Must-See Hotspots Just a Short Drive Outside of Auckland

As New Zealand’s largest and most sophisticated city, Auckland promises its visitors a superb vacation. A place that thrums to an urban tempo yet embraces an abundance of natural wonders. Culturally rich and diverse, this exciting Kiwi metropolis comes with a passion for the good life. What adds even more value to this desirable destination are the many brilliant, easy getaways just moments from its beating heart. Greater Auckland is a traveller’s playground offering spectacular coastlines, vineyard-clad islands, quaint villages and so much more, all within a handy radius. Explore the region’s sprawling mix of top hotspots for your next short trip or weekend unwind.

Rocks at Hauraki Gulf
Island Hop in Hauraki Gulf

Known as the ‘city of sails’, Auckland’s treasured harbour and neighbouring Hauraki Gulf are among its greatest assets. The holiday experts at Lonely Planet went so far as to call this duo New Zealand’s best experience. The vivid waters of Hauraki’s million-hectare marine reserve are flecked with verdant green isles, offering a multitude of adventures on land and sea. Opportunities to swim, sail, snorkel, dive, jetboat, kayak, hike and fish are numerous. Cruises and tours for seal, penguin, dolphin and whale watching are also popular. 

Closest to shore is Rangitoto Island, just a quick ferry ride from the Downtown terminal, or a little longer by kayak. A late bloomer amongst Auckland’s dormant volcanic cones, 600 year-old Rangitoto is a day-tripper’s delight. Hike through lava fields and red-flowering pohutukawa forests, or climb the island’s summit and be rewarded with splendid views back to the city. 

Gourmands and tipplers will favour a tasty retreat at Auckland’s ultimate vacation destination, Waiheke Island. Also known as ‘the island of wine’, the largest and most wondrous island in Hauraki’s waters is home to olive groves, cliff-top views, and thirty top-shelf wineries, including award-winning vineyards. Though you’ll feel a world away, a 40-minute ferry will transport you to this island haven. Drive your car on board and explore Waiheke’s white sandy shores at your own pace. 

For those interested in New Zealand’s native wildlife, pop next door to scenic Rotoroa Island. This conservation success story is also blessed with beautiful beaches and wonderful walking trails. Located a little further away to the north, tranquil Tiritiri Matangi Island is great for the birds: a refuge for many rare and endangered species. Your fast ferry comes with a wildlife tour of this exceptional open-air nature sanctuary.

Waitakere Ranges Regional Park
Head to the Wild West

Auckland’s beaches on its west coastline are a marvel to behold, especially for those who like their seascapes a little more wild, rugged and remote. Less than an hour from the city, you’ll be astonished by kilometres of dramatic black windswept sands, pounded by the Tasman Sea and backed by the Waitakere Ranges National Park. A special handful of laid-back seaside villages and magnificent vistas awaits you.  

Take a breathtaking stroll across the broad, untamed shores of Karekare Beach – arguably Auckland’s most inspiring and striking stretch. This secluded beauty was captured for all its tempestuous glory in the acclaimed flick, The Piano (with the village also a filming location). For further exploration, head inland to the hills to the must-see Karekare Falls in the western part of the Ranges.

Enjoy a break with a local favourite – the Kiwi surfing mecca Piha Beach, just a few minutes down the road. This scenic stretch is bookended by craggy cliffs, with Lion Rock perched proudly in the middle. The waves are famously moody and the currents strong. While summer swells are more gentle, it’s still wise to swim between the flags. Out of the water: abseil Piha canyon, relax with a beachside picnic, or opt for a snack at the surf club. Walk it off in the surrounding lush, subtropical native forests. 

Follow the Road to Foodie Heaven in Matakana

Matakana promises your taste buds a trip to remember. Wine and dine them in this popular and picturesque region known for its home-grown treats, artisan boutiques, weekend farmers market, scores of award-winning vineyards, and stunning east coast beaches. 

Half-an-hour from the city, Puhoi puts on the rural charm. Say cheese, as you sample some of the best in the country, and stop off for Devonshire tea at this historic, bohemian village. The main attraction, Matakana village, is an absolute delight. An hour from Auckland, soak in an atmosphere that’s ripe for unwinding. Art galleries, craft studios, gift shops, great cafes, an outdoor sculpture trail, and wine tasting tours, are just some of the top ingredients piled on for a perfect vacation. Find a peaceful spot to picnic with your fresh supplies and gourmet produce. Swim or lay back just moments away on the Tāwharanui Peninsula; or if you’re a keen diver or snorkeller, don’t miss the masses of colourful marine life under the waters of nearby Goat Island. With so many hotspots dotted around Auckland, it’s certainly the perfect gateway destination on New Zealand’s North Island.

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