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10 Absolute BEST Day Trips from Auckland

Last updated : March 8th, 2020

Auckland to Muriwai Beach


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Before Bailey and I started blogging full-time we lived in Auckland working 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. This meant that in order to explore the best things to do in Auckland we needed to do lots of Auckland day trips!

For a long time, our weekends were filled with amazing day trips we did from our home in Auckland. And in that time, we sure did a lot!

But, there are some day trips out from the rest and they’re the best day trips from Auckland you can do.

Now, I don’t want to talk down other blogs but…what I noticed is that other articles online suggest visiting places that are simply too far away to visit on a day trip from Auckland. I mean who’s going to drive to Cape Reinga and back in a day? It’s a 420-kilometer journey one way!

So with that in mind, here are the 10 best day trips from Auckland that can easily be done in just one day!  


1. Hobbiton and Waitomo Caves

Bailey sits in a Hobbit door at Hobbiton in New Zealand
Exploring Hobbiton on our day tour from Auckland!
Total distance:470 kilometers (290 miles)
What you need:Car or organized tour
Time needed:9 hours minimum

Our first day trip from Auckland is a classic! Visiting the Waitomo Caves and Hobbiton are bucket list activities and some of the best things to do in New Zealand.

The Waitomo Caves is arguably the best place to see glow worms in New Zealand and after touring the caves myself, I can agree on that – there are literally thousands of them!

And as for Hobbiton, do I need to say more? It’s the coolest movie set on the planet! So if you’re a fan it’s a must and if you’re not, well, I wrote an honest Hobbiton review for people like us!

From Auckland, it is a long drive to the Waitomo Caves which will take around 2 hours to complete. However, after touring the Waitomo Caves, you can visit Hobbiton on your way back to Auckland via a short detour. 

My recommendation is the leave Auckland early in the morning at around 7 am especially on a weekday. The total distance you’ll drive on this day trip is 470 kilometers so you’ll need a full day. However, this means you can explore two of the best attractions near Auckland in one go!

If it sounds too long: If you don’t think you can drive that far in one day then just visit Hobbiton. From Auckland, you can get to Hobbiton in 2 hours. If that still sounds like too much then jump on an Auckland day tour to Hobbiton. That way someone else will do the driving for you and lots of tours also visit the caves.


2. Cathedral Cove and Hot water Beach (Coromandel Peninsula)

Cathedral Cove near Hot water beach on the Coromandel Peninsular
Cathedral Cove!
Total distance:350 kilometers (217 miles)
What you need:Car or organized tour
Time needed: 8 hours

There really are so many amazing day trips from Auckland and this next one proves that! Both Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove are amazing places to visit in New Zealand and from Auckland, you can easily visit them on a day trip.

In fact, this was the first day trip I did from Auckland and it involved a 3 am wakeup call the get to Hot Water Beach for sunrise.

For those who don’t know already, Hot Water Beach is literally a beach where you can dig a hole in the sand and enjoy a hot bath! This is because of a crack in the earth’s crust that heats underground water at the beach.

Cathedral Cove, on the other hand, is a beautiful rock formation that was actually used in the filming of the Narnia films. The walk to Cathedral Cove takes about 30 minutes each way and once there, you can relax on the sand or enjoy a nice cold swim.

Both attractions are only a 10-minute drive from each other so you must visit them together. This trip does take a little more planning as you can only enjoy Hot water Beach 2 hours either side of low tide. So be sure to read our Hot Water Beach guide before going!

Tour recommendation: This Coramandel Peninsular day tour from Auckland is the top-rated tour available and visits both Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove as well as Mount Paku summit (a short but beautiful trail).

Related Read:   South Island Destinations: Best Things to do on the South Island of New Zealand

3. Muriwai Beach

A gannet flys from the cliffs on Muriwai Beach near Auckland
Watching the nesting gannets at Muriwai Beach
Total distance:82 kilometers (51 miles)
What you need:Car or organized tour
Time needed:3 hours minimum

If you’re after a shorter day trip from Auckland then a visit to Muriwai Beach is the perfect option. This short but sweet day trip takes you out to the west coast of the North Island to explore the rugged volcanic coastline.

Here you can lay on the beach, go for a swim, or just have a picnic or coffee. The beach itself isn’t that nice but I actually love Muriwai Beach for another reason – the birds!

There is a large Gannet colony that lives on the cliffs at the beach. Visiting this colony of birds is a must! But, you will need to be there between the months of August and April to see the birds as they do leave after that (I don’t know where they go.)

The last time I visited in January, I saw lots of baby Gannets which was really cool!

The drive to Muriwai Beach is only 37 kilometers and takes around 40 minutes so you could pair this visit with Bethells Beach (another amazing beach nearby) for the ultimate west coast day trip from Auckland!

Tour recommendation: If you’re going to go out to Muriwai Beach on a tour then this tour that includes a wine tasting, a visit to the beach, and the gannet colony is a great choice.


4. Piha Beach

The views from Lion rock at Piha Beach near Auckland, New Zealand
The views from Lion Rock at Piha Beach near Auckland, New Zealand
Total distance:80 kilometers (50 miles)
Time needed:3 hours minimum
What you need:car, shuttle bus, or organized tour

Piha Beach is one of the best beaches in New Zealand! The first time I visited I was in awe of the stunning coastline. To me, it’s the contrast between the black sand, blue water, and lush green landscape that makes it a must-visit!

Getting to Piha is easy and from Auckland, it is only a 40-kilometer drive. The drive itself is also an attraction and once you get out of the city the landscape begins to dramatically change. Just before Piha Beach is the turnoff to Karekare Beach. I highly suggest visiting this beach on your way out as it’s just as stunning as Piha!

At Piha, you can surf and swim in the water however this part of the coastline is both rough and rocky so be sure to swim between the flags. There is a café and restaurant at the beach as well as a holiday park for campers and motorhomes.

If you want to enjoy a really nice view then hike up Lion Rock which is located on the beach. This short walk up Lion Rock gives you amazing views of the entire beach!

Tour recommendation: This Piha Beach tour from Auckland is the most top-rated guided tour. And at only $40 USD per person, it’s great value too!


5. Rangitoto Island

Rangitoto Island summit track view, Auckland
Rangitoto Island summit track view, Auckland.
Total distance:22 kilometers (13 miles)
Time needed:4 hours
What you need: Take a ferry, no car needed

Rangitoto Island is just one of New Zealand’s volcano islands off the coast. This beautiful nature reserve is reached by a 25-minute ferry from the Auckland downtown ferry terminal. This makes it one of the best day trips from Auckland for those without a car.

Once you reach the island by ferry you can then choose to either take the tractor train (you need to book it here in advance) around or simply walk yourself. The tractor takes you on a  guided tour and is only available on weekends or public holidays. However, it’s a great option as it takes you to amazing places on the island with little walking.

With that said, if you want to walk or are visiting on a weekday then the island is just over 5 kilometers in diameter, so walking is a viable option. There are a few great walks to do with the most popular being the summit trail.

Other great trails on the island include the Boulder Bay Track and the Coastal Track. These trails take a few hours each so choose one or two and be sure to make it back in time for your ferry home!

On the trails, you can see native bird species and enjoy breathtaking views. Be sure to bring lots of water and food as there is nowhere the buy it on the island!

Important info: Fullers is the company that runs ferries to the island. Tickets cost $39 NZD for adults but they have deals for children and families.

Related Read:   Pouakai Hut - The Best View of Mount Taranaki

6. Waiheke Island

A Waiheke Island winery
I love visiting the wineries on Waiheke Island!
Total distance:80 kilometers (50 miles)
Time needed:6 hours minimum (8 preferably)
What you need: Just a ferry but a car would help

Waiheke Island is my favorite island off the coast of Auckland. To be honest, a day trip here from Auckland is so much fun, but spending a few nights is even better!

Getting to the island is easy and if you have a car you can actually take it on the Sea Link ferry. This ferry takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes and costs $97 per car and $18 per person each way. If you don’t have a car then you can take the Fullers fast ferry which only takes 35 minutes to reach the island and costs $42 return for adults.

On Waiheke Island, there’s lots to see and do but my favorite is the wine tours. Waiheke wineries produce world-class wines! By bike you can explore lots of the wineries getting tipsy along the way. You can also enjoy the beautiful beaches, go snorkeling or diving and eat at tasty restaurants.

Waiheke Island is a magnificent place to visit and one of the best day trips from Auckland!

Hot tips: If you can, spend a night or two on Waiheke Island. You can browse accommodation on the island. As for tours, there are lots of great options that come highly rated, from wine to adventure tours you can browse them all here.


7. Bay of Islands and Waipu Caves (Northland)

cruising around the bay of islands
Cruising around the Bay of Islands!
Total distance:460 kilometers (285 miles)
Time needed:10 hours
What you need: car or organized tour

One of the longest day trips from Auckland I recommend doing is the drive out to Paihia in the Bay of Island, New Zealand as well as the Waipu Caves.

From Auckland to Paihia in the Bay of Islands, it’s a 200-kilometer drive that takes around 2.5 to 3 hours. However, if you leave in the morning you can easily make one of the famous dolphin cruises in the Bay of Islands (these sell out so be sure to book in advance.)

After spotting dolphins on your Bay of Islands cruise you can enjoy lunch in town before heading back to Auckland via the best free glow worms caves in New Zealand, the Waipu Caves. At the Waipu Caves, you can simply park your car and wander into a cave to see lots of glow worms.

You can walk in only 50 meters and see the worms but for a better look wade through the water to the second part of the cave. Here, you can see thousands! You’ll need a torch to visit the caves and be aware that the second part of the cave is covered in 3-inch deep water.

This day trip is a long one and involves 458 kilometers of driving (around 6 hours) total. I would only recommend doing this if you can’t spend more time in Northland. It would also make a great weekend trip leaving on a Saturday morning and returning Sunday afternoon!

Tour recommendation: If you don’t want to drive yourself or don’t have a car then this Bay fo Islands day tour from Auckland is a great choice. It includes your dolphin-watching cruise and a visit to the famous Hole in the Rock.


8. Raglan

Bridal Veil falls in Raglan
Bridal Veil Falls is a stunning waterfall and a must-visit in Raglan
Total distance:300 kilometers (186 miles)
Time needed:7 hours minimum
What you need:Car or organized tour

If you love laid back surf towns, drinking craft beers, laying on the beach, waterfalls, or surfing then Raglan is one day trip from Auckland you have to do!

Located 150 kilometers southwest of Auckland, Raglan is the ultimate hippy town. The surf here is usually pumping and with both beach and point breaks there are waves for all experience levels from beginners to pros.

In town, you can enjoy drinks at the amazing restaurants and bars, enjoy a coffee, or get the kiwi classic fish and chips and take it to the beach.

On the drive in you’ll pass a sign from Bridal Veil Falls. Be sure to stop here for a quick walk to the waterfall – it’s simply stunning!

Of course, it is a bit of a drive to Raglan so I always recommend spending a night in Raglan (you won’t want to leave after only a few hours) but for those without time, a day trip from Auckland is easily managed.


9.Tiritiri Matangi Wildlife Sanctuary

Tiritiri Matangi wildlife sanctuary near Auckland, New Zealand
Tiritiri Matangi wildlife sanctuary near Auckland, New Zealand. Photo Credit: Delilah from Our Travel Mix
Total distance:60 kilometers by ferry (37 miles)
Time needed:6 hours minimum
What you need:Just the ferry no car needed

When I asked a friend who had lived in Auckland her whole life what her favorite place to visit outside the city was, she told me without hesitation Tirtiri Matangi Island. To be honest, I hadn’t even heard of the place until she mentioned it!

Tiritiri Matangi Island is a predator-free wildlife sanctuary located 30km northeast of Auckland and only 4km from the Whangaparaoa Peninsula. The island was once devastated by farming but volunteers back in 1984 begun planting native trees on the island and in 10 years planted almost 300,000 trees.

The island is now a sanctuary for New Zealand birds and a beautiful escape from Auckland city. Luckily for visitors, the island is much easier to visit than it is to pronounce so I quickly made a day trip from Auckland to Tiritiri Matangi.

The ferry to the island from downtown Auckland costs $82 return and takes just over an hour each way. Although expensive, once there you can enjoy pristine beaches, stunning nature walks, and even visit New Zealand’s oldest operating lighthouse.  

Tour recommendation: There aren’t many tours to the island from Auckland but this self guided day tour is a highly rated tour and only costs around $50 USD per person.


10. North Shore – Devonport to Long Bay

Browns Bay, New Zealand
Credit – Big Stock – mrcmos
Total distance:30 kilometers (18 miles)
Time needed:3 hours
What you need:Just the ferry or a car

When people come to Aucklanders, it sometimes feels like all they want to do is leave. However, Auckland’s North Shore provides a convenient but beautiful escape from the busy city.

From Auckland, it only takes about 20 minutes by car the reach the south end of North Shore which is Devonport. But, if you don’t have a car you can also take a ferry from downtown Auckland too. The ferry only takes 12 minutes and costs $7.50 each way for adults.

In Devonport, you can join the Explorer Bus and enjoy an hour’s drive around the area. They’ll take you to two volcanic cones on the tour and check out amazing views of Auckland city. Another great activity is to visit the Devonport Chocolate Factory or join the segway tour.

If you have a car or you don’t mind catching the bus, then you can head even further north and check out some of the beautiful beaches in the area including Cheltenham Beach, Narrow Neck Beach, Browns Bay, and Mairangi Bay. However, don’t let that stop you from exploring the coastal towns and beaches all the way to Long Bay!

I love this area of Auckland and for the most part, it remains a local secret, that is, until now!


Renting a Car or Campervan for your Auckland Day Trip

campervan hir in auckland
You can hire a campervan or car for one or two days easily in Auckland!

If you’re visiting Auckland from overseas then it’s likely you’ll need a rental car if you want to do some of the longer day trips from Auckland. Luckily, you can get rental cars in Auckland for a very reasonable price. To do a full search on all the cars available be sure to use Rentalcars.com. They are the cheapest car rental search engine by far!

For motorhomes and campervans, there is a similar company called Motorhome Republic that lets you search every motorhome or campervan available in New Zealand. These are more suitable for overnight trips where you might want to freedom camp and save the money on a hotel!

Related Read:   Ultimate Guide to Renting a Campervan in New Zealand

Before you go…

Thanks for reading and I hope you now have some great day trips from Auckland to look forward to. If you have any questions about the info above or just have some words to share, please leave them below in the comments section, we’d love to hear from you!

Be sure to check out our New Zealand blog page which includes all our articles set by region so you can easily plan your trip to New Zealand! Or, check out some of these articles below:

2 days in Auckland – 48 hour itinerary

How to get a cheap campervan rental in New Zealand

10 amazing New Zealand road trip itineraries

-Daniel


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About the Author - destinationlesstravel

We are Dan and Bailey, just your typical thrill-seeking travelers! You will likely find us hiking, scuba diving, catching public transport, or just drinking beer at a hostel.

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