Epic little adventures await within an hour’s drive of Auckland city. Explore wild black sand beaches, swim under a waterfall, set off on a foodie adventure, go for a kayak, learn to surf or take a walk through a sanctuary for a day to remember.
On the other side of Titirangi village, take Scenic Drive (it is well named) and stop at the Arataki Visitors Centre at the high point of the Waitakere Ranges. The centre is a great place to learn about the native flora and fauna and there are fabulous views out over the ranges.
Continuing on toward Piha, there are no houses in sight, just native forest and sky for much of the journey. Home to a small community of residents, Piha is known for its black sands and wild surf. Climb Lion Rock, walk to Kitekite waterfall (off Glen Esk Road), do the Mercer Bay Loop, watch the surfers from a sand dune or get in the water yourself. It’s the wild-west of surf beaches, so keep safe and swim between the flags. The Piha Café or The Piha Store have great food and coffee.
If you have any energy left, stop and do the Nihotupu Dam track on the way back– it has its own carpark on the right of the Piha Road heading back to town. Allow 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.
Every Friday night in summer The Bethells 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.
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.
It’s the perfect place to pick up a picnic lunch to take to Tawharanui, Goat Island, Pakiri or Omaha beaches.
Kilometres of white sandy beach awaits. Spread out your beach towel, hit the surf, go for a long walk or take a horse trek through native bush, pine forests and lush farmland.
The Tawharanui Regional Park includes working farmland, conservation and recreation in an open wildlife sanctuary. It boasts some of the area’s most beautiful white sand beaches fringed with pohutakawa trees and there are council campsites operating. Whether camping overnight or daytripping, surfing or out for a day with friends or family, it’s a special place to experience. The rock pools are something else!
The Tawharanui Marine Reserve runs along the northern coastline which means there is an unspoilt underwater environment, ideal for snorkelling and diving.
Goat Island Marine Reserve is named after the little island just 100 metres off the beach. A short walk from the carpark is Goat Island Beach – the setting off point for snorkelling, diving, kayaking and the glass bottom boat tours. Even exploring around the rocks is awe-inspiring, sea life is abundant in the clear waters.
After you’ve had your fill of the marine reserve keep going up the Pakiri Road and stop in at Leigh Sawmill café for lunch. It’s a bit of a legend in some circles, both for its food and as a live music venue and fab accommodation.
An hour north of Auckland on the east coast, this beautiful white sand beach offers gentle swimming – ideal for families and for beginner surfers. Omaha started out as a resort and the relaxed semi-urban vibe remains now it’s a beachside settlement so there are cafes and all the mod-cons as well as playground and 18 holes of golf.
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 north-east and up the Whangaporoa 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 may be small, but it’s super nice and there’s loads to do.
Woodhill and Parakai
Woodhill is a popular mountain biking park northwest of Auckland. Extensive trails for all skill levels weave through Woodhill Forest. Bikes and all the gear are available to hire on-site and the folks working there are friendly and know their stuff. Pick up the makings of a picnic from the renowned Boric Food Market on your way up the Coatesville-Riverhead Highway.
After your ride, unwind those aching muscles with a soak in the hot pools at nearby Parakai Hot Springs. The kids will love the massive water slides. For a more sedate hot pool experience, try Palm Springs across the road. It’s only a 45-minute drive back to Auckland City from here.
Soak up some wilderness just minutes from the city streets, these tried and tested mini-road trips from Auckland will leave you wanting more.