Gold-mining history, island and coastal escapes, and outdoor (and underground!) adventures all combine for the best ways to enjoy a day trip from Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city. And everywhere you go, there’s almost always the promise of good food, wine and beer.
Do some water sports in Raglan
Why go? Surf, outdoor adventures and art
West coast surf combines with cafe culture and kayaking or paddle boarding on the sheltered waters of Raglan’s Whaingaroa Harbour. A bohemian band of local artists includes the diverse crew at Jet Collective, and Māori-influenced design from Simon Te Wheoro at his Toi Hauāuru Studio.
How to get to Raglan: From Auckland to Raglan is just under two hours by car. By public transport, travel by InterCity bus from Auckland to Hamilton, and then transfer to Busit route 23 linking Hamilton to Raglan from the Hamilton Transport Centre.
Have a food, beer and wine tour in Matakana
Why go? Breweries, beaches, and a brilliant farmers market
Visit Matakana’s excellent market – held riverside on a Saturday morning – before exploring the region’s emerging wine scene or sampling craft beer at 8 Wired Brewing or the Sawmill Brewery. Essential summertime beach detours include Matheson Bay, and Anchor Bay on the nearby Tāwharanui peninsula.
Culinary tours including local cheese, oysters, beer, wine and chocolate are offered by Matakana-based Kiwiness Tours. It also runs after-dark walks to experience the kiwi sanctuary at nearby Tāwharanui Regional Park.
How to get to Matakana: Matakana is an easy one-hour drive north of Auckland. By bus with Auckland Transport takes from two to three hours (via Warkworth), but will involve multiple transfers.
Enjoy art and culture in Hamilton
Why go? Extravagant gardens and Māori culture
Highlights of New Zealand’s fourth-largest city include the superb Hamilton Gardens, featuring the entertainingly confounding Surrealist Garden, and the display of Māori taonga (treasures) at the Waikato Museum. After a hit of art and culture, adjourn to Duck Island Ice Cream for seasonal flavors, or shared plates at riverside cafe Gothenburg.
How to get to Hamilton: By car, it’s an easy 90-minute drive south on SH1, and there are also regular InterCity bus services linking Auckland and Hamilton.
Go glow worm spotting at the Waitomo Caves
Why go? Exciting subterranean adventures
Board a boat to drift along an underground river in Waitomo’s historic Glowworm Cave, or embark on the "Only in New Zealand" adventure of black-water rafting. Wetsuits are mandatory for participants steering an inner tube over underground rapids and waterfalls. Other exciting options include cave zip-lining and rappelling with Waitomo Adventures.
How to get to the Waitomo Caves: It’s a drive of 2½ hours from Auckland to the Waitomo Caves, or the destination can be combined with a longer visit incorporating Raglan or Hamilton (both one hour from Waitomo). Day trips from Auckland including the Waitomo Caves and Hobbiton can be booked with Bush & Beach.
Have a soak in Hahei
Why go? Surprising coastal highlights on the Coromandel Peninsula
Embark on an easy kayak to Cathedral Cove, a spectacular rock arch on the edge of the Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve. After rain, a natural waterfall sometimes flows from atop the arch. At nearby Hot Water Beach, visitors can dig themselves a natural hot tub in the sand around low tide. Pizza and beers at Hahei’s Pour House complete this Coromandel day trip.
How to get to Hahei: Auckland to Hahei is just over two hours by car. From October to April, visitors to Cathedral Cove should leave their vehicle at the Park & Ride parking lot at the entrance to Hahei and catch the shared shuttle into town, where many kayak tours start. Go Kiwi buses to Hahei run from downtown Auckland, also stopping to pick up passengers at Auckland Airport.
See 19th-century heritage in Coromandel Town
Why go? Railway ride and forest adventures
Heritage 19th-century buildings reinforce the gold-mining history of Coromandel Town, discovered nearby at Driving Creek in 1852. Now the verdant valley incorporates the quirky narrow-gauge Driving Creek Railway – with views all the way back to Auckland from the "Eyefull Tower" – and an exciting zip line swooping through a stand of regenerating native forest.
How to get to Coromandel Town: Driving from Auckland to Coromandel Town takes around 2½ hours, but an alternative day trip option is to catch the ferry from downtown Auckland with Fullers360. The journey across the Firth of Thames takes two hours, and incorporates a 15-minute minibus transfer to Coromandel Town. Transfers covering the short distance to Driving Creek are also available.
Stroll the trails of Tiritiri Matangi
Why go? Native birdlife on an island sanctuary
Venture across the Hauraki Gulf to this predator-free bird sanctuary. Tiritiri Matangi’s avian superstars are the squat and quizzical takahē, a flightless bird found only on the island, in fenced predator-free sanctuaries, and in the most remote wilderness areas of New Zealand’s South Island. Strolling on the Tiritiri Matangi’s bush and beach trails may also reveal up to 30 other bird species.
How to get to Tiritiri Matangi: Catch the ferry from downtown Auckland to Tiritiri Matangi with Fullers360. Fullers’ other island day-trip destinations from Auckland include Waiheke Island and Rangitoto Island.
Enjoy the microclimate of Waiheke Island
Why go? Wine, beaches, and fine dining
Auckland’s island of wine is a favorite escape for city locals, drawn to Waiheke’s vineyard restaurants and a Mediterranean-style microclimate that’s equal parts southern Europe and southern hemisphere. Challenge yourself on EcoZip’s zip line adventure, soaring high above vineyards and native bush, before a long lunch at the Spanish-influenced Casita Miro.
How to get to Waiheke Island: Catch the passenger ferry with Fullers360 from downtown Auckland, and then use the convenient 50A and 50B bus services from Auckland Transport to get around the island. You’ll need to buy a stored value AT HOP card to use on the bus. Car ferries with Sealink leave from central Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter and Half Moon Bay in east Auckland.
Have a beachfront meal in Waihi
Why go? Gold-mining history and clifftop walking
Towering Phoenix palms and stately buildings line Waihi’s main street, a legacy of the quiet Waikato town’s gold-flecked past. Explore the region’s lustrous history at the award-winning Gold Discovery Centre, join a tour to learn about the sprawling Martha Mine, or divert to nearby Waihi Beach and tackle the Orokawa Bay walk high above the beach’s surf-trimmed arc. A late lunch or early dinner at Flatwhite's beachfront location is recommended.
How to get to Waihi: It’s a drive of 1¾ hours from Auckland to Waihi, and then a further 15 minutes to Waihi Beach. InterCity buses linking Auckland to Tauranga stop at Waihi, but travelers then need to catch Bayhopper’s number 85 bus service from Waihi to Waihi Beach (Tuesday and Thursday only), or arrange taxi transport with Waihi Cabs.