the driving times, but because there is too much to see and do to fit it all into one day. However, we know that sometimes we simply don’t have the luxury of long holidays, but still would like to see as much as possible with the time on hand. Hence, we’re including the next two trips into the list too – you will just have to choose activities and sights you want to see there within a one day trip.
Coromandel Peninsula is known for its stunning white sand beaches, scenery and gold-mining history. It takes 1.5 hr to drive from Auckland to Thames (the base of the peninsula and the historic gold-mining area) and about 2.5 hr – from Auckland to Hahei (one of the beach resorts of Coromandel). If you only have one day in Coromandel, here are the places we’d recommend you to visit.
Thames Goldmine experience – to learn about New Zealand’s gold mining history, try yourself in gold panning and take a guided tour through an old mine. Hot Water beach in low tides – if you fancy to dig a hole in the sand and soak your feet in the warm water that fills the hole. Hahei Beach – for a gold sand beach experience. Stingray Bay – to see stingrays swimming in the water at your feet. Famous Cathedral Cove beach – the filming location of scenes from ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ movie and a simply beautiful beach.
If you still have time, also visit Cooks Beach, Whitianga town and New Chums beach and lookout.
Read our post – Best of the Coromandel in two days.
Rotorua is a town in the geothermal area and it’s a must see destination when in New Zealand. It’s a good idea to spend a night or two, as there is plenty to see and do in Rotorua. However, it’s a 2.5hrs drive from Auckland and is still possible to do as a one day trip from Auckland.
If you only have a day in Rotorua, make sure to visit one of the geothermal parks in the area.
Kuirau Park is a public park in the city (free) with geothermal areas and mud pools. Waiotapu Mud Pool is another free place to visit in Rotorua to see some hot bubbling mud pools.
There are few paid thermal parks in the area too. Such as, Waiotapu Thermal Park, Hell’s Gate Geothermal Reserve and Mud Spa, Orakei Korako Geothermal Park & Cave, and others. You don’t need to visit them all, just pick one or two. It’s a great and interesting experience unique to New Zealand and only a handful of other countries in the world.
Read our post on another great place to see hot pools and geysers – 10 Day Road Trip Around Iceland.
Rotorua is also renowned for Maori culture. You can visit a Maori village, museum or Maori art center.
Additionally, Rotorua is known as an adventure capital of the North Island. Visit Skyline Rotorua for sweeping views and for luge rides. Take a downhill ride in an inflatable ball at ZORB Rotorua. Enjoy a tree walk on suspension bridges in Redwoods. There are really many things to see and do in Rotorua.
That was our list of 15 Best One Day Trips from Auckland. Hope you enjoyed it and got some ideas and inspirations for your next trip to Auckland.
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