Auckland is one of the most popular cities to visit in New Zealand and while there is plenty to see and do, we always recommend taking a day or two out of the city for a day trip.
New Zealand is known to have some of the most amazing beaches, exotic wildlife, scenic drives, unbelievable hikes, wonderful landscapes and many more, just waiting to be uncovered. Why miss out on an adventure of a lifetime, when you could be scouting out more of what New Zealand could offer.
To get you out of the city for the day, we would recommend these best day trips from Auckland.
Explore more of New Zealand, with an adventure of a life time.
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Table of Contents
How to get around Auckland, New Zealand
The public transport network infrastructure in New Zealand, makes it easy and simple to take a short trip from Auckland.
It’s possible to take domestic flights between the North and South Island, or international flights between New Zealand and Australia.
Buses and trains are another easy way to get from Auckland to one of these best Auckland day trips. Buses are cheaper, while trains are faster.
Some places could be remote with the only way to get there, is with a vehicle. We would recommend hiring a vehicle or booking with a tour.
Take the adventurous route, by hiring a campervan and taking on one of New Zealand’s epic road trip.
If a tour is more favourable, we also recommend a couple of great tours.
We would always recommend researching and planning the logistics of how to navigate on a day trip.
Best day tours from Auckland
We mention above, that we would recommend a couple of great tours, that will take you on a short-day trip from Auckland.
Here are a few:
What we love about taking a tour, is the logistics are planned for you and most things are included with the tour.
We certainly love the hassle-free approach to taking a tour and saves us driving or taking public transport.
Best day trips from Auckland
Explore North Island’s diverse landscape, packed with some of the best beaches, world class hikes, awe-inspiring landscape, movie sets, caves and so much more.
New Zealand is the land of Lord of the Rings, so of course you need to visit the home of the Hobbits on a day trip from Auckland. Located 2 hours south of Auckland in Matamata is the Hobbiton movie set.
Peter Jackson discovered this gorgeous area by flying around New Zealand in a helicopter. When he spotted the idyllic farmland that now holds custom built Hobbit homes and a functioning tavern, he knew he’d found the right spot.
You can get to Matamata by driving or by a tour bus. Once you reach Hobbiton, you’ll need to join a guided tour that will take you on a 1 hour and 30-minute exploration through the man-made village.
Pack your camera and a portable phone charger, because you’ll be taking a lot of photos. I filled my camera and phone with over 4,000 photos from my tour! That’s not even including the videos I took around the area.
Your tour will include lots of time for photo stops in front of brightly painted Hobbit hole doors, facts about the filming of the movies, and more about the New Zealand countryside. At the end of the tour, you’ll get a free drink at the Green Dragon Inn, where you can dress up in Hobbit garb or sing a classic dwarf drinking song with friends.
Hobbiton offers tours that include meals, but it’s not worth the extra price. Instead, head back into the town of Matamata for a traditional kiwi meat pie from a local bakery. You’ll find four along the main street, all with equally delicious options to lure you in.
If you’re looking to extend your day, visit Wairere Falls for a 3 hour hike, or wander heritage buildings at Firth Tower. Don’t forget to try the famous local cheese at Kaimai Cheese Company Limited.
Hobbiton is a one-of-a-kind day trip from Auckland that every New Zealand visitor must try. It’s worth it to visit even if you’re not a LOTR fan. You’ll learn so much about movie magic and get to see more of New Zealand’s stunning back country (or the wop-wops as they call it).
Contributed by Nina from Nina Out and About
Book your day trip to Hobbiton here
Waitomo Glowworm Caves
Have you ever seen the ceiling of dark caves light up like the starry night sky? If not, then you have to see the magical setting that the bioluminescent creatures called Glowworms create.
The Glowworm species Arachnocampa Luminosa is exclusively found in New Zealand and therefore a must-see. What better place to catch a sight of them than at Waitomo – a town that is just 191 km from Auckland. It takes about two and half hours to get here by car, bus or tours with transfers included.
There a few options for your Waitomo caves tour – a 45-minute walk and boat ride in the Waitomo Glowworm Cave (this is the most popular option); a 1-hour guided walk to see gleaming cave formations at the Aranui Cave (this one has no glowworms), and a 1.5-hour walk in the Ruakuri Cave (photography is allowed here).
You can also choose a combination of two or all three. These tours are conducted from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm and depart every 30 minutes. In the summer months, do pre-book the tours to get preferred tour slots.
You can choose your tour here:
If you’re adventurous, try Black Water Rafting. You’ll have two options – a 3-hour ( Black Labyrinth) one and a 5-hour one (Black Abyss). This is a fun caving experience where you’ll zipline, abseil, and tube through the Ruakuri Cave while taking in the brilliant sight of shining glowworms above!
There are restaurants where the tours finish! So, enjoy a scrumptious meal at the Waitomo Cave Visitor Centre or Waitomo Homestead (depending on where your tour finishes), before heading back to Auckland.
Go immerse yourself in the 30-million-year history and geology of stunning cave formations – one of the most unforgettable experiences in New Zealand.
Contributed by Trisha and Modi from Try Wandering More
You can book your Waitomo tour here.
Muriwai is a wonderful, wild beach and regional park on the west coast of New Zealand. Only 40 minutes outside Auckland, Muriwai is the perfect day trip destination. Muriwai is north of Te Henga (Bethells Beach) and Piha, the famous surf beaches, so it is equally rugged and wild.
To get to Muriwai, take State Highway 16, and take a left-hand turn at Waimauku, it is around 42kms using this route.
Muriwai is home to an amazing gannet colony, the biggest mainland breeding site in New Zealand.
You can view the colony via the trails and viewing platforms at Otakamiro Point at the south end of Muriwai beach.
The gannets perch on the rock formations and cliffsides and swoop in the coast winds.
Bring your camera to capture this incredible sight.
There is a golf course and beach horse trekking available at Muriwai also. Taking a gallop down this long black sand beach on horseback is a memorable way to see the coastline. Or why not try your hand at surfing or kite surfing at the Muriwai Surf School. Dog walking is only allowed at the north end of Muriwai beach, after the northern surf tower.
There aren’t many food options at Muriwai itself. But the Sand Dunz Beach Cafe has all the customary favourites, sausage rolls, chips, ice-creams, and burgers.
Or you could pack yourself a picnic lunch and enjoy your meal on the beach. Remember to take your rubbish away with you; and help keep New Zealand clean and green.
Whether you are taking a day trip from Auckland; or on your way to road trip around Northland, Muriwai is a spectacular place to visit.
Contributed by Hannah from HH Lifestyle Travel
Rotorua is best known for its exhilarating activities, geothermal wonders (complete with a *ahem* unique smell) and vibrant Maori culture, and there are loads of things to do in Rotorua to warrant a day trip from Auckland.
The 230km drive will take you between 2 hours 40 minutes and 3 hours 15 minutes depending on traffic, with a few worthwhile stops on the way.
You could visit the world-class Hamilton Gardens, say hey to the hobbits at Hobbiton in Matamata, or do the short walk to the picture-perfect Blue Spring via the Te Waihou Walkway in Putaruru.
Once you arrive in Rotorua, you’re going to be busy! The most iconic experiences are catching the Skyline Gondola up to the top for stunning views, racing your travel buddies on the Luge (like a go-kart/toboggan hybrid), or rolling down a hill in a Zorb (basically an inflatable ball).
You can also check out Velocity Valley for a bunch of other adrenaline pumping activities if you like pushing yourself to the limits, or try out my all-time favourite Rotorua adventure and go ziplining.
Rotorua Canopy Tours runs education zipline tours in the Mamakus, where you’ll zoom between the trees and walk on sky-high platforms while learning about conservation and local ecology.
You can’t visit Rotorua without experiencing the warm embrace of Maori culture. There are a few different Maori tourism operators who showcase traditional customs, like Tamaki Maori Village, Mitai Maori Village, Whakarewarewa and Te Puia.
There’s also a living village right on the shore of Lake Rotorua called Ohinemutu, with a stunning church, two maraes and bubbling geothermal streams running through.
This village is free to walk around but make sure you stick to the paths and obviously respect private property.
While in Rotorua you’ll see (and smell) some tell-tale signs of geothermal activity, but visiting a proper geothermal park is a must.
Waimangu Volcanic Valley offers guided tours as well as self-guided options to explore brightly coloured lakes, steaming cliffs and lush native bush, or Te Puia has mud pools, geysers and even a Kiwi Conservation Centre to meet New Zealand’s iconic flightless bird.
And before you head back to Auckland, set aside some time for a quick soak in a relaxing hot pool. Polynesian Spa is the best-known, with a big family-friendly pool as well as an adult-only section and private pools, or Waikite Valley is cheaper and less commercial set right above a geothermal forest.
Contributed by Alexx from Finding Alexx
Book your Rotorua tour here
One of the most popular beaches in New Zealand is Piha Beach, just 45 minutes to an hour west of Auckland. The location surely helps with its popularity, but the beach itself is amazing and well worth a visit!
When you get to Piha Beach, parking is limited and a bit tricky to find. You may have to walk a short distance through local neighborhoods to reach it, but once you do, you’ll understand why you came.
Black sandy beaches line the waves. The ocean water is shallow for 30-50 feet, which allows for a lot of space to swim and ride the waves.
On windier days, the waves can even get big enough to surf on. Conveniently, there is a surf school and surfboard rental place just off the beach.
Along the shore, dozens of tide pools can be found, which are a lot of fun for children who can’t swim to play in. There is also plenty of sand to build sandcastles and sand mermaids with.
Besides the sand and the water, Piha is teeming with wildlife! The south end of the beach leads to a rocky cove covered in starfish, crabs, mussels, and small fish.
The small animals are a lot of fun to look at but be sure to respect the wildlife and do not disturb them. This includes leaving starfish alone and resisting the urge to pick them up.
A famous landmark at Piha Beach is Lion Rock, a towering hill that juts partway into the ocean. It creates a beautiful atmosphere over the beach and provides shade during midday. It is also fun to climb on and reach stunning views at the top!
Piha is a great North Island, New Zealand beach for families, couples, and solo travelers. Any trip there will be unforgettable!
Contributed by McKenna Hurd of One More Step Travels
The Coromandel Peninsula
In summer, one of the most popular areas that people living in Auckland head to for a day- or weekend trip is the Coromandel Peninsula, and with good reason.
This beautiful stretch of land has everything the city doesn’t; dense rainforest, rocky hilltops, beautiful beaches, waterfalls and the most incredible coastline full of stunning little hidden bays.
And best of all, it is less than a two-hour drive away! There is enough to do in the Coromandel to keep you busy for at least two weeks, but if you’re pressed for time there are a few activities that should be put on the top of your list.
The first is Cathedral Cove, the area’s most popular tourist attraction. A beautiful walk over cliffsides and through the forest along the coastline gets you to a mesmerizing beach with the most picturesque natural archway providing access to the other side of the beach. Words don’t do this place justice, you’ll have to see it for yourself.
The next must-do is hiking up to the Pinnacles. The jagged summit of this craggy hilltop offers spectacular views over the whole peninsula. This is especially stunning around sunset.
Hiking up and down takes you about seven hours in total, so if you want to be there for sunset you should consider spending the night in the hut just under the summit.
If you’re more into sunbathing on the beach but find Cathedral Cove too busy, then head to New Chums Beach. This place is rated as one of the top 10 beaches in the world! Perfect white-golden sand, crystal clear waters, but never busy.
There is also a viewpoint overlooking the half-moon shaped beach which is great for photography.
When it comes to food, the Coromandel Peninsula isn’t the most culinary of places. If you like burgers, then Mad Burger in Thames is the place for you. Otherwise the restaurants Salt and Stoked, both in Whitianga, serve good food.
Contributed by Tom & Zi from Craving Adventure
Book a tour of The Coromandel, Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach Tour here.
If you are looking for one of the most fantastic day trips from Auckland, Waiheke Island is a perfect choice.
A quick 40-minute ferry ride will take you across the water from the city to one of New Zealand’s most stunning islands. With only 10,000 residents, this tiny North Island destination is a popular day trip for Aucklanders and international visitors.
Its popularity is thanks to the many boutique wineries that offer visitors the chance to experience wine tasting in Waiheke’s vineyards.
If you have your own car you can book it on the ferry or hire a car once you get across to Waiheke.
Not a driver? No worries, just use the Waiheke bus that will link you to all the wineries and towns, a much better idea if you want to participate in wine tasting! From the dining options and delicious accompanying beverages to the beautiful settings of the wineries, Waiheke is the perfect place to spend the day.
Daytime views from Waiheke island across the Hauraki Gulf are sensational, and sunset panoramas are magical, especially if you happen to have a glass of New Zealand wine in your hand.
The island is full of the most incredible places to eat, from local cafes in the centre of town to lunchtime charcuterie platters at Stonyridge or first-class dining options at wineries such as Cable Bay and Mudbrick.
Other Waiheke attractions are also available to visitors that may not want to visit the wineries. Activities include zip lining across the vineyards, touring the island by bike, and fabulous hiking trails that stretch from one side of Waiheke to the other.
Of course, being an island, Waiheke has some incredible golden sandy beaches. The most popular one, Onereo being a magnet for most visitors who spend time on the island. Lined with indigenous red-flowering pohutukawa trees, also known as the New Zealand Christmas tree, this beach is a great spot to relax on the beautiful island of Waiheke before catching the ferry back to Auckland.
Contributed by Angela from Where Angie Wanders
Book a wineries tour on Waiheke Island today!
Matakana is a popular day trip destination with Auckland locals, particularly in the summer months.
If you consider yourself a foodie, then it will be the perfect day trip for you too. Head north over the Auckland Harbour Bridge and in just under an hour you’ll find yourself in a first class wine and food region.
Vineyards and Wine Tasting
If wine is your thing, then you may need to think about how you are going to get around, as you don’t want to be driving between vineyards. In which case, you’ll need to join a wine tasting tour.
Follow this link for a tailored tour, that also includes transport to and from Auckland.
Alternatively, if you have managed to find yourself a travel companion who has offered to drive then even better.
From the Warkworth turnoff the tasting trail begins. Get this excellent PDF wine trail map to help you find the vineyards most suited to your taste.
I personally recommend Brick Bay. The vineyard has dedicated a large area of their property to the arts. A trail winds through bush and around small lakes and takes you on a journey of modern and contemporary sculpture. This space has been incredibly well thought out and is one of my favourite vineyards in the area.
Tip – allow an hour for the sculpture trail ahead of the tasting. Also book lunch ahead and request to be seated under the vines.
If wine is not your thing then craft beer might be. There are a couple of magic little places to get you started.
We love the Smoko Room at the Sawmill, just outside of the Matakana township, or 8 Wired in the middle of town. Both locations will do a great tasting paddle, you select the types of beers you want on your paddle and you are good to go!
There is more to Matakana than just the grapes and hops of course. There are some stunning beaches not too far beyond the village.
Tawharanui is a beautiful beach only a 20 minute drive beyond Matakana Village. What makes this beach even more special is that it is also a bird sanctuary.
Bring a towel and head to the Anchor Bay end of the beach for a slightly quieter location.
Other beaches to visit are Omaha beach for sunset walks or Goat Island Marine Reserve for snorkeling.
Other Recommendations in and Around Matakana
The farmers market in town, is a great place to find local artisan food and crafts. It’s open every Saturday all year round from 8am to 1pm, located down by the river in the centre of town.
Charlies Gelato is a local, handmade favourite that offers some unique flavours. Honest Chocolat make THE best chocolate in town, you can even see them making it at the shop. And look no further than Ringawera Baker for the finest artisan breads.
Need more inspiration where to visit in the North of the Island, then check out these best places to visit in the north of the island.
Contributed by Sharon from My Free Range Family
While not the easiest day trip from Auckland, Taupo is definitely one of the best. At a three-hour drive, you’ll want to leave early or make it a weekend getaway. There are certainly enough things to do in Taupo that it will be worthwhile!
An area of geothermal activity, no day trip to Taupo would be complete without visiting one of its volcanically charged attractions.
Craters of the Moon is a beautiful and unique boardwalk that crosses through steaming grasslands, bubbling mud, and thermal pools.
Those pools are far too hot to take a dip in, but there are many natural hot springs in Taupo for you to enjoy.
Otumuheke Thermal Springs is one of the best free attractions in the area; here you can sit in the naturally warm rock pools or swim in the river.
If hiking is more your thing, take on nearby Mount Tauhara or combine your Taupo trip with the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
Lake Taupo is also worth a visit. Enjoy a drink overlooking the lake, cycle alongside the lakeside path, or enjoy by boat; kayak rentals and steamboats regularly take visitors to see the 10m high Maori rock carvings, hidden at one side of the lake.
Finally, complete your trip with a visit to Aratiatia Rapids and the roaring Huka Falls.
Contributed by Cassie from Cassie the Hag
Book onto an adventurous Taupo acitivity below:
Auckland is a beautiful city, with volcano’s surrounding the landscape, but with so many other beautiful places to visit in the North Island, just a short distance from the city, you really can’t not include a day trip.
While I didn’t spend much time in New Zealand, in fact I only spent 4 days in Auckland, I do regret not spending more time and exploring more of the country. Since this is a once in a life time opportunity, I really wish I had taken a few of the best day trips out of Auckland.
I may not have the chance to return and I certainly don’t want you to miss out on an opportunity of a life time.
What was your favourite place to visit on a day trip from Auckland? Is there somewhere we didn’t include that should be on this list? Is there specific place you can’t wait to discover? Let us know, by leaving a comment below.
Continue your New Zealand travel planning, with these useful posts:
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- Best beaches in New Zealand
- How to stay safe while travelling solo
- Best places to visit in New Zealand
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