Unforgettable Auckland Day Trips

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Set off on an epic adventure from Auckland with our top picks for unforgettable day trips, all just an hour or so's drive from the city. Whether you're wandering along wild black sand beaches, cooling off under a waterfall, savouring a foodie or vineyard adventure, kayaking, surfing, exploring charming historic villages, or ziplining through the treetops, there's something awesome waiting for everyone.


Renowned for its black sands, wild landscapes, and legendary surf, Piha is the perfect spot for a day trip from Auckland. It’s easily accessible from the city centre, about an hour’s drive away, depending on traffic.

Explore iconic landmarks like Lion Rock or take a stroll to Kitekite waterfall off Glen Esk Road. For more adventure, try the Mercer Bay Loop or simply watch the surfers from the sand dunes. If you go for a swim, remember Piha’s surf can be challenging, to keep safe ensure you swim between the flags.

Refuel at Piha Café or The Piha Store, where you can enjoy delicious food and coffee. If you're up for more exploration, consider stopping at Nihotupu Dam track on the way back - with its carpark located on the right of Piha Road. Plan for about an hour for the return walk.

Bethells Beach / Te Henga

All the west coast black sand beaches have their charm and Bethells Beach, or Te Henga in Te Reo Maori, is no exception. It’s beautiful. Getting there is easy with a rental car, as it’s about a 40-minute drive from Auckland City.

During the weekends The Bethells Beach Café runs out of a caravan on the edge of the sand dunes with top-notch pizza, burgers, and live music gigs. It’s a night straight out of a movie.

Laze on the beach or there are plenty of walks – try the Te Henga walkway or Lake Wainamu – surf or swim.

Waiheke Island

Take a scenic ferry ride from either Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter or Half Moon Bay on the Sealink car ferry to Waiheke Island. The ferry trip takes just over an hour.

Once on Waiheke, the options for activities are plentiful, catering to all preferences. For an exciting adventure, soar high above forest canopies and vineyards with EcoZip. Alternatively, explore Waiheke's picturesque coastline through beach hopping or scenic walks like the little Oneroa Beach Walk.

Wine enthusiasts should not miss the opportunity to visit Waiheke's renowned vineyards, such as Man O’War, Mudbrick, or Stoneyridge Vineyard, for wine-tasting sessions and guided tours.

If your visit coincides with a Saturday, visit the Ostend Market, where you can mingle with Waiheke's residents and sample local delights.


Matakana is an hour north of Auckland City, a food lover's heaven with a focus on fresh, sustainable, and local artisan goods. It’s wine country too.

Be sure to visit the bustling Saturday morning farmer’s market, where you can enjoy live local music, fresh produce, flowers, and deli treats. It's also a great opportunity to stroll through the charming village. Don't miss the Sculptureum, an awesome attraction with six art galleries, three sculpture-filled gardens, and a vineyard, offering plenty to explore. And no trip to Matakana is complete without a stop at Charlies Gelato Garden for some delicious gelato.

Matakana is the perfect place to pick up a picnic lunch to take to Tawharanui, Goat Island, or Omaha Beach, all within a 10 to 20-minute drive.


The Tawharanui Regional Park, just an hour’s drive north of the city, includes working farmland, conservation areas, and recreational spaces within an open wildlife sanctuary. It features some of the area’s most stunning white sand beaches lined with Pohutukawa trees, along with council-operated campsites. Whether you're camping overnight, enjoying a day trip, surfing, or spending time with friends or family, Tawharanui is a special place to experience.

Additionally, the Tawharanui Marine Reserve stretches along the northern coastline, creating an unspoiled underwater environment ideal for snorkelling and diving – perfect for exploring the rock pools!

Goat Island

Goat Island Marine Reserve, named after the small island just 100 meters off the beach, is approximately an hour and ten minutes drive north of Auckland City, depending on traffic. A short walk from the carpark leads to Goat Island Beach, the starting point for snorkelling, diving, kayaking, and glass-bottom boat tours. Even exploring around the rocks is awe-inspiring; the clear waters are filled with sea life.

After exploring the marine reserve, continue up Pakiri Road and stop by Leigh Sawmill Café. It's legendary for its food, live music events, and fabulous accommodation.


Located an hour north of Auckland on the east coast, this beautiful white sand beach offers gentle swimming, making it ideal for families and beginner surfers. Omaha began as a resort, and its relaxed semi-urban vibe persists as it has become a beachside settlement. Visitors can enjoy modern conveniences such as cafes, a playground, and an 18-hole golf course. Be sure to swing by the Farmers Daughter cafe in Omaha for scrumptious food crafted from local ingredients and a good cup of coffee, setting the perfect tone for a beach day.

Shakespear Regional Park

Pack a picnic and settle in for the day, this scenery packs a punch. It’s an open wildlife sanctuary an easy hour’s drive from Auckland City northeast and up the Whangaparaoa Peninsula. A day of swimming, basking on the beach, and walking the heritage trail might just be the re-boot you need.

If it’s the first Sunday of the month, detour slightly to the colourful Coatesville Market on your way – check their Facebook page for dates.


Puhoi, though small, is packed with charm and things to explore. It’s easy to get to, only a half-hour drive from the city centre. Discover its historic village with attractions like a quaint library, a cozy historic pub, the Puhoi Heritage Museum, and the charming Puhoi Cottage Tearooms serving classic scones with cream and jam.

For an adventurous day, paddle down to the estuary at Wenderholm Regional Park in a kayak, easily rented from Puhoi River Kayaks. Keep your eyes peeled for jumping fish and native birds along the way.

Puhoi's quaint and adorable ambiance ensures a delightful day trip experience.

Woodhill and Parakai

Woodhill, a popular mountain biking park, is located just a half-hour drive northwest of Auckland. It offers extensive trails suitable for all skill levels within Woodhill Forest. On-site bike rentals and gear are available, with friendly staff ready to assist. Before hitting the trails, consider stopping by the renowned Boric Food Market along Coatesville Riverhead Highway to pick up picnic essentials.

After your ride, unwind those aching muscles with a soak in the hot pools at nearby Parakai Springs. With massive water slides, it's a hit with kids. For a more tranquil hot pool experience, Palm Springs across the road offers a serene atmosphere. It's just a 45-minute drive back to Auckland City from here.

Soak up some wilderness as you explore these tried and tested mini-road trips. From exploring scenic beaches, enjoying culinary delights, or seeking adventure in charming villages, our handpicked favourites ensure there's something for everyone. So, hop in your car rental and uncover the hidden gems surrounding Auckland.

Pick up
E.g., 16 Jul 2024
E.g., 03:47 PM
E.g., 16 Jul 2024
E.g., 03:47 PM
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