The 10 best day trips from Auckland

This summer I've been trying to squeeze in heaps of day trips and mini getaways, since I've used all my annual leave for International travel (check out my trip to Fiji here). I don't have a car but I'm super lucky to have friends that are happy to go away for the day or do a little weekend roadie, so here are some of my recommendations for places that can be visited from Auckland in a day!

These are all under 3 hours from Auckland CBD, so they're a decent way out but still manageable for a day trip. Some are technically in Rodney but the rest aren't actually in Auckland because that might have to be a whole new post. I'm just going to order them from North to South, so here goes: 

Matapouri (Mermaid Pools)

Drive time (all from Auckland Central): 2hrs 37mins

Road trip 1
Road trip 2

I was really gutted that the day I planned to go to the Mermaid Pools wasn't warm and sunny, but it was still beautiful at Matapouri nonetheless. The beach itself is stunning and quite a distance from Auckland (it's past Whangarei), so you really feel like you're on holiday. At the end of the beach you can do a bush walk up through a hill and down the other side to the stunning "Mermaid Pools". Though it's a fairly short walk, maybe 20 mins, it's very, very steep, so don't take grandma up! 

Whangarei Falls

Drive time: 2hrs 8mins

Road trip 3

If you're already up that way, the Whangarei Falls are a beautiful place to visit too. There's an easy loop track down to the falls that takes about 15 minutes return, and it's very well paved. Be careful to lock your car and take your belongings with you though, especially if the attendants aren't there. Yikes! Thanks to my girl Steph from beautylust.co.nz! She was so patient with all the photos I wanted to take and drove the whole way :) 

Mangawhai Heads

Drive time: 1hr 24 mins

It's been a long while since I've been to Mangawhai, so as with a couple of other places I don't have any recent photos, but it's a stunning spot and a popular place for summer vacations. The surf is pretty good too, and it's a short drive to plenty of beautiful beaches like Waipu and Langs Beach. 

Matakana & nearby beaches

Drive time: 47 mins

Road trip 4

Matakana is lovely area north of Auckland, it has a delicious ice cream store, quaint movie theatre and a great farmers market every Saturday. But the best part about it is the surrounding beaches. Omaha has been an old favourite of mine with its stunning stretch of white sand and calm water, as has Tauwharanui, a reserve just around the corner with awesome rock pools and a few more waves.

Then there's Goat Island, a marine reserve with possibly the only colourful fish we get in NZ waters (Blue Mau Mau) and a cool little island you can swim out to. I haven't been in years but it was a favourite when I was a kid, even though the water always seemed to be a few degrees colder than other beaches. There's also Leigh, Kawau Island and the beaches around the Snells Beach peninsula. You're spoilt for choice really! 

Karangahake Gorge

Drive time: 1hr 40mins

Driving through the Karangahake Gorge can be very daunting, but if you detour there you'll find some stunning scenery and a great place to explore. There's a historic walk there while follows an old railway line, passes through a 1km tunnel and follows the Ohinemuri river in places. 

Cathedral Cove (Te Whanganui-A-Hei), Coromandel

Drive time: 2hrs 24mins

Road trip 5
Road trip 6

If this list was ranked, Cathedral Cove would definitely take out the top spot. The 40 minute walk does little to thin out the crowds as the beach is well worth the trek. It took to the big screen when it made a cameo in Prince Caspian from the Narnia Chronicles, which you can watch here. Gives me tingles seeing my beautiful country shown off like that!

I visited recently on a long weekend, which didn't help with the crowds, plus the weather was stunning. It was really hard to get a photo without at least 20 other people in it, which I suppose is pretty normal for people from more populated parts of the world but for me I was a little put off. Still, I jumped off the tiny island and went wandering along the rocks and marvelled at how clear and pristine the water was. 

The Pinnacles

Drive time: 1hr 50 mins

This is one walk that I've been really keen to do for a while, and am very excited to do soon. The walk is about 5 hours to the top and back, depending greatly on your fitness as it can get quite steep I've heard. It can be done in a day, or you can hire out the hut at the top, complete with BBQ. I have heard only good things and am looking to go in the next few weeks. 

New Chums Beach

Drive time: 2hrs 53mins

This is another hidden gem that was a lot quieter a few years ago. Search for it on Instagram and you'll see why it's worth the walk. From memory, the walk from the carpark isn't too bad, maybe 20 minutes max, but you may get wet if the tide isn't out. Make a day of it, even if there are plenty of other people it's a big enough beach that you can sit far away from others if you want to. 

Mount Maunganui

Drive time: 2hrs 42mins

Road trip 7

Climbing Mount Maunganui and getting a selfie at the top is a pretty standard thing to do if you're visiting the area, so why not? The view is incredible and the walk itself isn't too hard. Just don't wear jandals. Or do, if you're ambitious/unprepared like me. 

Omanawa Falls, BOP

Drive time: 2hrs 27mins

Road trip 8

I have one big regret in life right now and that's that I didn't climb down to the bottom of the Omanawa Falls. In my defense, you're not allowed to, and when I was there I was alone, wearing jandals (it was the same day I climbed Mount Maunganui), carrying my belongings in a plastic bag, it was raining, I couldn't actually find the dangerous walkway and it gave me the heeby jeebies. There's an abandoned hydro-electric dam at the top, complete with creepy, gloomy staircases, broken gates and graffiti everywhere. I'll go back one day though, more prepared, and get some awesome shots from the bottom. 

The Blue Springs, Putaruru

Drive time: 2hrs 18mins

Another regret of mine is only taking my GoPro to the Blue Springs. I was still getting used to it and so I only have shaky footage from one and only trip. Honestly, I did it no justice and I'm determined to go back and shoot it again with my DSLR, or at least my phone camera. 

It's absolutely stunning and the water is so blue and pure, but bloody freezing as it stays a chilly 11 degrees Celsius all year round. You could easily get down there in a day and back from Auckland, as the walk itself isn't too long and very easy to do; I went with my whole family, including grandparents. Sadly, grandma wasn't up for a swim though. 

Of course, those aren't the only spots just out of Auckland that are worth visiting, but I wanted to keep it to 10. Here are some other honourable mentions: 
Uretiti, Te Arai, Waipu Cove, Kai Iwi Lakes, Piroa Falls, the giant L&P bottle, Hot Water Beach & Hahei, Whangamata and Pauanui. 

Do you have any highly recommended day trips from Auckland? I'd love to hear them!