Whilst Auckland might be New Zealand’s largest city, it is surrounded by an embarrassment of natural beauty. Pack a bag, hop in the car or hire your very own mobile home and venture beyond the bustling urban centre to find a collection of picture-perfect landscapes and coastlines. To immerse yourself in Auckland’s natural wonders, check out these 18 must-visit spots.
Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf offers a trove of scenic islands to visit. Catch the ferry from downtown Auckland to start exploring these destinations.
Anisland renowned for its vineyards, beaches, forested plains and compelling walking trails, Waiheke isn’t known as Waiheke Island Paradise for nothing. There aren’t many places in the world where you can be swim in crystal-clear waters all morning and then head out to tour world-class vineyards in the afternoon. Plus, it’s just a 45-minute ferry ride from Auckland – aren’t those supercity dwellers lucky?
Untapped beauty at its finest and only a short ferry trip away, Great Barrier Island feels delightfully off-grid. The island is truly a slice of paradise that has remained untouched by the modern world for the most part. The free-range lifestyle here is part of the appeal: accommodations are low-key, the beaches are idyllic and the use of technology is actively discouraged.
An underrated but beautiful heritage site, Rotoroa Island is a must-visit for all passing tourists. Once as an alcohol and drug rehabilitation facility run by the Salvation Army, the island has since been turned into a conservation park, acting as a haven for native plants and animals. Now owned by the city of Auckland, the island can be easily accessed by ferry.
Parks and natural reserves
The Auckland region is not short of well-preserved parks and reserves. Whether you are keen to discover native plant life or want to spend the day perusing Auckland’s best hiking trails, all of these natural wonders are worth visiting. You can stay overnight if you manage to find accommodation – or pick the perfect spot and bed down in your own hired RV.
This remarkable inner-city park offers plenty of picturesque landscapes and cultural attractions. The Auckland Museum sits at one end and there are a number of other natural attractions within its limits, including the blooming cherry trees in spring. It’s just a short stroll from downtown Auckland, so you can be immersed in this verdant wonderland in no time.
Discover a magnificent variety of plants and flowers from New Zealand and abroad at these 64ha (158 acres) of botanic gardens. Found in Manurewa in South Auckland, this sprawling green space is home to more than 10,000 plants spread across themed sections. Wander through a palm garden, admire vibrant flowers in the African Plants Garden, or stroll through a shady native forest at this tranquil retreat from the city.
A blend of beaches and forested plains make Wenderholm Regional Park a captivating sight. Tidal estuaries snake through a series of densely planted outcrops, giving this spot an otherworldly feel. It’s just a 45-minute drive from central Auckland, making it the perfect day trip whether you’re in the mood for a beach day or a beautiful walk.
With 16,000ha (40,000 acres) of native bush and coastlines, it’s no wonder the Waitakere Ranges are considered a local treasure. Popular with ardent hikers, they are home to awe-inspiring waterfalls and lakes, and the views from the top are spectacular. Plus, the Department of Conservation cabins dotted around make overnight hikes a breeze.
Waterfalls, hiking trails and breathtaking scenery draw people to this idyllicdestination. The Wairoa river runs through the heart of the ranges, well known for their eponymous waterfall, and the area is home to some of the major water reservoirs for Auckland. It’s the largest forest in the Auckland region, with a cornucopia of options for adventures.
Beaches, farmland and picture-perfect landscapes make this area a popular spot for locals and tourists. Drawn by the jaw-dropping views over the Hauraki Gulf to Rangitoto Island, visitors flock to the area to explore its trails and swim at the beaches. The park’s infamous picture frame offers up ample Instagram opportunities too.
Auckland’s 48 dormant volcanoes provide plenty in the way of natural beauty, particularly the three main summits that overlook the region. To get to the top, you’ll need to put your best foot first – but there are numerous beauty spots lower down that vehicles – whether your own or a hired RV – can reach.
Along with a full view of Auckland,Mount Eden’s crater is guaranteed to humble you with its greatness. Found in the heart of Auckland city in the eponymous suburb, the volcano makes for both a great climb and incredible views. Conquer it in the morning and then reward yourself with breakfast at one of the neighbourhood’s best cafes – we recommend Whau, a cafe that incorporates traditional Māori produce into its menu.
Farmland and a well-preserved park surround this historic location in Central Auckland. The mountain is distinguished by the obelisk at its summit that acts as a memorial for Māori. After taking in the views from the top, head to Cornwall Park cafe for a coffee refuel.
Head to the island’s namesake summit, trek to the top and reward yourself with a collection of remarkable vistas. Arguably the most iconic image in Auckland, Rangitoto is visible from almost every coastal vantage point, memorialised in countless pictures and videos of the city. It would be remiss not to ascend its bushy heights, even if just to tick it off your list, and you won’t be disappointed by the view from the top, offering a perspective on the city that you won’t find elsewhere.
Peninsulas and beaches
So many coastal treasures, so little time. Take a quick dip at some of the best beaches and bays in the vicinity – and if you want to prolong your hiatus from the city then why not do it in a state-of-the-art mobile home? Take your pick from the top RVs to hire in and around Auckland.
Just a short drive over the Auckland Harbour Bridge, or a 10-minute ferry from downtown, Devonport can sometimes feel like its own little corner of the world. Enormous green hills lead down to the sea, where on any given day you can find a number of local kids doing bombs off the end of the piers. Devonport might just be a hop, a skip and a jump from the city, but the vibe is that of an island: a laid-back spot with a tight-knit local community.
Takapuna, Long Bay, Torbay, Cheltenham Beach – the North Shore has more than its fair share of incredible coastal treasures. Along with long swaithes of sand and surfing spots, the North Shore is also home to some of the city’s best cafes and restaurants, such as Takapuna Beach Cafe (don’t leave without trying their gelato) and Devon on the Wharf.
Sandy beaches, rugged plains and nippy waters compel visitors to explore Auckland’s West Coast. Home to black-sand beaches, this bracing coastline exemplifies mother nature in all her destructive power, and the dramatic landscape has been immortalised in films both locally and internationally. It’s also home to some of the city’s best surf, but be sure to check the lifeguard flags before you pop in for a dip – this is some of New Zealand’s wildest ocean.
Goat Island is a marine reserve just north of Auckland that snorkelling and scuba-diving enthusiasts will relish. It’s home to innumerable fish, making it a great spot for fishing and you should bring your goggles so you can swim with your finned friends. Those keener on staying dry can head out on a glass-bottom boat or kayak to spy on the fish from the safety of their vessel.
Beautiful coastlines, a lovely surrounding village and wineries aplenty – there’s a bit of everything inMatakana. Located inland from the white sand and turquoise water of Omaha Beach, this spot gives you access to not just the ocean, but also vineyards and orchards to explore. The village itself has a number of great restaurants, a new craft brewery spot with plenty of beers on tap, and a Saturday-morning farmers’ market, which is one of the best in the country.
Magnificent wetlands and wildlife surround this peaceful peninsula on the Manukau Harbour. Sitting on the Waikato border, this is about as far from downtown Auckland as you can get on the mainland while still being in the confines of the city, and the pace of life shows it. Be sure to head to Manukau Heads Lighthouse while you’re there – it’s one of only a handful open to the public.
This is an updated version of an article originally written by Thalita Alves
These recommendations were updated on May 25, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.