Auckland is located in the north of New Zealand’s North Island, an excellent location for day trips to the beautiful beaches and coastal scenery of the far north and excursions to the geological attractions of the island’s central region. For those on a short visit to New Zealand, seeing a decent chunk of the country’s top sights while based solely in Auckland is entirely feasible. The world famous Waitomo Caves and geothermal wonders of Rotorua and Taupo are all possible to visit on long day trips, as is the newer Lord of The Rings and Hobbit movie set that have brought film buffs flocking to the country in recent years. Closer to home, Waiheke Island offers a wildlife-rich respite from city life just a stone’s throw from Auckland itself, proving that even in New Zealand’s most densely populated center you’re never too far from the country’s wealth of natural beauty .
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Geysers and bubbling mud geothermal areas, hot pools to soak in and plenty of Maori culture – the city of Rotorua is one of the most interesting places to explore in New Zealand, showcasing the country’s unique natural beauty. About 238 kilometers from Auckland, this is a hugely active geothermal area and its surrounding attractions Water-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, Gate of Helland the Melting Valley having a mixture of bizarrely colored steaming lakes, pools of bubbling mud and exploding geysers that amaze all who visit. This is also one of New Zealand’s main centers of Maori culture and a great place to learn about the country’s indigenous people, particularly in Whakarewarewa where you can visit a Marae (Maori meeting house) and see performances of traditional songs and dance. After a long day, Rotorua also has a restful final stop before returning on the long drive to Auckland. The city is home to numerous hot springs, perfect for an hour of relaxation and relieving aching joints with a soak.
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2 Waitomo Caves
New Zealand is all about packing action and adventure into your vacation and the country is known for its active pursuits. New Zealand’s most famous caving destination is within easy reach of Auckland, about 195 kilometers away, and offers experiences for the adrenaline junkies and the more sedate alike. The Waitomo Caves are a series of deep underground caverns known for their glow worms, providing a fairytale backdrop to any visit. The caves are also known for the white water rafting activities available for thrill seekers here in the caverns. For a relaxing day out, simply take the boat tour through the glow worm caves and then through the caves of Ruakuri en Aranui Caves. To further refresh the day, you can later go black water rafting through the extensive underground system of the Ruakuri Cave.
Official site: www.waitomo.com
3 Bay of Islands
New Zealand is known for its beautiful scenery, but even within the country itself, the views of the Bay of Islands are superlative. The Bay of Islands also plays an important role in New Zealand’s history, as it was here Waitangi that a treaty was made between the British government and the native Maori. Waitangis Treaty grounds are a major tourist attraction of the region, but if you’re here to experience some of the most beautiful coastal scenery in Polynesia, then you really need to get on a boat.
There is a wide variety of cruises on offer in the Bay of Islands’ centres Like it in Russell, which can take you to the sea to tour around the islets and islands. The coast here is part of the Bay of Islands Maritime Park, and just offshore are the islets, islands and rocky outcrops that make this area a sailor’s dream. Most boat cruises do a loop of the main attractions, including stops to swim and sunbathe at the beautiful Library-eiland. The Bay of Islands is located approximately 232 kilometers from Auckland.
4 Hobbiton movie set
The films of The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit have put New Zealand on the map for film buffs. Tolkien fans and movie geeks are in luck here, as the country has embraced its Middle Earth credentials with many tour companies offering tours centered solely around the Middle Earth theme.
The main site accessible from Auckland is Hobbiton’s in situ film set in The Shire, where the hobbit holes, bridge and Bilbo Baggins’ house looked just like they did on the big screen. About 100 miles from Auckland, the protected site sits on some of the privately owned Alexander Farm’s land, so independent travelers should sign up for a guided tour.
Address: 501 Buckland Road, Matamata, Waikato
Official site: www.hobbitontours.com
5 Waiheke Island
Waiheke Island is easily reached by ferry from Auckland and provides a peaceful in-between stop for any city plan. The island is located in the Hauraki Gulf and is the second largest island in the area. Many people come here just for a day at the beach, with Oneroa Beach in Onetangi Beach are two of the most popular spots for gritty fun.
However, the island has much more to offer if you want to do more than sunbathe. The interior offers good bush walking opportunities that give a taste of New Zealand’s forests, while two zip lines (known as “flying-foxes” in New Zealand) offering a unique opportunity to have a panoramic view of the Hauraki Gulf.
6 Coromandel Peninsula
About 173 kilometers from Auckland, the Coromandel Peninsula is a popular day trip from the city for Aucklanders and foreign visitors alike. For most locals it is the main highlight Hot water beach, a rather nondescript stretch of gray sand that turns into a natural spa at low tide for most of the day. Here, hot mineral water runs through the sand, meaning beachgoers can dig holes and immerse themselves in DIY pools for an hour or two weeks.
The peninsula is also home to beautiful Cathedral Cove, which is only accessible by boat, kayak or hiking trail. The two-hour coastal walk to the bay is well worth the exercise, allowing you to see the weathered cliffs and rock formations of this area up close.
Lake Taupo and the small coastal town of Taupo, about 170 miles from Auckland, are a popular family day out, combining many New Zealand geothermal sites with lakeside activities such as swimming, fishing and boating. Boat trips around the lake taking in the Mine Bays Maori petroglyphsare one of the most popular activities, while the nearby 11-meter high Huka Falls is famous for its thunderous waters.
For geothermal sites (particularly if you’re not headed to Rotorua), check out the Craters of the moon for his steamy orifices; Orakei Korako for the dazzling, colorful pools that make it New Zealand’s most photogenic geothermal site; and Wairakei Terraces for the hot pools.
8 Slow down
To get a sense of laid-back New Zealand country living, head to the small town of Puhoi, surrounded by rural rolling hills. This town has a history dating back to the 1860s, when immigrants from Bohemia settled here. Much of the town has retained its original character, allowing you to imagine what the life of an early settler would have been like. Those interested in this period in New Zealand’s history should definitely check out the Bohemia Church in Church of St Peter and St Paul which date from the late 19th century. In recent years, a bundle of craft and culinary boutiques have opened in the town, making for some excellent shopping detours here, while the countryside at the doorstep of the township offers walkers and walkers more active pursuits.