Did someone say road trip?
We love Auckland, but sometimes, it is nice to get out of the city and explore something new and exciting nearby. Wonderfully, the North Island offers some iconic gems to discover, and on a boring winter day, venturing on one of the greatest New Zealand day trips could be the pick-me-up you need. From scenic mountain drives to slurping on hot chocolate at markets, we’ve found something for everyone to enjoy. So why not take an epic winter road trip to one of these fantastic eleven spots.
Just 54 minutes drive, Matakana offers the ultimate weekend foodie experience. Pop on your best winter warmers and head early to avail of top-notch market deals and chow down on some great cheap eats. Expect award-winning coffees to warm your heart, indulgent brunch dishes, and plenty of sinful sweet options. If you get bored at the market, you’ll find an array of shops and boutiques where you can shop till you drop nearby. To end the day on a high, take your tasty treats from the market, and head to Matakana Boutique Cinema, which is the perfect place to hide away from winter.
Rotorua is probably one of the most underrated places on the planet. This magical land is only a two hour and 40 minute drive from Auckland. Known as Sulphur City, it is renowned for its bubbling mud pools, breathtaking hikes, natural hot springs and fascinating Maori culture. Perfect for a romantic getaway or an adventure road trip with the kids. You’ll end up pining for a visit after seeing their captivating Instagram feed.
3. The Coromandel
Prepare to unwind in this cute gold-mining town, which is one of the finest destinations to visit in New Zealand. It’s specifically known for its more relaxed way of life and stunning coastal scenery. From magnificent beaches, incredible hikes, tasty food — you’ll fall into a realm of tranquility. Some highlights include visiting museums or the renowned Cathedral Cove Rock and driving Creek Railway, which is an old train ride in the mountain forests, or if it’s not too cold, kayaking your way around the ocean. You’re just two hours and 15 minutes away from this fantastic day out.
This picturesque sight of carefully preserved world-class 1930s architecture is the greatest tourist attraction in Hawke’s Bay. Interestingly, a 1931 earthquake was responsible for this seaside resort, which gives you all the Great Gatsby vibes through its art deco facades, vintage cars and streetscapes. Get up at the crack of dawn, and drive the totally-worth-it four hours to reach this magical place. With the amount of jaw-dropping places to eat, all you foodies will be in your elements.
5. Auckland’s Wild West
For an adventurous day out, explore the gannet colony and the volcanic black sand beaches of Piha and Karekare by heading just 40 minutes west of Auckland. Opt to climb Lion Rock or hike the Waitakere Ranges Rainforest trails to see unique waterfalls like Fairy Falls. And if this doesn’t impress you, you can brace the cold by practicing your surfing on one of the beaches. When you get hungry, head to Piha Store, at the centre of Piha village, for some world-famous pies and appetising grub paired with a hearty hot drink to warm you up after all the outdoor activities.
6. Bay of Plenty
At some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, you can try all sorts of fun water activities, gorge on some tasty seafood, and take in all this enchanting coastal spot has to offer. Just two hours and 25 minutes drive from Auckland, it makes an excellent day out for a couple or even a family. You can visit one of New Zealand’s most active volcanoes and take part in lots of forest adventures, just to name a few activities.
7. Waiheke Island
Take a 40 minute ferry ride to reach one of the most beautiful places in the world. Experience incredible coastal landscape, stunning walking trails, award-winning wineries, adrenaline activities like ziplining and much more. One of our favourite spots on Waiheke is Mudbrick Vineyard which overlooks the Hauraki Gulf and vines offering an iconic dining experience. Perfect for couples looking for an escape from Auckland for a day. Be sure to wrap up warm for the winter evenings.
Drive three hours and 13 minutes to discover the natural wonders and take in the majestic views of Lake Taupo. Indeed, this tranquil haven is the best place to sooth your tensions in rare hot pools, embark on various cycling routes and partake in terrific adrenaline activities. After a long week, one dip in the natural hot springs is what you need to wash all your troubles away. Photographers and influencers will adore this picturesque place. Visit their Instagram feed for more inspiration.
The Hobbit and Lord Of The Rings filming locations make a great day trip and one of the best things to do near Auckland this winter. Just a two hour drive from the city, get ready to explore Alexander family sheep farm, the 12 acre set of the Hobbit Holes and learn how the movies were made. There are various types of tours on offer during the pandemic, although it’s best to check the Hobbiton Tours website for the most up-to-date information.
📍 Matamata, Waikato, New Zealand
Just one hour and 30 minutes drive from Auckland, you’ll reach this stunning village. With a range of diverse activities, from mini golf to cliff walks to donkey rides, you won’t be left dissatisfied. One of the greatest things to do here is to visit the famous Bennetts of Mangawhai Chocolate Shop. Prepare to fill your belly with wholesome chocolate truffles and slurp on the finest hot chocolate around. On a Saturday, you’ll find a variety of market stalls where you can indulge on plenty of street food dishes. Indeed, one of the best day trips from Auckland offering a pleasurable foodie experience.
11. North Island Chocolate Factories
What better way to spend a winter’s day than exploring one of New Zealand’s best chocolate factories. Read our recent article to see where you can go in the North Island.