My Favorite Day Trips From Auckland
Auckland is a great city (despite what other New Zealanders might say!) One of the best things about our largest city is that it has so many amazing spots nearby. With wild Northland at one end and the lush Waikato region at the other, there are so many incredible day trips that can be reached in under 2 hours (by car) from the CBD. Here are some of my favourite destinations, in order of north to south:
Matapouri (Mermaid Pools) – Drive time (all from Auckland Central): 2hrs 37mins
I was really disappointed that the day I planned to go to the Mermaid Pools wasn’t warm and sunny, but it was still beautiful at Matapouri nonetheless. The beach itself is stunning and quite a distance from Auckland (its past Whangarei), so you really feel like you’re on holiday. At the end of the beach, you can do a bush walk up through a hill and down the other side to the stunning “Mermaid Pools”. Though it’s a fairly short walk, maybe 20 mins, it’s very, very steep, so don’t take grandma!
Whangarei Falls – Drive time: 2hrs 8mins
If you’re already up that way, the Whangarei Falls are a beautiful place to visit too. There’s an easy loop track down to the falls that takes about 15 minutes round trip, and it’s very well paved. Be careful to lock your car and take your belongings with you though, especially if the attendants aren’t there. Yikes!
Matakana & nearby beaches – Drive time: 47 mins
Matakana is lovely area north of Auckland. It has a delicious ice cream store, quaint movie theatre and a great farmers market every Saturday. The best part about it is the surrounding beaches. Omaha has been an old favourite of mine with its stunning stretch of white sand and calm water, as has Tauwharanui, a reserve just around the corner with awesome rock pools and a few more waves.
Then there’s Goat Island, a marine reserve with possibly the only colourful fish we get in NZ waters (Blue Mau Mau) and a cool little island you can swim out to. I haven’t been in years but it was a favourite when I was a kid, even though the water always seemed to be a few degrees colder than other beaches. There’s also Leigh, Kawau Island and the beaches around the Snells Beach peninsula. You’re spoilt for choice!
Cathedral Cove (Te Whanganui-A-Hei), Coromandel – Drive time: 2hrs 24mins
If this list was ranked, Cathedral Cove would definitely take out the top spot. The 40 minute walk does little to thin out the crowds as the beach is well worth the trek. It took to the big screen when it made a cameo in Prince Caspian from the Narnia Chronicles, which you can watch here. It gives me tingles, seeing my beautiful country shown off like that!
I visited recently on a long weekend, which didn’t help with the crowds, plus the weather was stunning. It was really hard to get a photo without at least 20 other people in it, which I suppose is pretty normal for people from more populated parts of the world but for me, I was a little put off. Still, I jumped off the tiny island and went wandering along the rocks and marvelled at how clear and pristine the water was.
Mount Maunganui – Drive time: 2hrs 42mins
Climbing Mount Maunganui and getting a selfie at the top is a pretty standard thing to do if you’re visiting the area, so why not? The view is incredible and the walk itself isn’t too hard. Just don’t wear flip flops. Or do, if you’re ambitious/unprepared like me.
Omanawa Falls, BOP – Drive time: 2hrs 27mins
I have one big regret in life right now and that’s that I didn’t climb down to the bottom of the Omanawa Falls. In my defense, you’re not allowed to, and when I was there, I was alone, wearing flip flops (it was the same day I climbed Mount Maunganui), carrying my belongings in a plastic bag. It was raining, I couldn’t actually find the dangerous walkway and it gave me the heebie jeebies. There’s an abandoned hydro-electric dam at the top, complete with creepy, gloomy staircases, broken gates and graffiti everywhere. I’ll go back one day though, more prepared, and get some awesome shots from the bottom.
The Blue Springs, Putaruru – Drive time: 2hrs 18mins
It’s absolutely stunning and the water is so blue and pure, but bloody freezing as it stays a chilly 11 degrees Celsius all year round. You could easily get down there in a day and back from Auckland, as the walk itself isn’t too long and very easy to do. I went with my whole family, including grandparents. Sadly, grandma wasn’t up for a swim though.
Of course, these aren’t the only spots just out of Auckland that are worth visiting, here are some other honourable mentions: Uretiti, Te Arai, Waipu Cove, Kai Iwi Lakes, Piroa Falls, the giant L&P bottle, Hot Water Beach & Hahei, Whangamata and Pauanui.