It’s been six years since I moved to New Zealand on a Working Holiday Visa. I’d spent the previous two years living and travelling in Australia, and since I was on the opposite side of the world from home already I couldn’t think of a better way to continue my travels than a year in “the land of the long white cloud”.
It was June 2012, and for the first couple of months I concentrated on getting a job and finding somewhere to live in Auckland. I’d become a solo traveller a few weeks after arriving, and I was adamant that I didn’t want this to taint the amazing experiences I wanted to have in New Zealand.
That was easier said than done, of course; the break down of a six year relationship is fun for literally no-one. But it also gave me the chance to learn to be by myself again. To make a whole new group of friends.
The hostel I stayed in until I found an apartment was the kind of place that feels more like a home than a halfway house for backpackers, and I’m still friends today with the people I met there. We went on a New Year’s road trip to Taupo and drove back to Auckland via Rotorua, Tauranga, and an incredible geothermal park. We flew to Queenstown and discovered Milford Sound and Arrowtown. We went to Wellington one weekend. My year in New Zealand might have got off to a rough start, but the memories I made there will genuinely stay with me for life.
Many of the adventures we had were closer to our adopted home of Auckland, though. Most of us spent our weekdays at work, so when we weren’t spending our Saturdays climbing Mount Eden for views over the city, or Sundays hanging out at Silo Park, we were hiring a car and heading out of the city. There are so many awesome things to do in the city itself, but if you’ve got time it’s definitely worth exploring further afield and going on one of these day trips from Auckland.
7 unforgettable day trips from Auckland
There is SO much to do on Waiheke Island, so much sure you’re out nice and early for the 35 minute ferry trip from Auckland harbour. With 133km of coastline, the island is a beautiful destination for cycling, hiking, winery-hopping, or just lazing around on the beach.
Some of the views from Waiheke are incredible, and the best way to experience them is by donning your walking shoes and setting off on foot. The Northern Walk is best for those wanting to take in as much of the island as possible without straying too far from the ferry and Oneroa village, while the Onetangi beach walk has amazing views out to Little Barrier Islands.
Waiheke is also the place in Auckland for foodies and wine lovers, so make sure you fit in a winery tour while you’re there. Explore them by hiring a bike, or take the Waiheke Explorer Hop On Hop Off bus from the ferry terminal.
It’s not all about beach views and wine tasting, though. Adventurous types can still get their kicks on Waiheke Island, with a range of outdoor activities like zip-lining, kayaking, and mountain biking.
If you love beaches, wineries, and markets (and let’s face it, who doesn’t?) you’ll love Matakana, a small town around 45 minutes from downtown Auckland. This picturesque region is a haven for foodies, and best known for its weekend farmers market, vineyard, and boutique shops.
The best day to visit Matakana is on a Saturday when the local market will be in full swing, selling everything from jewellery and art to baked goods and wine. Once you’re done browsing (or buying!), grab a cup of coffee and relax by the riverside – there’s often live music to enjoy while you’re there.
The area’s also great for surfing, or visit one of the region’s wineries (I went to Omaha Valley Winery and the views were stunning) to get a real taste of the region.
Known for its extensive underground caves, Waitomo is a village just over two hours south of Auckland, and if you want to experience the famous New Zealand glowworms this is definitely the place to be.
You can explore the glowworm caves by boat, but to get the most out of your visit I’d recommend going black water rafting (like I did) where you’ll jump down underground waterfalls and float along the underground river in rubber tubes whilst admiring the glowworm displays above you. Parts of the journey were downright terrifying, but to this day it’s honestly one of the best experiences I’ve had on my travels.
Piha is a coastal town north-west of Auckland with a beach that’s perfect for sunbathing and surfing. Surfing’s not really my thing (I went to New Zealand’s surf capital and didn’t get on a surf board once!) but sunbathing? You don’t have to ask me twice…
This laid-back seaside village just 45 minutes west of Auckland is home to a scenic black sand beach marked at each end with rugged cliffs. It’s popular with the locals and a major day trip locations for Aucklanders throughout the year. Spend a day lazing on the beach and dipping your toes in the water, but don’t miss the incredible views from Lion Rock. This natural rock formation dividing the North and South beaches is a west coast icon and, while hiking it is hard work, the view from the top is definitely worth it.
The beach at Mission Bay is a harbour beach, and as it’s just a short bus ride from Britomart transport centre it’s one of the more popular day trips from Auckland. With calm water perfect for swimming, free barbecues dotted throughout the park that runs adjacent to the sandy beach, and a bunch of restaurants, cafes, and bars with lovely views over the water, Mission Bay is a worthwhile day trip for those who don’t want to stray too far from the city centre.
If the view of Auckland’s skyline doesn’t wow you on the way to Takapuna, then the view of Rangitoto Island from Takapuna beach definitely will. This coastal suburb on the north shore of Auckland is popular with families due to its calm waters and its lively Sunday market selling everything from fruit and veg to crafts and antiques is definitely worth a visit.
There are lots of cafes and restaurants to eat at, but I’d go for fish and chips by the beach if I were you, and if you’re up for a walk afterwards the heritage trail from Takapuna to Milford has gorgeous views of the coastline.
Just a short ride across the harbour from the city, Auckland’s most iconic island is a popular destination for hikers and day trippers. Its distinctive symmetrical cone rises 260 metres above the Hauraki Gulf and its the largest (and youngest) volcano in the Auckland volcanic field.
Enough about its history, though! What can you do there? Well, the main reason people visit Rangitoto is to walk up to its summit. The Summit Track is the most popular climb, and takes about an hour from top to bottom, winding through lava fields and native forests at a gentle incline. At the top, take in panoramic views and have a well-earned rest before heading back down.
Obviously make sure you take plenty of water and sunscreen – you can get burnt even on a cloudy day in New Zealand.
So there you have it; seven day trips from Auckland to consider if you’re heading to New Zealand!
Disclaimer: I wrote this post about my time living in Auckland as part of a collaboration with Flight Centre. However, all opinions and photos are my own. For more information on holidays to New Zealand, or to find out more about where to visit in New Zealand, head over to their website.