8 Epic Day Trips from Auckland

If you talk to some kiwis, especially those from outside of Auckland, you just might hear a bit of disdain for the Auckland region. However, even though some might count it as the “worst” part of New Zealand, there are all kinds of incredible places to explore within an hour’s drive of the city. Here are 8 epic day trips within an hour of Auckland.

Day Trips from Auckland

Kitekite Falls

A gorgeous waterfall and swimming hole for a relatively short and flat hike.

About a 25 minute walk on a well formed trail (a good chunk of it boardwalked), plus a river crossing or two, leads you to Kitekite falls. It’s a great spot for a swim if you’re willing to brave the eels, and there are plenty of rocks for throwing and spots for kiddos to splash.

If you’re up for a load of stairs, continue up to the top of the falls for an incredible view and a couple cool swimming holes.

Pro Tip: Make it a full day with lunch in Piha after the falls hike and a chill afternoon at Piha beach.

Distance: 1.7 miles rt / 2.7km rt

Elevation Gain: Minimal to the base, about 250ft/76m to the top

Difficulty: Easy to the base, moderate to the top

Piha Beach

A classic west coast black sand beach with iconic Lion’s Rock and a perfect stream for littles to play in.

Piha Beach is iconic. Climb to the top of Lion’s Rock for a bird’s eye view, play in the river with little ones or test your surfing skills.

A warning: The black sand gets seriously hot. I recommend avoiding the black sand beaches in peak summer and even in the shoulder seasons be prepared with appropriate shoes for walking to and from the car and a willingness to play in the wet sand only.

A note of warning: West Coast beaches have dangerous surf. Be sure to follow all guidelines, swim only in marked locations and only if you’re appropriately fit, prepared, and aware.

Pro Tip: We love to play in the river by Lion’s Rock. The easiest parking is along Marine Parade N. The downside is the nearest bathroom is at least a quarter mile/400m away near the Piha basketball court or the opposite side of the beach closer to the surf academy.

Distance: Short walk from the car park

Elevation Gain: None

Difficulty: Easy

Lake Wainamu Sand Dunes

Take a flat walk through the stream to epic sand dunes for sliding, a lake and a waterfall.

This is a pick your adventure spot that ticks all the boxes. Hike through a stream, bring a boogie board to slide down the sand dunes, make it to the lake for a swim, or hike all the way to the waterfall, and theres plenty of sand to stop and play in along the way.

This hike is pretty flat, but the sand makes it a little more challenging. And you really have to earn your rides on the dunes. They are steep to climb, but its worth it at least once.

Pro Tip: If you plan to slide down the dunes, find the steepest spots you can. Otherwise you won’t get enough momentum. Bonus points if you wax your board. We didn’t but I wish I did!

Combine this with Te Henga for a full day’s adventure.

Distance: .75 miles/ 1.2 km to first dunes | 1.2 miles/1.9km to lake | 2 miles/3.2km to the falls

Elevation Gain: Minimal

Difficulty: Easy/moderate

Find it on AllTrails here.

Te Henga (Bethells) Beach Cave

A short walk down a gorgeous black sand beach leads you to a huge sea cave.

Te Henga (Bethell’s) is a gorgeous west coast beach with the black sand and Jurassic Park vibes given off the surrounding green hills. It’s a beautiful place for a beach day and has the added benefit of exploring the cave at the southern end of the beach.

As with all west coast beaches, be aware of the potentially dangerous surf.

Pro Tip: Check the tide chart when you plan your trip – you can only enter the cave during low tide.

Distance: 1 mile/1.6km approx.

Elevation Gain: None

Difficulty: Easy

Karekare Falls

This is one of the spots I come back to again and again. Super short walk for epic views and perfect spots for little ones to play.

For only a 5-10 minute walk you get to experience this epic waterfall. The shoreline and outgoing stream are really lovely for even young toddlers and babies to play in. There’s an awesome climbing tree and some shade nearby. This spot really has it all.

Pro Tip: Park either at the Karekare beach car park (which has restrooms) or just up the road there are a few car parks along the road.

Combine this with Karekare beach for a full day’s adventure.

Distance: .5 miles/.8km

Elevation Gain: Minimal

Difficulty: Easy

Karekare Beach

Jurassic Park vibes at this black sand beach without the Piha crowds.

Karekare is a little more off the beaten path. I like it better than Piha, not only for the lack of crowds, but also for the scenery. It has likewise has a stream great for little ones to play in and some excellent climbing rocks.

Unlike Piha, it is a bit of a walk from the car park so be prepared to carry your gear and smallest kiddos.

As with all west coast beaches, be aware of the potentially dangerous surf.

Pro Tip: There is a restroom at the car park

Distance: .5 mile/.8km approx. but sandy

Elevation Gain: Minimal

Difficulty: Easy

Hike Mercer Bay Loop

A relatively short but steepish hike with views of the rugged coast line.

This hike near Piha is nice and short, but has some significant steep parts, especially if you’re carrying kids. There are also some cliff edges to be wary of with little ones.

The views were worth the effort. This is one I’d return to.

Pro Tip: This is an epic sunset spot if you time your hike right.

Distance: 1.3 miles/2km

Elevation Gain: 570ft/173m

Difficulty: Easy/Moderate

Find it on AllTrails here.

Tawharanui

Sea caves, sea shells, grassy dunes, and kid-friendly surf – this beach has it all.

A little bit further from Auckland city but worth the drive, play for the day at Tawharanui. It’s a short walk through the dunes from the car park to the ocean, then it’s choose your own adventure.

Enjoy the beach right there or turn right and walk to the not one, not two, not three, but 4 little sea caves at the end of the beach (about .5 miles/.8km or so). The rocks around them are great for climbing too.

On your way out, keep your eyes peeled for kiwis as you drive through the reserve and stop to peek at the sheep (lambs in the spring).

Pro Tip: The caves become inaccessible at high tide.

Distance: Varies

Elevation Gain: Minimal

Difficulty: Easy

Ready for a Day Trip from Auckland?

All within an hour or so of Auckland, these day trips can make some incredible memories. I’ve loved taking my kids to play at these beaches and explore the sea caves. It’s been fun too to see the waterfalls in each season, swimming in the summer and flowing heavy in the winter.

Heading to the South Island? Check out my favorite kid-friendly things to do in Queenstown.

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