Awesome Auckland is the capital and largest city of New Zealand. Rated as the third most livable city in the world, Auckland is a thriving multi-cultural hub of cuisine, music, art, and culture. While it has plenty of activities to keep the young and old excited, it is also a perfect place to use as a base while you venture out of the city to explore what lies outside of the bustling city.
Famous for its natural surroundings and family-oriented activities, it is no wonder that many travellers leave Auckland for a day to experience the great outdoors!
Take a day trip from Auckland to the Waitomo Caves where you can see the short-life glowworms, or even drive down to thermal heaven in Rotorua. Plenty of scenic driving routes and pristine beaches are just a short drive away from Auckland city; you can be sure of the fresh air and seawater smell before you even realise you’re out of the city!
So, what are you waiting for? Explore these places right now!
1. Rotorua & Waitomo Caves
Kia Ora! Welcome to true blue New Zealand!
Two of New Zealand’s most popular attractions in one day, the Waitomo Caves and Rotorua town make for a fast-paced day trip from Auckland but it is definitely one that is well worth the rush!
Rotorua, a town on New Zealand’s North Island, is the coolest hot kid on the block! With plenty of thermal mud pools fueled by the area’s geothermal activity and geysers blowing every hour, it is no wonder many come to Rotorua for its geothermal spas and to experience a true wonderland of iconic geothermal activity.
A major destination for both domestic and international tourists, the tourism industry drives the district and makes it a hot destination for adults and children alike.
In fact, there is an entire village, Whakarewarewa, that survives on the geothermal activity below the soil for their daily activities such as cooking, bathing, and warming of the houses in the village!
Horse-riding, zorbing, and sheep-shearing shows are just some of the activities you can partake in when visiting Rotorua, in addition to the blissful Polynesian Spa with thermal pools.
The Polynesian Spa is highly recommended! The public baths are a great way to get started with the whole geothermal fun, plus it doesn’t cost too much to enter! Just bring your swim wear and be wowed as you lounge in warm pools by the lake.
1.2. Waitomo Glowworm Caves (from USD 273.0)
World-renowned and a magnet for tourists, the Waitomo Caves is a must-go when in New Zealand!
The glow worm, arachnocampa luminosa, sounds like something from a Harry Potter movie, but in fact is indigenous to New Zealand. With thousands of these little guys radiating their luminescent light in the dark caves, they look like stars in the night sky. One word: stunning!
Walk through the first part of the caves with a professional guide who will bring you through the famous Cathedral Cave, where famous singers have pitched their songs, and move on to the chamber of stalactites and stalagmites where the rock formations appear like two lovers reaching out to meet each other. This magical chamber contains thousands of icicle-shaped formations that were produced over thousands of years by precipitation of minerals leaking through the cave ceiling. Amazed yet?!
Here comes the fun part: the boat ride! As the guide leads you onto a boat, do not be alarmed by the sheer darkness of the cave for the glowworms will light your way. Sit in silence as the professional guide navigates you through the remaining section of the caves filled with glowworms perched on the ceiling.
Like little stars in the night sky, these small creatures are simply amazing against the uninterrupted backdrop!
Rotorua and Waitomo Caves Day Trip from Auckland
Duration: 13 hours
2. Waiheke Island
Fancy a day of just lounging around and doing nothing? Or maybe just one activity: ziplining along a blue coast?
Waiheke Island might be just the day-trip destination for you! Soar through the treetops of Waiheke and let the adrenaline take over. Waiheke is a haven of amazing vineyards, olive groves, and miles of beaches. The best part is that your journey from Auckland to Waiheke is a short 35 minutes by ferry!
The landscape, lifestyle, and experience are true representations of relaxation. Sandy, pristine beaches bordering sky-blue waters, Waiheke is like a dream come true.
Perfect for activities such as swimming, kayaking, or even just taking a romantic stroll with your partner, Palm Beach is one of the most famous beaches in Waiheke.
Feeling slightly more adventurous? Explore the island’s trails, which bring you to the top of the cliffs and into the lush greenery of the native forest.
There are plenty of places in Waiheke to enjoy a good ol’ cuppa or a taste of New Zealand’s fresh seafood. With a dozen high-quality vineyards on the island itself, take a sip and lose yourself to the island. Enjoy the fresh breeze with a glass of wine while you overlook the vine-covered valleys and the blue seas nearby.
If you decide to stay the night because a day-trip isn’t enough, check out what else you can do in Waiheke here.
3. Coromandel Peninsula
The Coromandel Peninsula is a breath-taking rugged promontory extending about 85 kilometres (53 miles) into the Pacific Ocean from New Zealand’s North Island.
Just a casual hour and a half away from New Zealand’s capital, there are plenty of things to do in Coromandel. Seek out pristine beaches, out-of-this-world hot springs, and lush greenery on this little haven.
3.1. Cathedral Cove
The most famous rock arch in the region, Cathedral Cove is also known to locals as Te Whanganui-A-Hei. Established in 1992, it is carefully preserved by the Department of Conservation.
The area surrounding the famous arch covers about 840 hectares (2,076 acres) and features a picture-perfect limestone cliff. Accessible by foot, boat, or kayak, it is one of the “must-visit” sites on Coromandel.
It is also from Cathedral Cove that you can access Gemstone Bay and Mares Leg, so give yourself about an hour of exploring before moving on to the next destination on the Coromandel Peninsula.
P.S: Remember to bring your camera and a waterproof bag because you will be taking plenty of photos and taking random dips in the clear blue waters!
The Lost Spring
The Lost Spring is a unique thermal pool and spa experience just on the edge of New Zealand’s Pacific Coast. Located in Whitianga, the “Thermal Ocean Village” is a short 2-hour drive from Auckland city and is an excellent place to relax, rejuvenate, and pamper yourself.
With this paradise of therapeutic natural thermal spring pools around the Coromandel Peninsula, it is no wonder tourists flock to this place to experience the thermal springs, even during the summer periods.
The sculpted pools, soothing waterfalls, and smoking volcanic action make the Lost Spring even more attractive as a day-trip from central Auckland.
3.2. Hot Water Beach (from USD 261.0)
Slightly different to the Lost Spring, Hot Water Beach is where families, kids, and couples can dig their very own spa pool in the sand.
Digging into the sand allows the hot water to escape to the surface and in turn this forms a hot water pool. The really great thing about these natural hot springs is the fact that it constantly clears the way for the next influx of visitors, as the ebb and flow of the incoming tide washes the pools created by previous visitors away.
Also considered a natural spring, it is one of New Zealand’s most famous and unique beaches; it is certainly one worth putting on your bucket list. A great attraction for the family, kids can also build sandcastles while the adults enjoy the therapeutic benefits of this free-to-visit attraction on the Coromandel Peninsula.
Other than the fun of digging your very own hot spring in the sand, the beach is also home to some great waves, hipster cafes, and art galleries. And, this is all within 5 minutes of the famous Cathedral Cove.
Coromandel Peninsula Small-Group Day Trip from Auckland
Duration: 12 hours
4. Hobbiton: Lord of the Rings Set (from USD 55.85)
Take a comfortable 1-day tour to the Hobbiton Movie Set where you will get to experience a Guided Movie Set Tour and be introduced to the real landscapes that featured in the hit movie trilogy, “Lord of the Rings”, and the spinoff, “The Hobbit”.
Approximately a 2-hour drive from Auckland, it is a short day trip filled with exciting new experiences of the real Middle-Earth.
The guided tour begins with a drive through the picturesque 1,250-acre (505.9-hectare) landscape that boasts spectacular views of the Kaimai Ranges. Throughout the tour, the professional guide will lead you through the sites, recounting the details of how the set was sourced, created, and edited using state-of-the-art technology (CGI).
Take some of the free time at the end of the guided tour to see the Hobbit Holes, the Green Dragon Inn, the Mill, and other famous structures where you can see first-hand how graphic artists transformed these locations into The Shire from Middle-Earth.
Address: 501 Buckland Rd, Hinuera, Matamata 3472, New Zealand
Price: from 132 USD
Duration: around 1 day required
Waikato: Hobbiton Movie Set Guided Tour Ticket
Duration: 2.0 hour
5. Piha Beach (from USD 216.0)
Black iron-sand and wild waves are famous along Piha Beach. One of New Zealand’s best kept secrets, Piha is the locals’ go-to place when it comes to walking along the sand and surfing.
A laid-back seaside village about 45 minutes’ drive from Auckland, it makes for a great day trip if you just want to see some of New Zealand’s black-iron beaches. Popular during summer among the locals, the dramatic beach is great for photos as each end is marked by the rugged cliffs with waves beating against them.
For surfers, the water is strong and often has dangerous currents, so be careful when riding the waves! If you are interested in learning how to surf, there are surfing schools around the area. Abseiling is also on the cards for those willing to try out the more adventure-filled side of Piha Canyon!
The air is invigorating and refreshing. A walk is perfect under the canopy of trees that line the famous rock. You can start at Glen Esk Road and follow the trail that leads to the stream.
Auckland City and West Coast Tour (private vehicle and guide)
Duration: 7 hours
Make the memories count!
Whether you decide to book the Polynesian Spa for a day of relaxation or you think zorbing is more your thing, there’s always something for everyone in the surroundings of Auckland, all within a day’s reach!
So go forth, make some memories, take lots of pictures, and live like a true-blue tourist!
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