Containing about a third of New Zealand’s population and a large proportion of the big businesses, it’s easy to see why lots of backpackers and ex-pats decide to make Auckland home. The city is hardly bustling in comparison with London, Sydney and New York but the surrounding suburbs are charming and packed full of independent bars and restaurants to relax in after work. In the CBD, it can be easy to forget you’re in one of the most naturally beautiful countries in the world but you don’t have to travel far to get a taste of the real Kiwi lifestyle. Here are some of my favourite day trips from Auckland for when you just want to leave the city behind.
Drive Time: 50mins
Located on the West Coast, Piha beach is a surfer’s paradise. Take advantage of the rough waters of the Tasman Sea or explore the various nooks and crannies along the shoreline. If you’re feeling up to it, climb Lion Rock for amazing views over the black sand.
Drive Time: 50mins
Located in the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, Kitekite Falls is a great place to relax for a day. The walking track is about an hour and half round trip to the base of the falls but it’s definitely worth the extra 20 minutes to get to the top. Go on a weekday and with a little luck, you’ll get the pools to yourself. They can get pretty cold but the views over the ranges are not to be missed.
Drive Time: 40 minute ferry
For wine lovers, a trip to Waiheke Island is a must. You can pay for a wine tour but most of the vineyards just let you rock up and do a tasting for around $10/20. For a bit of added fun, head to Wild on Waiheke where they offer archery and clay pigeon shooting as well as food and tastings. Maybe go for the dangerous activities pre-wine though. Just to be safe.
Often described as one of Auckland’s “hidden gems”, the Manukau Lighthouse provides some amazing views of the Waitakere Ranges across the water. Despite this, it’s a long way to drive for the lighthouse alone. Make the trip worthwhile by visiting one of the amazing nearby beaches. Even in summer they’re pretty empty and you can have a whole stretch of sand all to yourself.
Drive Time: 1hr 30mins
The Goat Island Marine Reserve is a snorkeler’s dream, full of interesting sea creatures to discover. Don’t expect water full of tropical reefs, instead, go hunting for string rays and comb through the seaweed for beautiful fish. It’s more of a treasure hunt than a window display. If snorkelling isn’t for you, rent a kayak or take a glass bottom boat tour.
Added Bonus: The little town closed to the reserve is the only place I’ve found that does a proper bacon sandwich.
Close to Kitekite Falls (in name and location), Karekare is usually a little less busy. The base of the waterfall is right off the road but most people tend to not stray far from their cars, meaning the track to the top is often quiet. Follow the stream to the end to find the oasis style pools that feed the waterfall. Just don’t forget a towel. It’s pretty chilly without one.
Where’s your favourite place in Auckland to escape the city? Let me know below!