Auckland, located on the North Island, is New Zealand’s largest city, and no New Zealand vacation would be complete without a stay in this diverse hot spot. There are a lot of exciting things to do in Auckland and the surrounding areas that make it the perfect starting point for thrilling adventures and day trips.
Not far from Auckland you can find world-class waves, epic hiking trails, award-winning vineyards and wineries, and much much more. Whether you’re doing a New Zealand road trip or are planning an Auckland itinerary for a short stay, these day trips will only add to and make your trip that much more memorable.
Top Day Trips from Auckland
Keep reading to uncover some of the best day tours from Auckland that you can do on your own or with a tour company. You just might find yourself turning your day trip into a weekend trip from Auckland city.
As one of the most popular day trips from Auckland, it’s suggested that you don’t miss taking a day trip to the legendary Waiheke Island. The island is world-famous for its wineries and vineyards. Spending the day in Waiheke is a must and promises to be a great visit. You’ll have to take a ferry to the island where you have the option of being met by a guide who will show you the island’s best wineries and beaches or you can tour on your own, by taking the bus.
Everyone knows that Lord of the Rings is synonymous with New Zealand and a trip to the legendary Hobbiton is popular with travellers of all ages. Walk into the fantasy world of Hobbiton and you’ll get to see the Hobbit Holes, The Mill, and the Green Dragon Inn where you will be treated to a special beverage.
It’s common that after exploring the Lord of the Rings movie set tours will take you to Waitomo glowworm caves where you’ll hop into a boat and cruise through the caves while thousands of worms sparkle and shine down on you.
A Hobbiton tour from Auckland is an unforgettable experience. If driving on your own, it’s about 2.5 hours each way.
One of the most famous attractions in New Zealand, a visit to Waitomo Caves will put you in awe of its natural beauty. The underground network of caves are accessed by boat with a guide, lit by the soft glow of the naturally incredible glow worms.
It’s also possible to go black water rafting in the caves, where you get to raft in almost pitch black! Only the glow worms light your way through the caves.
A Waitomo Caves tour from Auckland is most commonly done as a day trip with a stop at Hobbiton. Waitomo Caves are the furthest, just under 3 hours from Auckland.
A 2-hour drive from Auckland, the Coromandel Peninsula is a secluded peninsula that offers visitors a chance to get away from the crowds. Here there’s a rugged mountain range, covered in forest that makes it an ideal spot for hiking and unique beaches.
Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach are amongst the favourite Auckland day trips which can be done as a Coromandel tour from Auckland or on your own. Hiking to Cathedral Cove takes you through thriving rainforest and past gorgeous alcoves. Once at the cove, you can wander around and take pictures, swim in the warm waters, or relax and sunbathe.
Hot Water Beach is also included in a day trip and as well as a hike to the summit of Mt. Paku. Hot Water Beach is always a fun stop but you have to visit at low tide. Why you might ask? Hot Water Beach is so popular because you can dig a hole in the sand and create your own natural hot tub.
For outdoor adventure lovers, the Pinnacles Track is one of the most popular hikes to do on the Coromandel Peninsula. Originally made as a packhorse trail, this hike will leave you breathless, literally and figuratively. The trail is steep and rugged with stone steps and ladders along the way for the extra steep parts. This walk takes you through pristine rainforest that gets more rocky as you reach the top. The view from the top of the pinnacles is, to put it bluntly, unreal.
The Pinnacles Walk takes about 8 hours to complete and many people turn it into a two-day hike with a stay at the Pinnacles hut. The trail can be quite wet and muddy at times so be sure to wear proper hiking shoes. Make sure you bring plenty of water and snacks and to stop and look at the views along the way because this hike showcases the true natural beauty of New Zealand.
While there are plenty of things to do in Rotorua, sometimes it’s not possible to fit a stop in here during your trip to New Zealand. A Rotorua day trip from Auckland is the next best thing. A trip to Rotorua is like transporting you to another world. Filled with geothermal wonders like hot springs, bubbling mud pools, and geysers, plus being a top destination for Maori culture, Rotorua is a must-visit.
Opt to join a tour or drive yourself and steal the itinerary from this tour. Tour or self-drive, driving to Rotorua is a treat in itself because of the dramatically stunning landscape.
Once in Rotorua, your guide will show you around the city and take you sightseeing as you learn more about geothermal activity happening underneath the city. You’ll get to visit Lake Rotorua, the Government Gardens, Blue Baths, thermal springs, and the famous Polynesian Spa.
Other options include visiting a geothermal park or taking a ride on the Skyline gondola.
Less than two hours outside of Auckland is a quintessential little beach town called Raglan. Raglan is world-famous in the surf community because of its incredible waves. Whether you already surf or you want to take a lesson, Raglan is the ultimate place to go.
Surfing not your thing? That’s okay! Raglan also has plenty to do if the waves are bad or if surfing isn’t on your bucket list. You can explore the black sand beaches, sit and watch the surfers, explore the town, and grab lunch or coffee at any of the quaint shops in town.
You can and should also hike to Bridal Veil Falls. This waterfall is 55m high and plunges into a deep rock pool below. While you can’t swim here, there are two different viewing decks to experience the power up close. The track takes you to the top of the falls and it is a fairly easy hike and is wheelchair accessible.
The easiest and best way to get here is by renting your own car or finding a group that is already going and hop in with them. Ridesharing is quite common in New Zealand and makes it easier to get to out of reach places like Raglan.
This cozy little beach town is ideal for weekend getaways from Auckland. Despite Whangamata’s small size, there are plenty of things to do. You can learn to surf, take yoga classes, and hike to Wentworth Falls or the Wharekirauponga Track which also leads to a waterfall.
One of the best things to do in Whangamata is to take a kayak or paddleboard trip to Whenuakura Island. Also called Donut Island, it was once a volcano that imploded in on itself, leaving behind a magical, cave-like lagoon. The island is now a wildlife sanctuary for thousands of native birds.
There is a shuttle you can book to pick you up from Auckland but if you want to do any of the waterfall hikes, it is best you have your own car. Whangamata is just about two hours from Auckland.
As seen from most of Auckland, this volcanic island is less than a 30-minute ferry ride away from the CBD (the downtown core of Auckland). Grab your hiking boots, some snacks, and water (as there are no shops on the island), and get ready for some incredible hiking through lush forests.
There are a number of trails on the island that offer stellar views of the city island and the Hauraki Gulf. You can even rent a kayak and paddle your way over to Rangitoto Island!
Take a trip through the stunning Waitakere Ranges and to the North Island’s west coast beaches that are picturesque black sand beaches. Piha Beach is one of the most popular and a shuttle bus transfer from Auckland will bring you through the most scenic areas before dropping you off for free time to explore at your own pace. If driving on your own, don’t miss a stop at the famous Lion Rock lookout point!
Poor Knights Island
Poor Knights Island is one of the best Auckland Day Tours you can go on. You’ll be picked up in the heart of Auckland and driven straight up the coast. As you get on the boat, you’ll be given all the gear you need and a short explanation on how to use the equipment. As you head out towards the islands, your captain will tell you all about where you’ll be scuba diving and what sort of creatures you might see as you explore the underwater landscape. You’ll also get to check out the world’s largest sea cave.
You can also roam around on kayaks and paddleboards or just swim in the crystal clear water. Lunch will be provided for you where you can sit back, relax, and soak up the sun before a boat ride back to the mainland and returning to Auckland.
Tiritiri Matangi Island
The only way to get to Tiritiri Matangi Island is by a 75-minute ferry ride across the Hauraki Gulf. Once you get to the island sanctuary a park ranger will have a brief chat about the island. After that, you can explore Tiritiri Matangi at your own pace. There is a visitors site on the island where you can grab coffee and snacks before going to the lighthouse or a swim.
Dolphin and Whale Watching
This eco-tour is closer to a half-day tour rather than a full day tour but it is a great way to see some of New Zealand’s must-see marine life. Whales and dolphins are a common sight along the coast of New Zealand but this tour gets you up close and personal and is a real treat.
You’ll be cruising along with these beautiful sea creatures on a luxury catamaran while scientists onboard conduct research on the whales and dolphins you may see, how cool!
Auckland itself is a great destination, but with the amount of stellar day trips around New Zealand’s largest city make it a great base too!
Continue planning your trip to Auckland & New Zealand!
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