hobbiton movie set day trips from Auckland

10 Incredible Auckland Day Trips & Weekend Escapes

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Discover 10 of the best Auckland day trips and weekend trips to take, whether you have 1 day or many, to spend seeing beyond the Auckland city centre! These day trips from Auckland will take you to the most breathtaking places in New Zealand’s North Island.

Heading to NZ soon? Check out our ultimate guide to what to pack for New Zealand for adults & kids.

As New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland is a convenient base for exploring the incredible North Island. Or simply enjoying a laid-back city break in NZ’s capital!

As the only city in the world to be built on an active basaltic volcanic field, you will easily find an array of unique attractions and sights within Auckland itself.

While Auckland may not be the top of your New Zealand bucket list, you will find some of the best day trips and weekend getaways within easy distance from Auckland city!

And even if it’s raining, there are plenty of fun indoor activities in Auckland!

The Best Auckland Day Trips & Weekend Trips

We have put together a list of the best Auckland day trips and mini-breaks to get you exploring well beyond the city centre, and wishing you had many more days to see it all!

hobbiton movie set Auckland day trips

1. Hobbiton

You don’t need to be a Lord of the Rings fanatic to enjoy a visit to Middle Earth. The Hobbiton Movie Set is the most visited attraction in all of the New Zealand and by far one of the most popular day trips from Auckland!

If you love J.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Hobbit books and the more recent Hollywood blockbusters, Hobbiton is a must-visit!

Wander through Hobbit holes built for the films and Bagshot Row. You can even order yourself a themed beverage at the Green Dragon Inn or dine on signature New Zealand cuisine at Rest Café.

Entry to Hobbiton Movie Set must be pre-booked prior to arrival.

Getting to Hobbiton Movie Set From Auckland

The drive to Hobbiton from Auckland takes just over 2 hours each way, making this a full-day trip from Auckland, but well worth the distance!

It is a simple drive, heading south of Auckland to Matamata. Alternatively, book a coach tour from Auckland and sit back and enjoy the views along the way.

A perfect option is a combined Hobbiton Movie Set and Waitomo Caves full day excursion.

Recommended Tour: Hobbiton & Waitomo Caves Small-Group Day Tour from Auckland

For Longer Stays: Find accommodation in Matamata for weekend stays near Hobbiton.

waitomo caves

2. Waitomo Caves

There are many ways to experience the famous Waitomo Caves, although the most popular choice is to take a gentle boat ride through the large cave system.

You will see the cave walls light up with glow worms as you make your way through the caves with your tour guide. This is perfect for visiting Waitomo caves with children.

Alternatively, if you’re up for a bit of an adrenaline rush, black water rafting may be exactly the experience you are looking for. Raft your way through pitch black caves, with nothing but the soft glow of worms to guide you.

After all, New Zealand prides itself on adventure experiences!

Getting to Waitomo Caves from Auckland

You can visit Waitomo Caves by car, taking approximately 2.5 hours each way.

Alternatively, there are buses and guided tours that will take you to Waitomo, many incorporating a visit to Hobbiton too, if you’d like to make the most of your day tour experience.

Recommended Tour: Hobbiton & Waitomo Caves Small-Group Day Tour from Auckland

For Longer Stays: Find accommodation near Waitomo Caves for weekend stays.

Bay of Islands New Zealand north island

3. Bay of Islands

Breathtaking scenery isn’t rare in New Zealand, but you won’t regret the chance to experience the landscapes of Bay of Islands. Comprised of 144 islands, situated off the far north of the North Island region.

The area is popular for fishing, sailing, and Maori culture. You can enjoy a daily cruise around the islands, or get up close with kayaking or snorkelling.

Just as Milford Sound is a must-do South Island experience, Bay of Islands should definitely be on your North Island must-do list.

Getting to Bay of Islands From Auckland

Bay of Islands is approximately a 3.5 hour drive or a 35 minute flight from Auckland. If you prefer to take a guided tour day trip package, there are many options available.

Recommended Tour: Bay of Islands Day Tour with Dolphin Watching Cruise

For Longer Stays: Find accommodation near Bay of Islands

COROMANDEL PENINSULA cathedral arch

4. Coromandel Peninsula

Cathedral Cove is an iconic North Island natural attraction and you will find that and many other points of interest along the Coromandel Peninsula. The limestone arch looks like a cathedral.

With mountains covered in ancient forest and coastlines that are better enjoyed while on the water, you can spend the day enjoying the area by boat, diving or simply exploring one of the many Coromandel beaches in the area.

Don’t miss the chance to stop at Hot Water Beach along the way… if it’s not too cold outdoors. During low tide, you can dig your own mini hot pools.

Getting to Coromandel From Auckland

Coromandel Peninsula is around 2.5 hours from Auckland city by car. As with each of the other popular day trips from Auckland, you can easily catch a bus or hire a car to make your way there.

Recommended Tour: Coromandel Peninsula Day Trip from Auckland

For Longer Stays: Find accommodation near Coromandel Peninsula

WAIHEKE ISLAND

5. Waiheke Island

Auckland city is gateway to some beautiful islands and one of the most popular boat trips from Auckland is Waiheke Island. In recent years, it has been named one of the world’s top island destinations by both Conde Nast Travel and Lonely Planet.

In warmer weather, enjoy the beautiful beaches and scenery as you explore the island.

It is also a popular spot for wine tasting, with several wineries located on the island. And what a beautiful place to sip wine!

Waiheke Oysters are another must when on the island, with several cafes and restaurants on the island serving them up for your culinary enjoyment.

Getting to Waiheke Island From Auckland

Get to Waiheke Island via boat from Auckland Downtown Ferry Terminal. Several different ferry services offer this route throughout the day. The scenic boat trip takes around 40 minutes.

Upon arriving at Waiheke Island, there are bus and taxi services available to get around to the different sights and attractions you wish to see.

Recommended Tour: Waiheke Island Ferry & Explorer Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tickets

For Longer Stays: Find accommodation on Waiheke Island

RANGITOTO ISLAND

6. Rangitoto Island

Rangitoto is one of New Zealand’s most iconic islands – the youngest and largest of Auckland’s 48 volcanic cones. It is also home to the largest pohutukawa forest in the world.

Situated just a short ferry ride from Auckland, Rangitoto Island is a popular short day trip option.

While on the Island, the whole family will love the adventure of exploring the black lava caves (Don’t forget your torch!) or the 4WD road train. If the weather is good, a kayak tour is another great option.

If you are feeling energetic, the walk up the summit is approximately 1 hour by foot and you will be able to see some incredible views of the Hauraki Gulf, the Waitakere Ranges and Hunua Ranges.

Getting to Rangitoto Island From Auckland

To get to Rangitoto from Auckland, catch a ferry from downtown Auckland. The ferry trip takes around 35 minutes.

Recommended Tour: Rangitoto Island Tour by 4WD Train from Auckland

For Longer Stays: Find accommodation near Rangitoto Island

Karekare Falls

7. Waitakere Ranges

With over 27 thousand hectares of bushland, Waitakere Ranges Regional Park is the place to discover native wildlife, natural bushland and black sand beaches combined.

Be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes so you can make your way along some of the 250+ kilometres of walking tracks through the ranges. There are tracks to suit all levels of experience and ages.

Karekare Falls is one of the most popular points of interest in the area.

Getting to Waitakere Ranges From Auckland

Waitakere Ranges are approximately 45 minutes from Auckland city by car.

Recommended Tour: Waitakere Ranges Wilderness Experience Tour from Auckland

For Longer Stays: Find accommodation near Waitakere Ranges

rotorua hot springs

8. Rotorua

If adventure and adrenaline experiences are top of your list, you can’t miss a chance to visit Rotorua. It is also a popular spot for experiencing Maori culture.

As one of the biggest tourist areas on the North Island, Rotorua is a longer journey perhaps better spent as a weekend trip from Auckland. But still possible for a day trip.

The town situated around Lake Rotorua is a hub of adrenaline sports – bungee jumping, zorbing, skydiving, go-karting… the list goes on.

While there’s plenty to keep the adults entertained, there are lots of kid-friendly experiences too.

Rotorua is also famed for its thermal spas, including hot mud pools and geysers. It’s a wonderful place to enjoy the healing geothermal properties.

You may notice an unusual smell when you arrive. Don’t worry… it’s just the sulphur from the geothermal activity.

Getting to Rotorua From Auckland

Rotorua is a scenic and beautiful 3 hour drive from Auckland. It is easily reached by car or bus.

You may want to stay overnight so you don’t have to limit your visit to just a few hours.

Recommended Tour: Auckland to Rotorua Small Group Tour & Activity Add-Ons

For Longer Stays: Find accommodation in Rotorua

lake taupo

9. Lake Taupo

Further self from Rotorua, Lake Taupo is another North Island place worth visiting. You might as well make a weekend out of it!

Taupo is a popular summer holiday destination for locals, offering beautiful water views and plenty of things to do.

Go boating or kayaking, take a drive to Tongariro National Park or enjoy the free hot springs. Just take care to only go to the ones marked safe for entry.

Taupo was also where many of the Lord of the Rings Mordor scenes were filmed

Getting to Taupo From Auckland

Lake Taupo is approximately 3.5 hours from Auckland by car. There are buses available, however they take much longer due to stopping, therefore making it essential to stay overnight.

Lake Taupo is a perfect Auckland weekend getaway! Especially in summer.

Recommended Tour: Lake Taupo Maori Rock Carving 2.5-Hour Sailing Cruise

For Longer Stays: Find accommodation near Lake Taupo

karagahake gorge auckland day trips

10. Karangahake Gorge

If you are looking for a half-day trip from Auckland, Karangahake Gorge is the perfect place to enjoy the great outdoors and get some fresh air and exercise.

With numerous walks to suit most fitness levels and plenty of biking tracks, Karangahake Gorge is a beautiful spot not far from Auckland.

The Karangahake Gorge lies between the Coromandel and Kaimai ranges and is a Gold Heritage site, making it a unique place to escape the city.

Take a walk across suspension bridges, past gold mining relics and through the train tunnel that feels like it will never end. Not even kidding… but a really cool experience.

There is also a winery and restaurants nestled into the mountains to enjoy a beverage or a meal after your explorations.

Don’t forget to stop in Paeroa for their iconic L&P drink. It’s a fizzy lemon flavoured drink, now owned by Coca-cola.

Getting to Karangahake Gorge From Auckland

Karangahake Gorge, located on State Highway 2 between Paeroa and Waihi is about 1.5 hours drive from Auckland.

Recommended Tour: Mount Maunganui and Karangahake Gorge Day Trip

For Longer Stays: Find accommodation near Karangahake Gorge

Got More Time to Spend In New Zealand? Check out our other NZ planning resources:

There is no better way to see New Zealand than by road trip, so check out our complete South Island 2.5 week road trip itinerary and details on all the campgrounds we stayed at too.