Spread across a narrow isthmus between two harbours, Auckland is bordered by beautiful white-sand beaches in the northeast, while the black-sand West Coast beaches are well known for their rugged beauty and incredible sunsets. Great Barrier Island features spectacular views, intimate bushwalks and bush-lined hot pools, and Waiheke is home to top-class wineries and striking beaches.
Locations along this route include:
|Auckland||Book Accommodation||What to See & Do|
|Titirangi||Book Accommodation||What to See & Do|
|Waiheke Island||Book Accommodation||What to See & Do|
|Great Barrier Island||Book Accommodation||What to See & Do|
|Piha||Book Accommodation||What to See & Do|
|Muriwai Beach||Book Accommodation||What to See & Do|
|Manukau||Book Accommodation||What to See & Do|
|Port Waikato||Book Accommodation||What to See & Do|
Start your Great Kiwi Road Trip around Auckland by heading off to the islands: Waiheke – where you can spend one day or stay for several – and Great Barrier Island, which takes longer to get to and merits a stay of at least a couple of days.
To get to Waiheke Island with your car take the Sealink ferry. Leaving from Auckland, it's hassle-free and well worth the comfort of knowing you've got your car along to get you from place to place (although if you do opt for the Sealink or Fuller's passenger ferries, cars are available for hire on the island).
From sunbathing to sand castles, Waiheke provides the best summer has to offer with hundreds of safe, sheltered beaches and rocky coves – perfect for swimming and snorkelling – and wild surf breaks,hiking trails and bush walks.
West Coast black sand beaches: Piha and Muriwai are the big names in the crowd and are well worth a visit. Be sure to pack your togs, towels, and sunscreen.
Taking a Waiheke Vineyards tour is an ideal way to get out and about while enjoying the fruits and fine foods of the land.
Step back in time when you visit Great Barrier Island. Bring the car, or leave it behind and explore on foot. Either way, you're bound to be enchanted.
Visit Auckland's galleries and museums including the Auckland War Memorial Museum, MOTAT, and Auckland Art Gallery
Take the kids to see a range of wildlife at Auckland Zoo
Feed a stingray at Kelly Tarlton's Underwater World, then chill out on the beach at Kohimarama, Mission Bay, or St Heliers
Join a Bridge Climb and scale the Auckland Harbour Bridge watching the traffic zoom by beneath you; bungy jump if you wish!
Celebrate Auckland's cultural diversity at a vibrant weekend marketTuck into locally produced wine, bread and olives on a secluded beach on Waiheke Island
Take a walk on the wild side and visit Great Barrier Island
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Waiheke is a mix of old and new; a place where architect-designed mansions, recycled eco-homes and tumbledown baches all rub shoulders. The same goes for style on the island: beachwear mingles with caftans and couture; eclectic is the new black at the beach. Find your niche and relax: stretch out on glistening white sands at Onetangi, take a dip in the crystal-clear ocean, swoop like a seagull in a Seabirds paraglider, or harness the wind and join the windsurfers crisscrossing the bays.
Work up a mighty appetite, then make your way to one of a host of top restaurants: Te Whau Vineyard, Cable Bay Vineyard, Vino Vino and the Mudbrick Café all offer fantastic sea views; Kennedy Point Vineyard has a fantastic deck surrounded by old pohutukawa; and Stonyridge Vineyard's dusky-toned Tuscan-style villa has an ambient café with a sunny and sheltered cobblestone courtyard, and leafy green vines twisting around a pergola.
Take your vehicle on an adventure along the metal Loop Road, following the island's less populated eastern shores. Plan for frequent stops: Passage Rock Wines at Te Matuku Bay, Waiheke Blue lavender farm, a side trip to Orapiu Bay's studios and galleries. Kauri Ridge Estate offers magnificent views and delicious morning and afternoon teas, and Man o'War Bay, where Captain Cook anchored in 1769 to collect water, is the place to unpack the wares you've gathered along the way and enjoy a picnic. Walk off your lunch at Stony Batter Historic Reserve, with its veritable rabbit warren of WWII gun emplacements and tunnels.
Emerge into the sunlight, where the hill sand gigantic rocky outcrops frame stunning rural and beach views. Dedicate at least an afternoon to Waiheke's western shores, where you can explore private gardens with sculpture and ceramics; regional parks with endangered birds; horse riding, sailing or kayaking trips to secluded bays; a Historic Village and Museum; a musical show, and an art trail with the opportunity to meet well-known artists at home. Or for an entertaining night out Waiheke-style, curl up with the locals on family-donated couches at the community cinema in Oneroa: be sure to take along a bottle of your favourite Waiheke wine and a curry from Ajadz Indian restaurant next door.
Departing Auckland City, the 4 hour Sealink ferry ride to Great Barrier Island (known simply as "The Barrier" to locals) is a bit like travelling in a time machine where you are transported to a land with telephones but no mains power; homes here are generally powered by solar, windmill, or petrol and diesel generators. You'll be hard-pressed to find a local with a watch – living on island time is pretty chilled out – so settle yourself into holiday mode.
Public conservation land managed by the Department of Conservation (DOC) covers nearly two-thirds of Great Barrier Island, and the extensive network of well-maintained tracks offers plenty of scope for the keen tramper. Two popular walks include the hike through Windy Canyon to the summit of Mt Hobson, and the 40-minute hike to Kaitoke Hot Springs, which is well rewarded with a hot soak in naturally formed pools. Aside from carefully negotiating the roads – which is an adventure all on its own – it's worth heading off on foot to appreciate the island's unique plant and bird species, unspoilt white-sand beaches and rugged native bushland. Along the coast is evidence of early Maori settlement.
Swimming, surfing, fishing, diving, kayaking, camping, mountain biking and tramping are popular pursuits on Great Barrier. Join rock-fishing tours to catch snapper with local fishermen and learn to free-dive for crayfish, or explore the island's pretty bays and rugged coastal cliffs in a kayak. What a way to experience nature! Clamber onto an Argo for an off-road tour of the wetlands, sand dunes, coastal, farm and bushland areas, accompanied by an informed commentary on local history, wildlife and art.
Once you've returned to the city, begin the next part of the trip by by fuelling up with a nice, leisurely brunch in Titirangi, west of Auckland. Here you'll find a quirky place where locals and tourists alike gather to check out artisan shops, galleries and order-up some of the best café meals around.
From here it's on to Auckland's wild west coast beaches. With black sand welcoming you to the sea, popular beaches such as Piha and Muriwai are favourites for locals. Do be warned though, the sea is strong here and the surf can be unforgiving. Always swim between the flags if you fancy a dip in the water. Bring your surfboard along and really get a feel for the wild west. There's nothing like the golden sunsets at any of these popular west coast beaches; only a 24km drive, yet a world away from the CBD.
From surfing at Piha to checking out the gannet colony at Muriwai, and exploring the west coast in more depth, head to Parakai for some relaxation in natural hot pools.
Continue the journey through to Kaukapakapa, and then back to Kumeu where you can enjoy the local hospitality. Be sure to check out the wineries such as Soljans and Westbrook, and don't go past Hallertau, the local brewery – they all have great menus to choose from. If its adventure you want, the Woodhill Forest is the adventure zone of the west; there's something for everyone.
A day of exploring Auckland's west is bound to inspire you. Spend the night on the west coast or head back to the city.
Passing through Auckland, the journey continues southwards to Port Waikato. Voted one of the 101 Must-Do's for Kiwis, Port Waikato is gorgeous and an ideal destination to experience sand, surf and sunsets. The main surfing strip at Port Waikato is Sunset Beach – and the name is more than fitting! Hit the ocean swells with the local surfers, or simply take in the beach, but don't miss one of the best places in the country for a sun-setting show.
New Zealand's longest river, the Waikato, reaches the sea here, and it's a quintessential west coast destination. Put on a pair of soft shoes and get exploring among the black-sand dunes and coastal walks. Join the locals fishing for kahawai, netting for flounder, or digging for shellfish. You might even like to join in the anticipated whitebaiting season that runs between August and November each year.
Baches are available for rent here, and lodges, farmstays and the local holiday park all have an open-door policy; no matter where you lay your head, make sure you put aside ample time to explore the area. There's a heap of soft adventure in this region, including the unspoilt Nikau Glowworm Caves, located between Port Waikato and Raglan; and the rock formation where Weathertop Hollow was filmed for Lord of the Rings.
From Port Waikato it's just over an hour's drive on the Southern Motorway back to Auckland City.
Live life on the edge, and feel the adrenaline rush with a 360-degree guided tour on the outside ring of the famous Sky Tower. If you're looking for a real buzz the Sky Walk is must; there are no handrails on this walk, just a full body harness and overhead safety lines.
Stepping out onto the platform, the scene below takes your breath away. You're 192 metres above Auckland city and the views are spectacular.
As you circumnavigate your way around, an enthusiastic guide points out landmarks and offer up some enjoyable history lessons on Maori place names.
But, just as you begin to feel comfortable, you'll find yourself placing your feet on the edge of the platform and peering down at the streets. Or – for the more adventurous – hanging backwards out over the edge with only your toes clinging onto the platform.
Walking around the 1.2-metre wide platform without handrails is quite something. After the initial adjustment to the height and feeling of being in an action movie, it's a real thrill to see a totally different side to a bustling Auckland below.
Chasing the end of the rainbow for that elusive pot of gold is a fruitless task, but notin Auckland! You’ll easily find Rainbow’s End just off the Southern Motorway in Manukau, a treasure trove of entertainment with rides and games for kids (and adults) of all ages.
At Rainbow's End you'll get flung upside down, spun around, stuck in a runaway mine cart, swallowed by a big green robot, hurled down a five-metre water chute, and dropped 18 storeys at 82kph!
New Zealand's premier theme park has been entertaining families for 27 years and offers crazy rides you won't find anywhere else in the country. The park's newest attraction, Power Surge, is the closest you can come to being in a washing machine without actually getting in a washing machine!
If that's too much for you there are the classic thrills of NZ's only corkscrew rollercoaster, the beautiful Castle Land with heaps of exciting rides for the littlies or perhaps a round of mini-golf for those who like their fun a little more sedate.
If escaping to an island for a weekend of good food, fine wine and unbeatable views sounds like you, then do it! You don't have to fly to the Pacific Islands to get this pamper package – Waiheke's just half an hour from Auckland!
It's only a 30-minute ferry ride from Downtown Auckland and you're there. Waiheke Island is easily accessible for a day trip, a long weekend or a well-deserved holiday! Head across to Waiheke and explore this isle of boutique vineyards, olive groves, cafés and famous restaurants.
Waiheke Island dishes up a delectable array of gourmet delights. Discover them on a wine tour and let the locals show you how to do it. Alternatively, explore the island at your own pace and stop in at several wineries to sample award-winning wines and cuisine to match.
Waiheke Island olives and olive products have recently gained a fantastic reputation and a visit to Waiheke is not complete without a taste. Try them in the bustling village of Oneroa, where you'll find cafés, restaurants and bars utilising the high-quality olives and olive oil in their menu.
Escape, if only for a day, and find out why Waiheke Island is a food and wine-lover's paradise.
If you're the type of person who calls a spade a spade, you might also call a kayak a kayak. But any serious sea kayaker will tell you there's a huge difference between kayaking the ocean and kayaking a river.
Sea kayaks are long and sleek, built to slice through open water over longer distances. For improved steering, some even have rudders, which are controlled by pedals. Take a sea kayak tour across the playground that is the Waitemata Harbour and arrive at Auckland's youngest volcano, Rangitoto.
Perhaps the most recognisable volcano in Auckland because of its distinctive cone shape, Rangitoto Island offers a great day out for adventure seekers. Kayak tours to Rangitoto leave from Tamaki Drive and Takapuna. Guided tours are usually half-day or day trips with time to climb the summit, explore the lava caves and marvel at the crater.
No experience is necessary, although a moderate level of fitness is required. If you're a touch on the lazy side, or simply not up for an extreme physical workout, consider a tandem kayak to share the paddling and race over to Rangitoto at double-time!
Just remember that Rangitoto is a protected island sanctuary. While it's unlikely you'll have a stowaway rat in your luggage, the Department of Conservation asks that you clean your shoes and check your bags before you depart for Rangitoto, to prevent pests (weeds included) from disrupting the island's delicate ecosystem.
The Auckland War Memorial Museum has come a long way since its humble beginnings in a two-room cottage in Grafton in 1852. It shifted to its current position in the Auckland Domain in 1929 and today holds the finest collection of Maori and Pacific artefacts in the world.
Built on the edge of a volcano, the museum regularly exhibits internationally acclaimed contemporary displays, proving once and for all that museums have replaced their traditional persona with an exciting interactive character.
For example, we bet you wouldn't have imagined creeping through this museum at night on the hunt for dinosaurs. Yet you could have, in the family-orientated interactive Dino's After Dark exhibition.
Nor, we imagine, would you have thought you could experience (in total safety) Auckland in full eruption, while learning the pros and cons of living in the only city in the world built on volcanoes.
What's fantastic about the Auckland War Memorial Museum is that it has managed to create these interactive exhibitions and learning centres, without compromising the integrity of its fixed displays.
Unique flora and fauna, our colonial development and war history, and more than 2000 Maori treasures are all right here in the Auckland War Memorial Museum.
The Coast to Coast Walkway is an awesome way to get outdoors while exploring Auckland on foot. The 16km trail traces Auckland's geological and cultural history, exploring the urban and natural landmarks of New Zealand's largest city. The best part of this walk is that it's signposted!
From the Viaduct to Manukau Harbour, the Coast to Coast incorporates Auckland's volcanic sites; Albert Park, Outhwaite Park, Mt Eden, Cornwall Park and One Tree Hill, as well as the Auckland Museum and Domain.
You start the walk either in Manukau or at the Viaduct and keep whatever pace you like. Run the track from the Viaduct, including the volcano summits, or start at the Manukau Harbour end and take your time, stopping for lunch and even excluding the summit tracks if you don't want to break a sweat.