So, there I was, backpack over my shoulder, and with a sense of adventure that would put Indiana Jones to shame, ready to explore Auckland. Instead, I found myself on an unforgettable road trip to Hobbiton.
Apparently, my ever-so-trusty navigation app thought Hobbiton was synonymous with Auckland city centre. Quite an error, obviously. Still, it turned out to be one of the best misadventures of my life!
Since then, I’ve become something of a day trip connoisseur from this lovely city. If you want to be the same, let me share with you some of the finest day trips you can take from Auckland.
1. Rangitoto Island
Distance from Auckland: 11.4 km
Dominating the city’s skyline, this island offers an adventurous day out for those willing to make the 25-minute ferry journey from downtown Auckland. The island is a scenic reserve, teeming with native plants, including the largest Pohutukawa forest in the world, and wildlife.
The highlight of the island is undoubtedly the summit track. This steady climb, which is suitable for most fitness levels, rewards you with panoramic views of the Hauraki Gulf and back towards the Auckland cityscape.
Aside from the summit track, there are lava caves to explore and a beautiful coastal track that offers views of the neighbouring Motutapu Island. Remember to pack your own food and water, as there are no shops on the island.
For a unique perspective, take the last ferry of the day and watch the sunset over the city from the island’s summit. Just make sure you’ve booked the Volcanic Explorer tour, which includes a return ferry after dark.
Distance from Auckland:14.0 km
With its Victorian villas, sandy beaches, and boutique shops, Devonport offers a slower pace and a step back in time, all within sight of Auckland’s bustling central business district.
For history buffs, the Devonport Museum is a must-visit. Housed in a quaint, restored Victorian villa, the museum showcases Devonport’s history from its earliest Maori inhabitants to the present day.
If you’re a fan of the beach, you’re in luck. Devonport has several lovely ones to choose from, including Cheltenham Beach and Narrow Neck Beach. Both offer calm waters that are perfect for swimming and picnicking.
Visit the Devonport Chocolate Shop and indulge in their delicious chocolates. They offer a wide range of flavours, all made on-site. If you’re lucky, you might even catch the chocolatiers at work through the viewing window!
3. Tiritiri Matangi Island
Distance from Auckland: 29.9 km
Tiritiri Matangi Island is a wildlife sanctuary and one of the most successful conservation projects in the world. The island is a paradise for bird lovers, home to a number of rare and endangered bird species.
As soon as you step off the boat, you’ll be greeted by the beautiful songs of the tui and bellbird. And as you venture further into the island, you might be lucky enough to spot a kiwi or a kokako!
While there are guided walks available, you can explore the island at your own pace using the well-marked tracks.
Don’t forget to visit the lighthouse, which offers stunning views of the Hauraki Gulf.
4. Karekare Falls
Distance from Auckland:39.0 km
Karekare Falls is near the iconic black-sand Karekare Beach. So, you’ll have to take a short and easy walk that will bring you to the base of the falls.
When you get to the falls, the pool at the bottom of the falls is deep enough for a swim, so don’t forget your swimwear on a hot day! And if you’re up for a hike, there are several walking tracks around Karekare.
Visit in the late afternoon for some stunning photo opportunities. However, remember to pack a torch or headlamp, as the path back to the car park can get dark pretty quickly once the sun sets.
5. Piha Beach
Distance from Auckland: 39.8 km
This popular black sand surf beach is an absolute must-visit for any beach lover or outdoor enthusiast. As you drive through the dense native rainforest of the Waitakere Ranges, you’ll catch your first glimpse of the Tasman Sea and the iconic Lion Rock.
Many love coming to Piha because it’s a renowned surf spot, attracting surfers from all over the world with its consistent swell. So, if you’re a seasoned surfer, don’t forget your board!
However, if you’re more of a land-lover, take a walk up Lion Rock for stunning panoramic views or hike one of the many trails in the Waitakere Ranges. The Kitekite Falls Track leads you to a spectacular six-tiered waterfall where you can take a dip.
Plan your trip to coincide with low tide and explore the caves at the southern end of the beach. On the south end, you’ll find Piha’s very own ‘Cathedral Cave’. Remember, always check the tide times and never enter the cave during high tide, as it can be dangerous.
6. Muriwai Beach
Distance from Auckland:41.6 km
Muirwai is another place to go if you’re a surfer. The consistent surf breaks make it a great place for surfing, and if you’re new to surfing, there are local surf schools that offer lessons and equipment hire.
However, if you prefer to stay dry, explore the numerous walking tracks in Muriwai Regional Park, which offer stunning views of the coastline.
One of the main attractions of Muriwai, though, is the Gannet Colony, one of only three mainland gannet colonies in New Zealand. From August to March, you can observe these magnificent birds nesting on the cliff tops at the southern end of the beach.
Make sure to stay until sunset! As the sun dips below the horizon, the beach is bathed in a warm golden light. Just remember to bring a warm jacket—it can get chilly once the sun goes down!
7. Whangaparaoa Peninsula
Distance from Auckland: 42.4 km
The Whangaparaoa Peninsula is home to a number of stunning beaches, including Army Bay, Stanmore Bay, Arkles Bay, and Big Manly Beach. Each beach offers golden sand, clear waters, and a relaxed, laid-back vibe.
For nature lovers, Shakespear Regional Park is a must-visit. This open sanctuary offers walking tracks with stunning views, beautiful beaches, and plenty of wildlife. Don’t forget to hike up to the lookout point for a panoramic view of the Hauraki Gulf.
And of course, no visit to Whangaparaoa would be complete without a stop at the Coast Plaza, where you’ll find a range of eateries and shops. Whether you’re in the mood for a hearty meal, a quick snack, or a bit of retail therapy, you’ll find what you need here.
Visit the peninsula during low tide and explore the tidal rock pools at Arkles Bay. They are teeming with marine life.
8. Waiheke Island
Distance from Auckland: 49 km
Only a 40-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland, Waiheke Island, known as the island of wine for its many vineyards and wineries, is a haven for wine lovers. Spend your day at vineyards like Mudbrick, Stonyridge and Cable Bay tasting world-class wines, and enjoying the stunning views of the Hauraki Gulf.
But there’s more to Waiheke than just wine. The island is also home to a number of art galleries, boutique shops, and stunning beaches.
If you’re into outdoor activities, there are plenty of walking and cycling tracks to keep you busy. And if you’re a foodie, you’ll love the gourmet dining options.
Try to time your visit with the local market day, which is held every Saturday. But remember, the last ferry back to Auckland leaves pretty early, so don’t get too carried away!
9. Hunua Ranges Regional Park
Distance from Auckland:49.2 km
The Hunua Ranges Regional Park is Auckland’s largest forested terrain, home to magnificent native trees and an array of bird species. If you’re lucky, you might spot the colourful native parrot, kererū, or hear the distinctive call of the tui.
If you like hiking, one of the trails leads to the spectacular Hunua Falls. For the more adventurous, the 3-hour Cossey-Massey Loop Track offers a more challenging trek, taking you through rich native forest and along the Cossey Stream.
Time your visit to coincide with the flowering of the native kōwhai trees in the spring. The sight of these trees, adorned with bright yellow flowers, is a sight to behold.
Distance from Auckland: 68.6 km
Matakana is a haven for food and wine lovers. The town’s renowned for its artisan food producers, boutique vineyards, and vibrant market scene.
Come on a Saturday for the Matakana Farmers’ Market. Here, you can sample and buy local produce, from fresh oysters and organic chocolate to homemade bread and local cheeses.
Make sure to visit Matakana Village, which houses the Matakana Cinemas—three boutique, state-of-the-art cinemas that are a local favourite. Also, check out Sculptureum, just a few minutes’ drive from the village. This attraction combines art, food, and wine in a garden setting and is a must-visit for art lovers.
Distance from Auckland: 155 km
The laid-back beach town of Raglan is known for its world-class surf, artsy vibe, and stunning natural beauty.
Head to the beach, where the consistent swells of the Tasman Sea roll in to create some of the best surf in the world. Whether you’re an experienced surfer or a complete beginner, there is a wave for everyone in Raglan.
And, if you’ve never surfed before, there are several surf schools in town that offer lessons for all ages and abilities.
If you want to spend time away from the beach, take a hike up Mount Karioi for a stunning view of the coastline. The nearby Bridal Veil Falls, a 55-metre waterfall located in the lush native forest, is also well worth a visit.
Plan your visit to coincide with the Raglan Creative Market, held on the second Sunday of each month. This vibrant market showcases the creativity of the local community, with stalls selling everything from handmade jewellery to organic produce.
12. Hobbiton Movie Set
Distance from Auckland: 166.8 km
Address: 501 Buckland Road, Matamata 3472, New Zealand
This is a must-see for any “Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” fans. This enchanting day trip will transport you straight to Middle-Earth, allowing you to wander the idyllic Shire depicted in the beloved J.R.R. Tolkien novels and films.
Amongst the lush green hills of the Waikato region, you’ll find perfectly manicured gardens, quaint hobbit holes, and the iconic Green Dragon Inn.
Guided tours of the movie set will take you through Bag End, the Party Tree, and the rest of Hobbiton. You’ll learn fascinating behind-the-scenes facts about how the films were made, and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to take photos.
To make the most of your visit, consider booking the Evening Banquet Tour. This special tour concludes with a feast fit for a Hobbit at the Green Dragon Inn.
13. Coromandel Peninsula
Distance from Auckland: 167.9 km
The Coromandel Peninsula is a paradise for nature lovers.
The Coromandel is famous for its unique beaches. The most notable is Hot Water Beach, where you can dig your own hot water pool in the sand if you bring a shovel with you.
Another iconic attraction is Cathedral Cove. Accessible only by foot, boat, or kayak, the secluded beach is like a secret paradise.
The small towns in the area, like Coromandel Town, and Whitianga, are also worth a visit. They have a relaxed, bohemian feel and are home to many artists, so spend some time exploring the local art galleries, craft shops, and cafes.
Don’t miss the Driving Creek Railway in Coromandel Town. The railway, originally built to access clay for pottery, now serves as a tourist attraction with a pottery workshop and wildlife sanctuary.
14. Waitomo Glowworm Caves
Distance from Auckland: 190.4 km
Address: 39 Waitomo Village Road, Waitomo Caves 3977, New Zealand
Hours: Monday to Sunday – 8:30 AM to 6:30 PM
Prices: From 75 NZD
A slightly longer drive from Auckland, the Waitomo Glowworm Caves offer a truly magical experience that’s well worth the journey. The caves are home to thousands of glowworms, whose bioluminescent glow creates an ethereal, starry-night effect on the cave’s ceiling.
As you glide through the caves on a boat tour, you’ll be mesmerized by the twinkling lights above and the tranquil silence that surrounds you.
But the glowworms aren’t the only attraction here. There are also blackwater rafting expeditions for the more adventurous, which will have you floating, climbing, and tubing through the caves.
Try to book a tour early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Not only will you avoid the crowds, but the glowworms also tend to shine brighter in the darker, quieter hours.
15. Bay of Islands
Distance from Auckland: 233.5 km
With its turquoise waters, 144 islands, and abundant wildlife, the Bay of Islands is a paradise for nature and sea lovers. From dolphin watching to island hopping, kayaking to hiking, there’s something for everyone here.
For a dose of history, visit Waitangi, the site of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. Or the town of Russell, New Zealand’s first seaport and capital.
If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, there are plenty of walking and hiking trails in the area. One of the most popular is the Cape Brett Track, which offers stunning views of the bay and its islands.
For a more leisurely walk, the Paihia to Opua Coastal Walkway is a great option.
Take a day cruise to the Hole in the Rock, an impressive rock formation on Motukokako Island. Keep an eye out for dolphins and other marine life along the way!