Terrific Cheap Day Trips from Auckland
Auckland, based around 2 large harbors, is a major city in the north of New Zealand's North Island. In the center, the iconic Sky Tower has views of Viaduct Harbor, which is full of superyachts and lined with bars and cafes. Auckland Domain, the city's oldest park, is based around an extinct volcano and home to the formal Wintergardens. Near Downtown, Mission Bay Beach has a seaside promenade.
It's hard to imagine a more geographically blessed city. Its two harbors frame a narrow isthmus punctuated by volcanic cones and surrounded by fertile farmland. From any of its numerous vantage points you'll be surprised how close the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean come to kissing and forming a new island.
Whether it's the ruggedly beautiful west-coast surf beaches, or the glistening Hauraki Gulf with its myriad islands, the water's never far away. And within an hour's drive from the city's high-rise heart, there are dense tracts of rainforest, thermal springs, wineries and wildlife reserves. No wonder Auckland is regularly rated one of the world's top cities for quality of life and liveability. With so much to see, do, and taste, Auckland is a great place to experience or to use as a base for exploring nearby areas, and there are several options for exciting day trips from the city to help you make the most of your time here.
Start your day trip to the windswept western coastline north of Auckland with pickup from your city hotel. After a short drive, you'll arrive at the Arataki Visitor Centre, considered the gateway to the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, which contains more than 39,500 acres of rugged coast and rainforest. From the panoramic decks, enjoy sweeping views of the Tasman Sea extending all the way to the Pacific. View traditional Maori carvings on display while your guide focuses on the natural and cultural heritage of the area. Continue further west to the coastal rainforest and learn about native flora and fauna unique to New Zealand - 70 percent of which can be found nowhere else in the world. Walk alongside giant tree ferns growing near the stream, then dig your toes in the black sands of one of the region's notorious beaches, bordered by rocky outcrops. Enjoy a picnic lunch, served at a scenic location, before continuing your journey to an old-growth forest of giant kauri trees, some of them 1,000 years old. Listen for native birds as you walk among the majestic giants, then re-board your vehicle for the return to Auckland.
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Enjoy a fully guided day tour of Auckland and Waiheke Island, where you'll get to savor some of New Zealand's finest wines. You begin the tour on Queen Street, Auckland's business and shopping district. Here you'll see significant historic buildings including the Ferry Building, the Chief Post Office, and Auckland Town Hall. You'll visit the Auckland Museum, Domain Parks and Gardens, and Paratai Drive, one of Auckland's most expensive residential streets with fantastic views of the Waitemata Harbor and islands. You'll drive to Tamaki Waterfront via Mission Bay along the edge of the Waitemata Harbor dominated by large native Pohutukawa trees. Take a short cruise to Waiheke Island, where your tour guide will take you to 3 of the most popular vineyards on the island and also show you the beautiful surroundings of Waiheke Island.
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Board your comfortable coach upon pickup from your hotel or the Sky City coach terminal in Auckland, then settle in for the approximate 3-hour drive to Paihia, the starting point for your Bay of Islands tour. Make use of complimentary onboard Wi-Fi as you motor along this scenic route through New Zealand's Northland. On arrival, disembark for the historic Waitangi Treaty Grounds and learn how the nation's founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi, was signed between the British Crown and 43 Maori chiefs. Peruse informational displays and a copy of the 1840 treaty on a tour of the Waitangi Treaty House museum, erected as a private home in 1832. Admire the ornately carved Maori meeting house and on-site war canoe, constructed from enormous logs, before a quick ferry ride delivers you to the quaint town of Russell. Board a coach for a 1-hour tour of what was formerly considered the 'Hellhole of the Pacific.' Your guide narrates Russell's main sights as you pass by Christ Church, the Pompallier Mission, and New Zealand's oldest pub. Snap photos of the Bay of Islands from the summit of Flagstaff Hill, before you have free time to relax in town. Perhaps explore the Maori art at one of the galleries, stroll the waterfront or settle in at a café. Then re-board the coach and conclude your day trip with a return to Auckland and drop-off at your hotel.
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Cast your gaze upon the starry illumination of tiny glowworms at the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, located about a 2-hour drive from Auckland. Start your day trip with morning pickup at your hotel or the bus terminal by comfortable coach. Your driver points out highlights as you soak up the North Island scenery en route to Waitomo. Travel through the bucolic farmland of the Waikato region and King Country, and see historic Rangiriri, site of an 1863 battle between colonizing British forces and indigenous Maori. On arrival at the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, embark on a 45-minute tour with a local guide. Follow on foot through the subterranean limestone caverns and discover how the stalagmites and stalactites were formed. A short boat ride glides you through Glowworm Grotto where you can admire thousands of glowworms that illuminate the underground chamber. After your tour, purchase lunch from a limited menu at the on-site café, if you choose. Have free time to spend exploring the exhibits at the visitor center before meeting your coach for the return trip to Auckland.
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