Often overlooked by tourists heading elsewhere in New Zealand, Auckland is well worth taking an extra couple of days to explore so you can experience the urban side of the country.
The city itself is full of multi-cultural cuisine and events, world-class specialty coffee shops and a wide range of New Zealand’s best boutiques.
There is also plenty of history – both colonial and indigenous – natural beauty and of course “fush ‘n chups” – a local delicacy that was imported by the British and perfected by the remaining Kiwis.
It is also a great city to use as a base whilst you explore other parts of the North Island, with most places in Northland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty being easily accessible from the city within a day trip.
Here are 15 of the best trips you can take from New Zealand’s largest city.
One of the most popular day trips for visitors to New Zealand, immerse yourself in the Lord of the Rings franchise in Hobbiton.
Here, you can explore the hobbit holes that were built for use in the Hobbit trilogy, and enjoy the stunning natural beauty of the region.
You can also enjoy Lord of the Rings themed drinks at the Green Dragon Inn and sample some of New Zealand’s fine cuisine at The Shire’s Rest Café.
There is a guided tour around the complex which takes around two hours, but you are free to explore the area afterwards and, of course, get your photo taken in front of the hobbit holes.
Great combo tour: Hobbiton & Waitomo Caves Small-Group Day Tour from Auckland
2. Waitomo Caves
The Waitomo Caves is a large network of underground caves that are filled with glowworms.
You can enjoy the caves by taking a gentle boat ride throughout the complex, with a local guide explaining how the caves formed and a little bit about the glowworms.
There is also the opportunity to go black water rafting; you can get your adrenaline fix by riding a flume through the caves in the pitch black, with only the gentle glow of the glowworms to guide your way.
A great experience in a country famed for its adrenaline sports and attractions.
Amazing combo tour: Hobbiton & Waitomo Caves Small-Group Day Tour from Auckland
3. Waiheke Island
A short boat ride away from Auckland Central Business District (CBD), you can opt to either enjoy the high-life of the city’s socialites or have a more down to earth experience with the local hippy communities.
Waiheke is well known in the region for its vineyards and there are plenty of wineries set in stunning spots across the island for you to sample the local wine.
There are many beautiful beaches around the island, several of which can be very secluded if you go at the right time.
We also suggest you try Waiheke Oysters at one of the many cafés.
Recommended tour: Waiheke Island Premium Food & Wine Tour with Platter Lunch
4. Piha, Karekare Rainforest and Waitakere Ranges
Known as Auckland’s Wild West, this region is only an hour away from the Auckland CBD and packed with natural beauty.
Piha itself is a small village with one of the most famous beaches in the country.
You can continue up the coast to Bethell’s Beach – where Taylor Swift once filmed her Out of the Woods music video.
Away from the beaches, you can enjoy some spectacular hikes through the Waitakere Ranges – a small mountain range formed by the Auckland volcanic fault.
These mountains are covered in forests – known locally as bush – with Karekare Rainforest being the most popular for experiencing the lush green beauty of New Zealand.
Suggested tour: Piha & Karekare Rainforest Wine Day Tour from Auckland
5. Rangitoto Island
Also a short boat ride from Auckland CBD, Rangitoto Island is the largest volcano in the Auckland volcanic fault and can be seen from most areas of the city.
Get your hiking boots on to truly experience the best this island has to offer, including unique wildlife and lush forest areas.
Once you reach the top, you will be treated to great views over the Hauraki Gulf and towards Auckland City.
You can also take a small detour to nearby caves to discover more of the volcanic wonders this island has to offer.
If you don’t feel like taking a long hike, there is a small train that takes you most of the way up to the top of the island.
Please be aware there are no restaurants or inhabitants on the island, so bring some snacks and plenty of water.
Recommended tour: Rangitoto Island Volcanic Explorer Tour from Auckland
Just across the Hauraki Gulf from Auckland, a two-hour journey brings you to this secluded peninsula.
It is not as touristy as other parts of the country, so a great off-the-beaten-path option if you are looking to get away from the busier attractions.
The Coromandel Peninsula is a large mountain range covered entirely in ancient New Zealand forest.
There is an interesting train ride attraction where you can learn about the local pottery industry, and some of the smaller towns showcase New Zealand culture at its most raw.
We suggest checking out Paeroa on the way, to learn about the most famous local soda – L&P – named after the town.
Suggested tour: Coromandel & Cathedral Cove Day Tour
7. Bay of Islands
Located in the far north of the country, the Bay of Islands is another popular destination for tourists – particularly in the summer months.
It is one of the only subtropical areas of the country and this enhances the laid-back lifestyle of the local towns.
Head to the bay itself to experience one of the most beautiful beaches in New Zealand, as well as try out some water sports such as windsurfing, kayaking, and jet-skiing.
In Russell, you can visit a Maori experience to learn more about the indigenous culture of the islands, and about the Treaty of Waitangi, which established New Zealand as a British Dominion.
Available tour: Bay of Islands Day Tour from Auckland with Historic Russell
A bit of a longer journey from Auckland, Rotorua is well worth the trip.
Centered around Lake Rotorua, the town (known locally as Rotovegas) is packed with adrenaline sports activities like parachute jumping, bungee jumping, and zorbing.
If you are traveling with kids, there is a very popular go-kart track that winds around the nearby hills, giving great views over the countryside.
There are great Maori cultural centers for you to experience the indigenous history and a native redwood forest for day hikes.
The town is the center of geothermal activity, making it excellent for visiting natural spas and checking out the steam.
It does also, however, give the town a very distinctive rotten-egg smell, so keep this in mind before you go.
Recommended tour: Waitomo & Rotorua Day Trip from Auckland with Gondola Ride
A little further south than Rotorua, but also well worth a visit, is Taupo.
The entire Lake Taupo region is a popular getaway destination for kiwis during the summer, thanks to the breathtaking natural beauty.
You can enjoy boat journeys – or even kayak rides if you’re up to it – to Maori carvings and secluded beaches by lakeside.
The town is also a short drive away from Tongariro National Park.
This is where the Mordor scenes of the Lord of the Rings were filmed and it is easy to see why, thanks to the desert-like almost lunar landscapes the region showcases.
There are free hot springs in the town park, but make sure only to enter pools which signs confirm are safe, as others are far too hot!
Located on the west coast of the North Island, Raglan is a very popular destination for surfers.
Surfing is very popular across both New Zealand and Australia, and if you want to try your hand at the sport, this town is one of the best places in the world to have a go.
It is also surrounded by gorgeous native bush and mountain ranges for you to explore when you tire of the waves.
The cliffs provide great views over the Tasman Sea and the town of Raglan; with a little bit of effort and a short hike, you can discover secluded waterfalls with fresh water that you can bathe in and even drink from.
11. Villa Maria Estate
New Zealand wine is growing in popularity across the world, thanks to the great climate and dedication to quality given by local winemakers.
The Villa Maria Estate is located just outside of Auckland Central, close to the airport; however, we do recommend setting a day aside to visit the area.
The winery produces wine with grapes grown across the country in Gisborne, Marlborough, Hawke’s Bay, and Auckland.
You will be given samples of wine from all the regions and taught about how it is produced, as well as given the chance to make your own tasting notes.
This is a must for any wine lover visiting New Zealand.
Available tour: Villa Maria Estate Scenic Vineyard Odyssey
Located in the northern reaches of rural Auckland, Matakana is another area of natural beauty within a reasonably short trip from the city center.
Popular with foodies, there are plenty of great attractions in the region to let you discover the best New Zealand food has to offer.
The New Zealand Honey Centre will teach you all about Manuka Honey and the strict quality efforts that go into producing it.
You can sample local cheeses and wines at the Matakana farmers’ market.
On the way, stop in at the Puhoi Cheese Factory if you are interested in learning more about local dairy production.
13. Cape Reinga
Cape Reinga is at New Zealand’s northernmost tip, where you can see the Tasman Sea join the Pacific Ocean.
Here, you can learn about the combinations of European and Maori history, as well as about Maori mythology; this is a culturally important place for the local Maori people.
There is also an impressive 800-year-old Pohutukawa Tree – if you visit in the summer, you will be able to see it bloom with bright red foliage – a popular symbol for New Zealand and its people.
Continue south from Cape Reinga and you can check out 90 Mile Beach.
Here you can surf the sand dunes that line one of the largest beaches in the country, all while enjoying spectacular views over the ocean.
14. Tiritiri Matangi
Another Hauraki Gulf island worth visiting, you can take a slightly longer boat trip from Auckland CBD to this protected nature reserve.
The island is packed with native birdlife thanks to major conservation efforts.
Many of the birds on the island can only be found here, and this is an opportunity to get up close to the unique wildlife of New Zealand.
You can visit the island at your own pace, or take a short tour which will teach you all about the birds that inhabit the island and how to identify their calls.
There is also a ferry to the Whangaparaoa Peninsula, which is home to secluded beaches and a laid-back café culture, perfect for you to experience the famous New Zealand flat white.
15. Mount Maunganui
Located in the northern suburbs of Tauranga, Mount Maunganui is a major party town by night and a relaxed beach town by day.
There are plenty of options for you to try out surfing, kayaking, and jet-skiing on the beach which overlooks the Bay of Plenty.
You can also take a hike up Mount Maunganui itself to get one of the most famous panoramic views in the country.
On your way back to the beach, check out some of the top-notch cafés on offer in the city, which feature excellent Kiwi cuisine, well-crafted specialty coffee, and even alcoholic milkshakes if you are looking to really kick back and embrace the local life.