Auckland is a lovely metropolis on New Zealand's North Island, home to gorgeous landmarks such as the iconic Sky Tower, offering stunning panoramic views of Viaduct Harbour. Many ferry routes from the city's center offer day trip experiences to nearby gulf shore islands, including Waiheke Island, named as one of the world's top tourist destinations by Lonely Planet for its stunning visitor beaches and biannual art biennial. Indigenous Maori culture is on display at nearby sites such as Rotorua, which is home to the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute. Lord of the Rings fans can view preserved set pieces on display at the unique Hobbiton attraction, which offers guided tours each day throughout the year.
1.The Bay of Islands
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The Bay of Islands is a gorgeous enclave of more than 140 subtropical islands located off the shore of New Zealand's North Island, known for its pristine undeveloped beachfront areas. The islands, which are located just three hours by car or half an hour by flight from Auckland, is home to the lovely boutique towns of Kerikeri, Russell, Paihia, and Opua, stretching across the coastlines of Cape Brett and the Purerua Peninsula. Visitors can peruse Russell's beautiful waterfront promenade and learn about its whaling history in the 19th century, when it served as the nation's first colonial capital. The Waitangi Treaty Grounds preserve the site of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, which solidified New Zealand's national status. Outdoor attractions abound, including Waitangi Mountain Bike Park and Rainbow Falls, one of New Zealand's most accessible waterfalls. Big-game fishing is popular at areas like Urupukapuka Island, known for its historical sites connected to the region's indigenous Maori people.
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Cape Reinga, known as Te Rerenga Wairua in Maori, is one of New Zealand's most popular tourist destinations, attracting more than 120,000 visitors each year. The cape, which is named for a Maori word for the leaping-off place of spirits to the underworld, marks the separation point between the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean, located along the northwesternmost point of New Zealand's Aupouri Peninsula. It is home to a gorgeous preserved lighthouse, which was originally constructed in 1941. A signpost at the base of the lighthouse shows the distance from the Cape to landmarks all around the world, known as a popular photo opportunity for visitors. Visitors can embark on guided coach tours of the cape departing from the Bay of Islands each day, exploring sites such as beautiful 90 Mile Beach.
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Coromandel is a charming coastal town on New Zealand's Coromandel Peninsula, best known as the home of the gorgeous Driving Creek Railway, a scenic excursion narrow-gauge railway that takes visitors on train rides through the surrounding mountain forest landscape. The town, which is connected to the region's gold mining and kauri forestry history, has become a popular tourist destination as of late, showcasing attractions such as the Coromandel School of Mines and Historical Museum. The 20th-century Coromandel Gold Stamper Battery is still in operation today, processing gold from area rock deposits. Hot Water Beach offers relaxing and rejuvenating hot springs experiences at low tide. The region's waters are also a top area destination for scuba diving and whale and dolphin watching throughout the year.
4.Hauraki Gulf Marine Park
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Hauraki Gulf Marine Park is the first park of its kind in New Zealand, established in 2000 to protect the sensitive Gulf regions along the coasts of Auckland and Waikato. The park, which spans an area of more than 1.2 million hectares, stretches across 50 islands off the coast of the Coromandel Peninsula, the Firth of Thmas, and Waitemata Harbour. It is overseen by the local and national New Zealand government in cooperation with the region's indigeous Maori Iwi. Visitors can explore many of the park's islands, including its gorgeous Little Barrier Island, which preserves New Zealand's most intact native ecosystem, offering a glimpse of the island's wilderness prior to human settlement. Many islands are considered to be important bird sanctuaries, protecting species such as the takahe, kiwi, and grey-faced petrel. Visitors can explore sites such as Cape Rodney-Okakari Point, which offers some of the Auckland area's best snorkeling and scuba diving experiences, and Kawau Island, which preserves the former mansion and gardens of Sir George Grey.
5.The Hobbiton Movie Set
The Hobbiton Movie Set preserves one of the most significant filming locations used for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit motion picture series, located on a family-owned farm facility just five miles west of the town of Hinuera. The movie set was originally constructed in 1999 and was rebuilt in permanent fashion in 2011 for the filming of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Today, it is operated as a major pop culture tourist destination, offering guided tours each day since 2002. Guests can tour the 14-acres site as part of two-hour guided tours with advance reservations, which showcase notable filming areas such as the Party Tree, Bagshot Row, and the Bag End home of character Bilbo Baggins. 44 hobbit holes are on display, including life-sized holes that can be entered and explored.
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Matakana is a quaint town in Auckland Council's Rodney Ward, located approximately an hour from Auckland's city center. The region has become known as a top foodie destination in New Zealand as of late, known for its delicious restaurants serving up modern New Zealand fare crafted from locally-sourced ingredients. The Matakana Farmers' Market, which is open to the public each weekend, sells a wide variety of locally-produced food and goods, ranging from artisan cheeses and organic produce to homemade spreads, olive oils, and local craft beer. Numerous wineries dot the regional landscape, producing acclaimed Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Pinot Gris varietals. Fallen World War I soldiers from the area are honored at the Matakana War Memorial, which was constructed in 1920. Nearby, stunning pristine beaches are open to the public at Tawharanui, Omaha, Pakiri, and Leigh.
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Mount Maunganui is a lovely suburb of the city of Tauranga, located on a peninsula region northeast of the city's center. The town, which was operated as an independent city until 1988, is connected to Tauranga's central business district via the Tauranga Harbour Bridge and is best known as the home of Main Beach, which has been ranked among the top 25 beaches in the world for a number of years running. Visitors can enjoy excellent opportunities for sunbathing and water sports throughout the year in the shadow of the gorgeous volcanic mountain of the same name, which rises 232 meters above sea level. Walking trails to the top of the volcano's summit offer unparalleled 360-degree views of the surrounding region and the Bay of Plenty. In town, regular Gourmet Night Market events showcase delicious locally-crafted food and produce, while an annual New Year's Eve event draws more than 20,000 visitors.
Muriwai Beach is a lovely coastal community on the western coastline of New Zealand's North Island, located just west of Auckland. The beach is known for its unique black volcanic sands and large colonies of nesting gannet seabirds. Visitors can enjoy excellent opportunities for surfing, paragliding, hang gliding, and swimming at Maukatia or rent bicycles and kites for use along the beach's boardwalks. Muriwai Regional Park is home to a public golf course, horse park, and four-wheel drive area, while the Woodhill Forest Equestrian Park offers extensive opportunities for horseback riding along sand dune areas. Bushwalking is popular at sites such as the Hilary Trail, which crosses through Muriwai.
Piha is a gorgeous seaside village located just 45 minutes west of Auckland, known as a popular summertime destination for area residents and visitors. The region is known as one of New Zealand's top surfing destinations, offering strong currents and dramatic beachfront cliff vistas. Surfing lessons are offered during the summer months for surfers of all ages and ability levels, with surf lifesavers on patrol during peak months. Visitors can enjoy prime photo opportunities at the Piha Beach Lookout, showcasing top area landmarks like Lion Rock, which preserves the eroded neck of an extinct volcanic peak. Rock climbing is popular on the rocky cliffs of Piha Canyon throughout the year. Visitors can also soak in some of New Zealand's most beautiful sunsets at the beach, showcasing stunning multicolored displays.
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Puhoi is an historic village in New Zealand that was originally settled in the 1860s by immigrants from the Czech Republic's Bohemia district. The village is known for giving birth to the popular slang term "up the Boohai," due to its remote location along the Puhoi River. Today, it is home to a population of approximately 500 people and has become a major tourism destination for visitors looking to learn about New Zealand's colonial and pioneer history. Visitors can explore the exhibits of the Puhoi Heritage Museum, which is housed within a former convent school, or sample delicious European-style cheeses and yogurts at the Puhoi Valley Cheese Factory. The Puhoi Town Library, one of New Zealand's smallest libraries, is noted for its destruction and recovery following the Great Flood of 1924. Other attractions include the 1879 Puhoi Pub, known for its reputation as a popular old country pub hangout.
Raglan is a lovely coastal town in New Zealand's Waikato region, located along the shores of gorgeous Manu Bay. The bay is renowned around the world for its prime surfing conditions, widely considered to be home to the world's most accessible and consistent left-hand surfing break. It was featured in the 1966 surfing film Endless Summer, which has become a cult classic among surfing and beach movie enthusiasts today. Ocean Beach offers swimming and body boarding opportunities, with lifeguards staffed on duty throughout the summer months, while Ngarunui Beach is known for its gorgeous volcanic black sands. Visitors can also explore local history exhibits at the Raglan and District Museum, hike through native forest to beautiful Bridal Veil Falls, or peruse the town's delightful cafes, bars, and art galleries.
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Rangitoto Island is a lovely volcanic island within New Zealand's Hauraki Gulf, named after the Maori word for "bloody sky." The island, which is located just a short travel distance from Auckland, is formed from the youngest and largest volcano within Auckland's volcanic field, which emerged from the sea just six centuries ago. Visitors can travel to the island via ferry or island tour service from Auckland's city center and view the volcano's summit from a boardwalk with 300 steps, accessible via a 1.5-mile walk. Guided tours are available aboard four-wheel drive road trains, lasting approximately two hours. At the peak, visitors can explore black lava caves or enjoy spectacular views of the surrounding Hunua and Waitakere Ranges. Guided sea kayaking trips to the island are also popular, including night kayaking excursions.
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Rotorua is a delightful center of Maori culture on New Zealand's North Island, located along the banks of the beautiful lake of the same name. The city is surrounded by some of New Zealand's most beautiful natural scenery, ranging from massive mountain ranges and native forest areas to 18 stunning freshwater lakes. Geothermal activity is heavy within the Whakarewarewa Valley region, which is home to bubbling mud pools and the impressive Pohutu Geyser, which showcases daily eruptions. Natural hot springs abound, offering opportunities for relaxation and rejuvenation. A living Maori village showcases New Zealand's indigenous culture and serves up traditional hangi feasts for visitors, while the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute showcases traditional wood carving and weaving practices. Visitors can also enjoy a plethora of opportunities for outdoor recreation, including walking, horseback riding, fishing, swimming, and mountain biking. Extreme sports opportunities include chances for ziplining, bungee jumping, and rafting over the world's highest commercially-rafted waterfall.
Taupo is a charming town near the center of North Island, located along the banks of beautiful Lake Taupo, which sits atop an active volcano that has erupted as recently as 181 A.D. The stunning lake's waters drain into nearby Huka Falls, which showcases dramatic crystal-blue cascades and a number of hiking and biking trails. Visitors can enjoy rejuvenating experiences at the town's lovely geothermal hot springs or explore preserved Maori rock carvings at nearby Mine Bay, a popular destination for boat and kayak excursions. Outdoor recreational opportunities abound throughout the year, including water sporting opportunities on the lake's surface throughout the summer months. During the winter months, Mount Ruapehu is known as a top destination for downhill skiing.
15.Tiritiri Matangi Island
Tiritiri Matangi Island is a popular day trip destination for New Zealand North Islanders, located less than 20 minutes northeast of Auckland's city center within the waters of the Hauraki Gulf near the Whangaparaoa Peninsula. The one-square-mile island is maintained as an open nature reserve by the New Zealand Department of Conservation and is noted as an important wildlife refuge for native birds, including kokako, kiwi, and takahe. It is named for the Maori phrase for "tossed by the wind" and has played an important part in indigenous mythology throughout history. Today, it attracts over 30,000 annual visitors and is known as a prime birdwatching site throughout the year.
16.Villa Maria Winery
Villa Maria Winery is New Zealand's most-awarded winery, founded in 1962 by George Fistonich. Today, the winery has grown to sell under eight distinct brands and exports its wines to more than 60 countries throughout the world, producing 28 distinct grape varietals throughout the year. Visitors can enjoy tastings and tours at the winery's locations in Auckland, Marlborough, and Hawk's Bay and sample the company's delicious wines under its Villa Maria, Esk Valley, Riverstone, and Thornbury labels. Tastings sample standard and premium wines, offering flights of five varieties of visitors' choosing. Tours depart twice daily, showcasing the winery's history and winemaking processes. Visitors can also enjoy delicious cuisine at the winery's Auckland Vineyard Café, which is open for lunch seven days a week.
118 Montgomerie Rd, Mangere, Auckland 2022, New Zealand, https://www.villamariawines.com/, Phone: +64 9-255 0666
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Waiheke Island is the most populated island within New Zealand's Hauraki Gulf, located just a half-hour ferry ride from downtown Auckland. The island is one of the Auckland area's most popular day trip destinations, accessible via a ferry terminal in Auckland's city center that connects to Matiatia Bay. In 2015, the island was ranked as one of the world's top five travel destinations by Lonely Planet for its stunning visitor beaches and cultural attractions. Scenic beach stretches abound, including Oneroa Beach, which offers children's play equipment and barbecue grills, and Palm Beach, which offers clothing-optional sections. Kayaking and windsurfing are popular at Blackpool Beach, while kitesurfing takes center stage at Surfdale Beach. The island is also known as the host of the Headland: Sculpture on the Gulf biennial, which takes place in January and February every other year.
Waitomo is a lovely village on New Zealand's North Island, known around the world for its extensive underground cave system. The stunning cave system is home to unique cave formations such as the Glowworm Caves, which are lit up by thousands of native glow worms. Waterfalls and limestone formations are on display at expansive Ruakuri Cave, which can be explored via walking or boat tours. Visitors can also embark on unique Black Water Rafting excursions, which take participants through cave waters on rubber tubes. Nearby, the Mangapohue Natural Bridge limestone arch extends high over Mangapohue Stream, making for amazing photo opportunities. Otorohanga Kiwi House is home to populations of rare native kiwi birds, while the nearby town of Piopio showcases filming sites for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
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Whangarei is a lovely city in New Zealand's Northland region, best known as the home of impressive Whangarei Falls, often considered to be New Zealand's most photogenic waterfall. The charming city, which was once the home of New Zealand's largest Maori Pa, showcases fortification excavations atop beautiful volcanic Mount Parihaka. Visitors can ascend the mountain peak and explore a war memorial or enjoy stunning panoramic views of the surrounding region. In town, the Claphams Clock Museum displays eclectic vintage clocks, while the Town Basin offers a full-service marina and delightful shopping and dining destinations. Nearby, native kiwi bird populations are protected at Maunu's natural history museum, which is home to a native bird recovery center.
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19 Best Weekend Getaways and Day Trips from Auckland, New Zealand
- The Bay of Islands, Photo: Julian Peters Photos/stock.adobe.com
- Cape Reinga, Photo: Klanarong Chitmung/stock.adobe.com
- Coromandel, Photo: Christian B./stock.adobe.com
- Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, Photo: Kritz Workroom NZ/stock.adobe.com
- The Hobbiton Movie Set, Photo: ggfoto/stock.adobe.com
- Matakana, Photo: Ant Clausen/stock.adobe.com
- Mount Maunganui, Photo: Rafael Ben-Ari/stock.adobe.com
- Muriwai Beach, Photo: Tomtsya/stock.adobe.com
- Piha, Photo: Gwendolyn/stock.adobe.com
- Puhoi, Photo: Sorang/stock.adobe.com
- Raglan, Photo: vekidd/stock.adobe.com
- Rangitoto Island, Photo: Yevgen Belich/stock.adobe.com
- Rotorua, Photo: Yevgen Belich/stock.adobe.com
- Taupo, Photo: reindo/stock.adobe.com
- Tiritiri Matangi Island, Photo: phlegmone/stock.adobe.com
- Villa Maria Winery, Photo: rastkobelic/stock.adobe.com
- Waiheke Island, Photo: Andrea Izzotti/stock.adobe.com
- Waitomo, Photo: criskorah/stock.adobe.com
- Whangarei, Photo: Iriana Shiyan/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: David/stock.adobe.com