Auckland, the city of sails, is a starting point for many visitors as well as being home to nearly one-third of New Zealand’s population. While there are plenty of things to keep one busy in the city, Auckland day trips to nearby destinations offer both a change of scenery and a lot of fun.
We are amongst the nearly 1.7 million people who call Auckland home. And while we love the city, Auckland day trips are often the quick getaway that we need.
Popular day trips from Auckland range from glowworms to geysers, from beaches to caves, and from Māori culture to hobbit holes. We make our Auckland getaways exciting. While many are located in the Auckland region, a number of our favourite places to go are in the Waikato.
While there are plenty of options, we focus on our favourites, which we believe are the best day trips from Auckland. They are all within a two-hour drive from the city. It’s the area highlighted in this map:
First, let us tempt you with some Auckland fun
Auckland Day Trips
Bonus Destinations: Rotorua and Bay of Islands
Still possible for a long Auckland day trip, we strongly encourage you to spend at least a night in each of these two bonus destinations. Both Rotorua and the Bay of Islands are fabulous, but both are more than three hours in each direction from Auckland.
We know some people recommend them, but we think they are just a bit too far for one day.
Auckland to Rotorua is 228 km , about three hours each way.
A geothermal wonderland and centre for Māori culture, Rotorua is also known for its extreme adventure options. Rotorua is like few other places on the planet and one of my favourite places to visit. If you have the time, spend at least a night here. There is more than enough to do in Rotorua to keep you busy.
If not, a visit to Te Puia will give you the highlights, including Pohutu Geyser, the largest active geyser in the southern hemisphere, erupting once or twice each hour. Te Puia also has bubbling mud pools, hot springs, silica formations, Kiwi birds, and the national schools of wood carving, weaving, stone, and bone carving.
Bay of Islands
Bay of Islands is a 232 km drive north of Auckland, with an over three-hour one-way drive time.
One of my favourite spots for a getaway, I think the Bay of Islands is a bit too far for a day trip. But if that is all you have, you will have to pick from all the things to do in Bay of Islands. If you haven’t been before, I would recommend Waitangi Treaty grounds and getting on a fast boat out to the hole in the rock.
See more in limited time with a tour
Whether you have limited time or you just prefer to have someone do the driving, there are a couple of Auckland day tours we recommend:
Auckland day trip to Hobbiton & Hamilton Gardens
This all-day tour will head first to Hobbiton for a guided exploration of the shire where both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit were filmed. Then, enjoy lunch just outside the farm at the Shire’s Rest Café (lunch is an additional cost). Next, drive to Hamilton and spend time exploring the lovely Hamilton Gardens. Reserve your often discounted Hobbiton and Hamilton Gardens tour here.
Auckland day trip to Hobbiton & Waitomo caves
This one is ideal for people who prefer fully escorted tours, really want to see both Hobbiton and Waitomo Caves, and have only one day for this adventure. It travels first to the Hobbiton Movie Set, then enjoys lunch at The Shire’s Rest Café (a Kiwi-style cafe), before driving to the Glowworm caves in Waitomo. Both destinations are seen with guided tours. Please note the travel times. You will spend nearly 2/3 of this trip in transit. Reserve your day trip to Hobbiton and Waitomo.
Tips for taking day trips from Auckland
- The weather is changeable and often unpredictable. It’s always a good idea in Auckland and the surrounding areas to dress in layers and bring a light rain jacket.
- If you are travelling in summer, bring sunscreen. The hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica thins the atmosphere over New Zealand, making the sun that much more dangerous.
- Carry water and a small snack. Even if your tour includes meals, they may not happen when you are hungry.
- Bring a camera.
- If you have more time, head north to the top of the island, or head south from Auckland to the nations capital city.
Save on your NZ trip with these resources
These are our go-to companies when we travel. We believe this list to be the best in each category. You can’t go wrong using them on your trip too.
- Flights: we use Expedia for the best and cheapest flight options.
- Accommodations: we use Booking.com (hotels) or BookABatch (self-contained).
- Cars (gas or electric): we use RentalCars to search for deals and dealer ratings.
- Campervans or Motorhomes: we use Campstar where Albom Adventures readers get a 3% discount
- Activity discounts: we check Bookme.com for discounts of up to 70% on activities.
- Private guides: we love the private guides at Tours by Locals
- Travel Insurance: our go-to is World Nomads*.
Check out our travel resources page for more companies that we use when you travel.
*World Nomads provides travel insurance for travellers in over 100 countries. As an affiliate, we receive a fee when you get a quote from World Nomads using this link. We do not represent World Nomads. This is information only and not a recommendation to buy travel insurance.
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Which of these Auckland day trips will you try?
For more on New Zealand, start here: New Zealand Road Trips: Itineraries for North or South Island Adventures, or you might like …
Disclaimer: We are frequently provided with complimentary entrances, tours, or sample items to aid in the writing of Albom Adventures and have worked in the past with Auckland tourism, then called ATEED. However, the opinions expressed here are strictly our own.
Lisa | Handmade in Israel
You are really educating me about New Zealand! There seems to be so much to see and do. Some of these day trips sound amazing!
Ryan K Biddulph
There is so much to do from Auckland, Rhonda. We only spent a few days there before flying back to the US 2 years ago but I can see from your post how we need to do a few proper trips from there, when we finally return to NZ. The place dazzles. We loved Opotiki so much on the North Island and its well off of the beaten tourist path.
There are so many fun things to do around Auckland! I loved visitng Hobbiton (a must for Lord of the Rings lovers). A day on Waiheke Island is also great for wine lovers.
I enjoyed reading this post so much! Thanks for sharing this tips
I really like the way you describe the post..
So many beautiful places making me miss home! I love Waipu, it’s such a gorgeous little spot!
So many amazing ideas for day trips! The Waipu Caves and a tour of Hobbiton sound like so much fun!
Wow, what a wonderful selection of day trips! There’s a bit of everything! Karangahake Gorge looks like a beautiful place to explore. I also love a trip to some caves! Thanks for the great guide!
Such a detailed post! Love it 🙂 Saving it for the future when I make my way to New Zealand!
Rob + Ann
You are so spoiled for choice that it’s almost not fair!! 😉 So many great options here. A visit to Hobbiton is a given, and we’ve read so much about Shakespear Park and Hamilton Gardens that they’re already on our wish list. But we love sailing, so all of the trips to nearby islands would be tops on our list. Well, right after Hobbiton. 😁
So many great choices! I would love to visit some of these islands and the those caves.
Great trips to take from Auckland. would love to visit Hobbiton.
All of these day trips look really great! Can’t wait to go on some of them when I visit New Zealand.
So many amazing things to see for a day trip! This number 2, Karangahake Gorge, looks like from some Indiana Jones movie, stunning. Would love to add that to the list.
Excellent roundup, Rhonda. As a former Aucklander (before I moved to the U.S.A.) I’ve been to all but 2 of those places. Will have to take the boat to the Riverhead Tavern & the ferry to Tiritiri Matangi island next time I’m back in Godzone! Good summary. Thank you. Regards, Roy Stevenson
I always love your posts about New Zealand! It always annoys me though as I realise just how much I missed on my 2 month road trip haha! I love the look of Karangahake Gorge and Shakespear Park is right up my street too. I love green rolling hills! There is so much to do in such a short radius from Auckland!
Wow! What awesome surroundings. So many options within a two-hour reach. I loved the gorge and the black sand beach. I hope to get there one day. Truly a beautiful country.
I want to go to New Zealand sooo badly!!! I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t mainly because of the Lord of the Rings, but it’s also such a GORGEOUS country. It’s truly breathtaking. I’d love to explore all of these spots!
This is such a great post with SO much information! I absolutely love any posts about day trip options from anywhere since I prefer to hang out in the same spot for awhile and just venture out from there. Waipu Caves looks like a really cool one! Would love to visit one day 🙂
L. Diane Wolfe
I’ve not been in a cave since I was 20 years old and would love to see Waipu Caves.
Alex J. Cavanaugh
Of course I would tour Hobbiton! But the gorge and caves would also be high on my list.