Inner-city wining and dining aren’t the only things this cosmopolitan city has going for it.
The city lays claim to three stunning wine-growing regions – Waiheke Island, Matakana and Kumeu – all located less than an hour’s journey from downtown and offering some of the best experiences for foodies seeking farm-to-table produce.
If natural beauty is more your thing, there are volcanic islands, black-sand beaches, hiking trails in regional parks and pretty-as-a-picture waterfalls waiting to be discovered (try canoyoning if you dare) a stone’s throw from the city.
If you want to amp it up a notch explore the great outdoors on a Harley Davidson or whizz over trees on Waiheke Island on a zipline. If you prefer to take things slow then the region’s cultural and art experiences will keep you entertained for days.
Join a city art and culture tour, explore the galleries, and soak up the rich Maori culture. Auckland has an experience to satiate everyone, whether you’re a foodie, nature lover, adventure seeker or history buff. Here are six of our favourite day trips to inspire your sojourn in this eclectic city.
1. Best For Adventure Seekers
From the beaches framing Auckland’s inner harbour, Rangitoto’s graceful volcanic cone is a centuries-old feature on the city’s near horizon. Frequent ferries make the 25-minute trip from downtown, and the region’s youngest and largest volcano is a popular destination for walkers and day explorers.
The trail to Rangitoto’s summit takes around an hour, and combined with a full-day tour with Auckland Sea Kayaks, is one of Auckland’s best excursions for active travellers.
2. Best For Explorers
With vineyard restaurants, white-sand beaches and a quirky arts scene, Waiheke Island deserves more than just a day trip. Just 35 minutes by ferry from downtown, accommodation options range from funky rental cottages to luxury boutique properties like The Boatshed.
For foodies, there’s wood-fired pizzas at Dragonfired on Little Oneroa Beach and the laid-back Southern Hemisphere rendering of an Italian wine estate, Poderi Crisci. EcoZip’s zipline adventure allows visitors to soar above the island with vineyard, forest and city views.
Visitors can explore the island with Fullers ferry company and their Taste of Waiheke, Waiheke Island Explorer and Wine on Waiheke tours. Or jump on board a Vineyard Hopper seaplane from downtown Auckland and take a scenic flight over to indulge in wine tasting and lunch at Man O’ War Vineyards or a three-course a la carte meal at The Boatshed.
3. Best For Foodies
Every Saturday morning, Matakana hosts one of Auckland best farmers’ markets. Organic coffee combines with free-range bacon and egg rolls for breakfast, and takeaway highlights with a local or organic spin include zingy cider, handmade sausages and Italian cheeses.
Fifty minutes from downtown Auckland, Matakana’s market is just a taste of nearby attractions for foodie travellers. Food fossickers will love Mahurangi Oysters’ farm tours; they guide you through the art of harvesting, shucking and eating oysters. Meanwhile, Bush and Beach’s Great Tastes of Matakana tour visits award-winning local vineyards.
Nearby Tawharanui and Scandrett Regional Parks offer active opportunities for swimming, walking and mountain biking to offset the area’s gourmet allure.
4. Best For Nature Lovers
Less than one hour’s drive from the city centre, the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park has more than 250km of walking and hiking tracks, including shorter hikes and the four-day Hillary Trail. At Kitekite Falls you can take a tour with AWOL Canyoning and canyon into a giant set of cascading waterfalls. While over at Muriwai Beach a huge cliff-top gannet colony makes
for perfect picture opportunities from August to March. For more beach time, head to Piha, Bethells or Karekare, and stop in at Arataki Visitor Centre to pick up hiking maps of the area. Options to explore West Auckland include Bush and Beach’s Coast and Rainforest Walk or Time Unlimited Auckland West Coast Tours.
5. Best For Island Hoppers
Opened to the public in 2011 after being used as a Salvation Army rehabilitation centre for almost a century, Rotoroa Island is one of the Hauraki Gulf’s most undeveloped islands. The collection of heritage buildings, including the former jail and the old school house, are a highlight.
As are the pristine beaches and opportunities to see endangered wildlife. There’s comfy dormitory accommodation in the former Superintendent’s House, or private digs in stylish holiday homes.
6. Best For History Buffs
A mere 30-minute drive west of Auckland delivers you to Kumeu, the city’s oldest wine-growing region and home to boutique vineyards, orchards and rolling farmland. The area’s well-established wineries are the legacy of Croatian settlers in the late 19th century, and Hallertau in Riverhead is one of New Zealand’s best craft breweries.
Here you’ll also find the country’s oldest riverside tavern, The Riverhead, ideal for a hearty lunch and tipple overlooking the water. Other foodie favourites include The Tasting Shed (try the market ceviche) and laid-back cafe Provenance.