Auckland is an amazing major city in the north island of New Zealand. If you are traveling to New Zealand, you will most likely fly into the Auckland airport. After flying into Auckland ourselves, we spent 1 week in the city and took day trips each day to explore all around the Auckland area, so that we could explore more than just the city itself. We went to Muriwai Beach, Bethells Beach, Russell, Raglan, Bay of Islands, and more!
Auckland is a great place to explore on its own, but we think the surrounding area is even better! Beautiful beaches, cliffs, hikes, waterfalls and canyons are all within a short drive of the city. There’s basically something for everyone!
If you are thinking about doing some day trips yourself, the easiest way to get from place to place will be to rent a car. Thankfully there are many car rental options in Auckland itself or at the International airport.
Car Rental Options
Free Things to do in Auckland Video
We also made a video highlighting 3 amazing free day trips from Auckland. If you’d like to watch and read about these awesome adventure, check out the video below!
Now let’s get into the 7 best day trips from Auckland. We’ll be venturing to Devonport, Raglan, Paihia and more! Are you ready? Let’s get to it!
Devonport is a very quick day trip from Auckland city located north just over the Harbor Bridge. At Devonport, you can do a quick hike to the top of the hill and see an amazing, unobstructed view of the Auckland skyline and Harbor bridge. It really is a beautiful site to see and an easy opportunity to see the entire skyline and the Sky Tower in all its glory!
Did you know the Sky Tower is the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere? We think Devonport gives you the best view of the Sky Tower and its only a short 20 minute drive from the city! But the views don’t stop there. You will also see incredible beaches, islands, and the seemingly endless Pacific Ocean.
Also while you are in Devonport, don’t miss the opportunity to check out the historic reserve. This is the site New Zealand used to defend their country during World War I and many of the tunnels are still standing and able to be explored today. Make sure to read the signs posted around the site to learn more about the history and how they used each section during the war.
We absolutely LOVE photography, and sharing pictures! These are the cameras we use on all of our adventures. The drone and GoPro help us get cool new perspectives (underwater, in the air, wide angle) and the Rebel we use on a day-to-day basis for most of our shots!
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It really is fascinating to learn about and imagine what life would have been like way back when! For example, the above gallery shows a cannon they used. We can only image the amazing teamwork and leadership it took to fire that huge thing!
Bethells Beach is a beautiful 40 minute drive straight west of Auckland city. Go to Bethells Beach to enjoy stunning black sand beaches and giant cliffs. You can even hike to the top of some cliffs if you’d like a higher view or you can relax with your toes in the sand.
We love every opportunity to see a black sand beach and you should too! They are unique and rare (and many of them are disappearing) and it’s not every day you get to see one.
If you’ve never seen black sand before, this day trip is an absolute must! Bethells Beach would be an amazing first black sand beach to see. We loved the giant cliffs that outline the beaches, which makes this destination a great place for relaxing beach lovers and adventurous hikers. Either way you will have a full day of fun.
Since you are on the west side of the country, we recommend staying long enough to watch the sunset. A sunset paired with a black sand beach is a gorgeous combo!
Muriwai Beach is just north of Bethells beach, 40 minutes west of Auckland city. It’s another gorgeous black sand beach, however this one is very different from Bethells. At this beach, there is a section for swimming with a lifeguard on duty. Make sure you swim between the flags and only when a lifeguard is on duty to stay safe! The ocean is beautiful, but she is unpredictable and the surf can get rather rough here.
Speaking of surf, this is a perfect place to try your hand at surfing! We saw a ton of people riding the waves and it looked like a blast. We didn’t have a board to jump in and try for ourselves but we sure wish we would have.
The real treat at this beach is the Gannet Colony at the top of the hill. Follow the trail on the left of the beach (nearest the parking lot) and head up the stairs to the top of the hill. At the top is a natural Gannet Colony that will be full of Gannets. If you are like us and you have no idea what a Gannet is… Well, it is a BIRD! There will be thousands of them!! Not hundreds… thousands! And they are super fun to watch, photograph or even fly with (if you have the ability to fly…).
Gannets are similar to penguins where they mate for life. Look for two birds together, necking, and you have found yourself a couple. If you are there during the summer months, keep your eyes peeled for babies too! They will be fluffy instead of feathery and they will be staying safe in their nesting ground with Mom, Dad or both!
Once again, if you are up for it, we recommend you stay for sunset at Muriwai Beach. Head down the street to the local takeaway food shop for some fish and chips and head back to the beach to watch the sunset over the horizon.
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Raglan is the ultimate chill destination just about 2 hours southwest of Auckland. It’s a small town on the west coast and is a must visit if you want to tryout surfing! Surf lessons are offered all over Raglan, or if you think you can figure it out yourself you can just rent a board and hit the beach. Ngarunui Beach, located just outside Raglan, will be dotted with surfers, with most people being beginners. Expert surfers head to Manu Bay and Whale Bay for a much more challenging surf.
While you’re not in the water, walk around the town of Raglan and shop the cutest small shops filled with local products. Then sit down in one of the cafes or restaurants for some grub. We personally ate at Isobar and loved it!
Right near Raglan is Bridal Veil Falls, a tremendous waterfall you will want to make a pit stop at either on your way into the city or on your way out! It’s a short and simple detour. Once you get there, there are many vantage points to admire the waterfall before continuing on your journey.
Karangahake Gorge & Owharoa Falls
Karangahake Gorge is what we are going to call the mini Grand Canyon of New Zealand. Emphasis on the mini! Compared to the Grand Canyon this gorge is much smaller, but it is very similar in the fact that it’s a giant canyon with a river flowing through it.
As you approach Karangahake Gorge you will seriously feel like you’ve suddenly went to a different country! The landscape changes very dramatically and very quickly and it left us scratching our heads! The cliffs jut up hundreds of feet on each side, and you’ll have the opportunity to hike through the gorge and even see some tunnels built in the canyon.
We did a short loop hike here to The Windows and we recommend you do the same. This hike will take you along the train tracks, through tunnels, over the canyon ridge and across the canyon floor. It’s a very easy hike that shows you a ton of variety and beautiful views.
We also saw many people swimming in the river, and although we didn’t jump in ourselves it was extremely tempting on the very hot day we visited. It wouldn’t hurt to throw a swimsuit in your bag so you’re prepared if you decide to go for a dip.
After you’ve got your fill of Karangehake Gorge, drive to Owharoa Falls for the coolest swimming hole we’ve found in all of New Zealand. Owharoa Falls is a beautiful cascade waterfall that leads to a pool of fresh water. It was a local favorite and many people were swimming and jumping off the rocks that we just had to jump right in ourselves and join in the fun!
Zach was climbing up the waterfall and jumping off the rocks while Julie went for a quick dip and that was refreshing enough for her. On a hot summer day, this would be an amazing place to spend the heat of the day, staying cool and having fun!
Paihia (Bay of Islands)
The trip to Paihia (AKA Bay of Islands) is the furthest Auckland day trip we have on our list of recommendations and we debated including it due to the length of the drive, but it was our favorite on the list so we went with it. Paihia is a 3 hour and 15 minute drive north of Auckland which may seem like a long drive for a day trip. Let us say, it is so worth it, especially when you pair it with our next recommendation, Russell!
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The Paihia area is known as the Bay of Islands and that is the perfect name for it. In Paihia you will get an incredible view of the coast line which is filled with, you guessed it, ISLANDS! We might have been silly for not knowing New Zealand had so many islands since New Zealand is made from volcanic islands but HOLY MOLY we had no idea just how many there are!
The coast line of Paihia is dotted with islands! Lush, green islands surrounded by beautiful changing shades of blue water that will leave your mouth wide open in awe! Enjoy the incredible views from Paihia. We honestly think it has some of the best in the country!
Russell can be combined with a day trip to Paihia. Once you are done checking out the Bay of Islands hop on the ferry to the island of Russell. On Russell you will find the cutest little town full of souvenir shops, restaurants, bars and ice cream shops.
Take a stroll through town stopping at any shop that your wife drags you into and then head to the Duke of Marlborough Hotel for a drink on the water. Sit on their patio for an amazing view of the bay surrounding you and enjoy a glass of wine or beer! Make sure you try the local stuff! New Zealand has some amazing wineries and breweries to try out while you are here.
Russell is also an amazing place to watch the sailboats go by! This is a sailing hot spot as sailboats will cruise through the Bay of Islands quite often. Use the pier right in downtown Russell for the perfect watch spot.
Conclusion – Day Trips from Auckland
There you have it! Our detailed guide of the 7 best day trips from Auckland! We hope you enjoyed this article. If you did, please use the below images to Pin this blog for later!
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