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Top 5 Day Trips or Overnighters from Auckland

While Auckland is an exciting destination in its own right, the desire to explore further afield and discover the hidden gems the rest of New Zealand has to offer is often at the forefront of many visitors’ wish lists.

Seek out the home of the Hobbits, wander about underground in the darkness with glowworms lighting the way, learn a little about New Zealand’s cultural history, cleanse and purify while soaking in the mud.

Or head on over to Waiheke Island to relax and unwind with a glass of award-winning wine in hand – read on to discover some of the very best day trips, weekend getaways and overnighters within easy driving distance from Auckland City.

Bay of Islands
Waitangi Treaty Grounds

Drive Time 3 hours one way

Three hours north of Auckland, you will enter the stunningly beautiful world of the Bay of Islands. This idyllic piece of the Northland region offers an abundance of beautiful beaches, world-class fishing and water sports, stunning waterfront accommodation, and the added attraction of being of important cultural significance to the people of New Zealand.

Here on 6 February 1840 New Zealand’s founding document, Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the Treaty of Waitangi, was signed by Captain William Hobson of behalf of the British Crown and Maori 40 chiefs representing the local native tribes of Aotearoa New Zealand. By Septeber of that year

You will find the historic Waitangi Treaty Grounds located just North of Paihia (the Bay of Islands main township). This Waitangi reserve offers visitors a fascinating glimpse into the cultural and historical aspects of New Zealand’s foundational document.

A short ferry ride from Paihia is New Zealand’s oldest permanent European settlement, Russell. This peaceful haven is an idyllic seaside town well worth exploring for both historic and gastronomical reasons. There are several significant historical attractions all within an easy walk from the ferry wharf, and The Duke of Marlborough Hotel, holder of New Zealand’s first liquor license, is not only a popular fine dining restaurant but also offers 4-star accommodation with lovingly restored rooms overlooking the Bay.

Once you’ve finished learning a bit about NZ’s history, one of the best ways to experience the best of the Bay of Islands is to take a cruise out on the water. Enjoy dolphin spotting, sailing, kayaking, snorkelling or fishing if it suits, or just soak up the atmosphere on a relaxing sightseeing cruise stopping off at some of the Islands dotted around the Bay.

Waiheke Island

Travel Time 40 minutes by Ferry, 10 minutes by Helicopter

A food and wine lovers paradise, Waiheke Island is the perfect option for a shorter day trip. However, an overnighter or multiday trip is highly recommended in order to make the most of all the Island has to offer. Staying a little longer will mean you are able to experience some of the very best hospitality Waiheke has to offer with its array of luxury accommodations, stunning water views and fine-dining experiences.

Getting to Waiheke is easy, there are regular public ferry services from Auckland’s Queen’s Wharf. Or you can charter a flight (either fixed-wing or helicopter) from nearby airfields. Once on the Island, you will find a wide range of sightseeing options, activities and attractions.

For many visitors, Waiheke’s wineries are one of the main attractions, there are around 30 boutique vineyards with cellar-doors ranging from rustic to opulent with expansive grounds, water views, and world-class restaurants and bistros featuring fantastic local produce prepared at its best.

There really is something for every taste and desire! Seek out Mudbrick, Tanatlus or Poderi Crisi for a long lunch with their impressive menus.

Or head to the Onetangi beachside restaurants, 372 and Ki Maha, each serving beautifully locally inspired food matched perfectly with the Island’s iconic wines.


Drive Time 2 hours one way

Located deep in the countryside of Matamata (south of Auckland), the original ‘Shire’ movie set to this famous series has been carefully preserved for LOTR fans to explore and enjoy. Both Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy and The Hobbit were filmed at Hobbiton, and almost the entire set remains preserved – including most of the hobbit hole facades, the Mill, the iconic Green Dragon Inn and a lot of the surrounding Shire buildings.

Has J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy or The Hobbit inspired you to visit New Zealand? Then enjoying a visit to Hobbiton to see Middle Earth first hand is likely top of your list of things to do while you are here!

Find out more about the filming of the iconic Lord of the Rings movies as you make your way around by guided tour, including some behind-the-scenes secrets and the ability to explore inside an actual hobbit house!

Entry to the Hobbiton location is by guided tour only and is best booked prior to arrival as spaces are limited. Choose from three main tour options, including the Second Breakfast Tour (morning), the Evening Banquet Tour (evening) and the Hobbiton Movie Set Tour (various times).

Private tours are also available upon request, and there are various seasonal celebration events held throughout the year.

Waitomo Caves

Drive Time 2 hours 30 minutes one way

The perfect option to combine with an overnight visit to Hobbiton and Rotorua,or the Waitomo Caves are located just an hour’s drive West from the Hobbiton movie set across the Waikato region. Or, direct from Auckland, Waitomo is an easy two and a half hours drive.

What are the Waitomo Caves? They are a series of impressive naturally formed underground caves complete with stunning limestone stalactites, stalagmites and underground rivers, as well as some long-time residents that have the ability to light up your day – the glowworms!

There are a number of different tour options at Waitomo Caves, including gliding along the underground river in a boat tour with only the glowworms lighting your way, or tackling the expansive spiral staircase of the Ruakuri Cave, dodging the Weta while wandering the Aranui Cave or for something a bit more adventurous  – the legendary Blackwater Rafting experience.

Tours average about an hour to an hour and a half. Comfortable walking shoes are recommended.


Drive Time 3 hours

Best suited for an overnighter, Rotorua is a scenic 3 hours’ drive south of Auckland. This tourist centred mecca offers an outstanding balance of activities – an exciting range of adventure-based attractions and experiences for adrenaline-seeking travellers, while also providing an abundance of more relaxing sightseeing options.

Best suited for an overnighter, Rotorua is a scenic 3 hours’ drive south of Auckland. This tourist centred mecca offers an outstanding balance of activities – an exciting range of adventure-based attractions and experiences for adrenaline-seeking travellers, while also providing an abundance of more relaxing sightseeing options.

Bungee, luge, zorb, zipline, parasail, raft, kayak, or go jet boating, and that’s just the beginning! When you’ve exhausted the possibilities (and yourself), experience the geothermal healing properties of a mud-soaked spa.

Or enjoy the tranquillity and inspirational Redwoods in the 136,000 acre (55,000 h) Whakarewarewa Forest just as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle did on their visit to Rotorua in 2018. A highlight of the 120-year-old Redwood forest park is a 0.44 mile (700-metre) treewalk, with 28 suspension bridges sitting up to 20-metres above the forest floor. Try and experience this by night as 34 exquisite wooden lanterns designed by world-renowned designer David Trubridge light up the forest.

Home to the Hells Gate Geothermal Park and the Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland, Rotorua is also a great place to seek out some of the geothermal aspects of New Zealand. Boiling mud pools and geysers are readily on offer. Combine these with local Maori tribal practices and historical features, and you have a unique combination of culture and tourism found only in Rotorua! A destination not to be missed!

If time constraints are a factor, then all of these destinations are absolutely achievable for day trips, however for the best experience, overnighters or multiday tours are recommended.