With its twin waterways glistening in the sun, Auckland enjoys a stunning location — but it doesn't end there. There are plenty of other amazing natural landscapes within easy reach of the city. Local writer Karllie Clifton checks in with six suggested day trip destinations...
Situated on a multitude of dormant volcanoes and between two significant harbours, Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city.
The region is home to a population of more than 1.6 million people, so there’s plenty of hustle and bustle. If you feel the need to escape the city for a day or two during your visit, there are islands to the east and a wild coastline to the west — both of which offer some great options for outings.
Here are six of the best day trips from Auckland, with options for travelling by ferry and car.
Rangitoto Island, meaning ‘bleeding skies’ in English, is the youngest of Auckland’s volcanoes and an icon of the city. Home to the world’s largest pohutukawa (New Zealand Christmas bush) forest, the island is also pest and predator free due to an eradication project that took place in 2011. This has allowed the bird life to flourish (which is a big draw for twitchers). However, it’s the walking tracks that attract the masses to the island with the summit track being the most popular. The one-hour walk from the wharf to the summit is well worth doing if you want to be treated to extraordinary views.
Getting there: Rangitoto ferries run from the Downtown Auckland or Devonport ferry terminals. There are a handful of morning ferries to the island, which return in the afternoon.
2. Take a walk on the wild side at Tiritiri Matangi
Tiritiri Matangi, meaning ‘a place tossed by the wind’, is a remarkable conservation project that is overseen by the Department of Conservation. Once cleared for farmland, the island has been restored to 60 percent bush and is home to some of the world’s rarest wildlife species, including the ancient tuatara (lizard-like reptile) and the flightless takahē bird. A trip out here is a full day event, with just one ferry to the island in the morning and one returning in the afternoon. It’s a good idea to book a walking tour with the ranger who will educate you on the island’s history and its scaly and feathered inhabitants. Spend the rest of the day exploring the island, taking a swim and enjoying a picnic. For nature lovers, a day trip to Tiritiri Matangi is a real delight.
Getting there: Fullers 360 Ferries operates a service from Downtown Auckland via the Gulf Harbour ferry terminal. There is one sailing daily from Wednesday to Sunday and daily during the peak summer weeks.
If you’re a wine lover, a day trip to Waiheke Island is the perfect way to escape the city and try some top local drops. There are 20 wineries to choose from, and getting from one to the next is no challenge at all thanks to the small group tours, hop on hop off bus, and public transport on offer. There are fantastic staff located at the ferry terminal as you disembark who will help you with the transport options. However, it’s a good idea to plan in advance — especially during the peak summer season when many of the tours book out.
Several wineries on Waiheke have restaurants, which make good lunch or dinner options. There are also plenty of great cafes in the main village of Oneroa. If you like seafood, stop in the village of Ostend for some delectable Te Matuku Bay Oysters.
Getting there: Fullers 360 Ferries depart from Downtown Auckland every 30 to 45 minutes depending on the time of day. Ferries leave from as early as 6am and as late as 12.30am.
Auckland’s rugged west coast beaches are right on the city’s back doorstep. The most popular are Piha, Te Henga (Bethells Beach) and Muriwai, and all three are within 40 kilometres of the city. This is the wild west coast, so caution should always be taken when in or near the water. All three beaches are popular surf spots and each one has something unique to offer. Muriwai is worth a visit when the gannet colony is nesting from August through to March. Te Henga is more remote but with its sheltered position it’s the best of the three for swimming. Piha has the iconic Lions Rock, which you can climb for great views up and down the coastline.
There are cafes in both Piha and Muriwai where you can get a good coffee or meal. However, take supplies if you are going to Te Henga. There are no shops (although you might find the Bethells Cafe trailer parked up at the entrance to the beach).
5. Explore the watery wonderland at Goat Island
In just over an hour from Auckland, you can find yourself in the little piece of paradise that is the Cape Rodney-Okakari Point Marine Reserve (Goat Island). It’s the perfect location to while away a hot summer’s day. This pristine marine environment is a protected reserve and it offers a wonderful diving and snorkelling experience. If you don’t have your own gear, pick some up on the way from Goat Island Dive & Snorkel in Leigh. They hire out everything you’ll need. There are no cafes or shops out at the reserve, so be sure to pack plenty of supplies. It’s worthwhile visiting the Goat Island Marine Discovery Centre to find out more about the marine life in the reserve and the scientific research that is going on in the area.
6. Indulge in delicious delights at Matakana Village
Charming Matakana Village is less than an hour’s drive from Auckland and is a ‘must do’ if you’re looking to stage an escape to the country. You can expect an exceptional dining experience here, with several eateries to choose from. Top off your meal with something sweet from Honest Chocolat, which offers plenty of indulgences. The popular Saturday morning farmers market features fresh produce, artisanal goods, and delicious coffee, while the Matakana Wine Trail showcases 16 wineries in the area.
Hailing from Aotearoa New Zealand, Karllie Clifton is an avid midlife traveller and blogger who loves an adventure. At the end of 2015, Karllie left her teaching profession, sold her home and became a nomad for the next few years. It sparked a real passion for budget solo travel, which she now loves to inspire others to do. In the last few years alone, Karllie has visited over twenty countries and ticked off more than 50 cities across three continents. She loves the great outdoors — especially hiking and anything to do with the ocean.