Take an Auckland Road Trip!
Sailing, surfing and city life: that’s generally what Auckland in the North Island is known for. With such a stunning coastline varying so much between east and west and the region dotted with 26 regional parks, backpackers are spoiled for choice with road trip destinations. Better yet, we can enjoy all the locations mentioned below on a budget, as most of the fun comes with exploring the area on your own two feet or driving to natural attractions.
Whether its wildlife you’re seeking, somewhere to surf the waves, mountains to hike, or inland forests to wander, you can find Auckland road trip suggestions for all these needs and wants listed below.
As many backpackers base themselves in Auckland Central, we’ll start directions from there. However, the Auckland region is small enough to take a day to and from anywhere within the Auckland region. You’ll never get bored!
Essentials for Your Auckland Road Trip
Don’t leave the city without…
- Togs! (Swimwear) – If you don’t find a beach, you’ll probably find a good waterfall or lake
- Sunscreen – The New Zealand sun is brutal so lather up in SPF 30 or higher!
- Hiking shoes – Choose the best hiking shoes in our handy guide
- Lunch – There are many once-in-a-lifetime picnic spots hidden around Auckland
- Camera – Obviously!
- Layers – Even in Auckland, the weather can change quickly.
It’s obvious from the moment you lay eyes on the beach where the name comes from. Being in the middle of the Auckland region, Long Bay is a great road trip destination from just about anywhere in Auckland.
Adjacent to a marine reserve, Long Bay is a particularly great place to snorkel and check out the rock pools at low tide. If snorkelling is your thing, then check out these 5 Best Beaches for Snorkelling in Auckland.
Although most people know Long Bay for its pristine white sand beach, many fail to check out the entire Long Bay Regional Park with its walking and mountain biking tracks.
Long Bay Coastal Track (3 Hours Return)
Find some quieter beaches along this easy 6km track. Start just north of the northernmost Long Bay car park. Stroll through wetland, coastal bush and cliff tops to get some great east coast views. You may even get more views than you bargained for at Pohutukawa Bay, which is known to attract nude bathers (despite it not officially being a nudist beach). Return the same way or along the coastline at low tide.
100 Acre Track (50 Minutes Loop)
This is a side track not too far from the start of the Coastal Track. It takes you up and behind Granny’s Bay through native vegetation with awesome views of the coast.
Long Bay Nature Trail (30 Minutes Loop)
Start below the Vaughan Homestead and follow the yellow markers, while checking out the birds and plants of the wetland and forest.
How to Get to Long Bay
Long Bay is a 30-minute drive (25km) from Auckland Central. Take State Highway 1 and take exit 410, Oteha Valley Road. Turn right and follow Oteha Valley Road to the traffic lights, then straight ahead to Carlisle Road and follow the signs from there.
A windswept and rugged coastline, Muriwai is a top surf location and wildlife hotspot on the west coast of Auckland. Surf hire and lessons can be found from the small settlement’s surf shop. Muriwai Beach and Maori Beach are well recommended for surfing. For more North Island surf recommendations, check out 10 Places to Surf on the North Island.
As for the wildlife, there is an unmissable gannet colony nesting on the cliffs and islands. The best time to see the gannets are October-November when the chicks are born. Better yet, the best time to visit the area during the day is for the sunset. You can even camp in the Muriwai Motorcamp afterwards.
Although there are a few short walking tracking in the area, Muriwai is the start (or end) of the 70km Hillary Trail. Read more about this multi-day track in Waitakere Ranges – Guide for Backpackers.
Otakamiro Point (30 Minutes Return)
This is your access to the gannet colony. The track also connects the south of Muriwai Beach with Maori Bay. Look out for blowholes at the bottom of the steps on the Muriwai Beachside.
Mitchelson Lookout (40 Minutes Return)
As the name suggests, this track and steep stairway lead to a spectacular lookout. Start the track from Motutara Road.
Muriwai Beach Loop (1h30min Loop)
This is a great way to explore further down Muriwai Beach than most people go. Start from the car park behind the surf tower and walk north behind the sand dunes before heading onto the beach. Go back inland at the 4WD and pedestrian access to the horse park then head back to the car park on the Coast Road Track.
How to Get to Muriwai
About 45 minutes from Auckland Central (44km), take State Highway 16 to Waimauku, then left on Muriwai Road. Follow the signs from there. You can’t go wrong!
On the theme of west Auckland, Piha is Auckland’s most popular surf beach and has plenty of services for surfing in the area. Other than your usual beach activities, Piha is surrounded by some exciting hikes to waterfalls, native forestand epic coastal lookouts. Other than surfing, we suggest you try out these places:
Kitekite Falls (45 Minutes Oneway)
A tiered waterfall hidden inland from Piha, this is a must-visit in the area. When driving into Piha, turn right onto Glenesk Road to the end where there is a car park at the start of the easy hiking track. Glenesk Road also directs you to a few more awesome hikes including the Maungaroa Lookout Track (1 hour oneway) connecting to the Maungaroa Ridge Track halfway (45 minutes oneway). Finally, take a bushwalk through the forest on the Piha Valley Track starting from the same car park as Kitekite Falls (1h30min oneway).
North Piha to White’s Beach to Anawhata Beach (4 Hours Return)
Get away from the crowds of Piha and take a coastal cliff walk over to Whites Beach in Anawhata. This day hike has a mix of quiet yet stunning beaches, forest and viewpoints at Anawhata. Walk to the very northern part of Piha Beach, past the cave then onto the Laird Thompson Track (30 minutes oneway) to the stunning lookout and continue on the Laird Thompson Track until you reach the Rose Track (1 hour) where one way leads to Whites Beach and the other to the gravel Anawhata Road. Continue walking on the Anawhata Road for about 25 minutes to the Anawhata Beach Walk (1 hour oneway). You can return the same way or take a detour down the Whites Track then Marawhara Track further along Anawhata Road which adds an extra hour onto the return journey.
How to Get There
Piha is about 50 minutes from Auckland Central (40km). Follow State Highway 16 and exit ontoUrban Route 13, then Scenic Drive. Finally, take Piha Road to Seaview Road, which takes you into Piha and to the beach!
This stunning location is situated in the Hunua Ranges, the largest forest in the region scattered with a few reservoirs. The biggest drawcard is the huge Hunua Falls. Get a token tourist photograph with the golden picture frame, which you can check out in The 10 Golden Picture Frames in Auckland.
From the Hunua Falls car park you can access these walks:
Hunua Falls Upper Lookout (30 Minutes Loop)
Want a better look at the waterfall? Take the climb to a lookout. After gazing upon Hunua Falls and all its glory, continue on a loop track.
Cossey – Massey Loop Walk (3 Hours Loop)
This day trip to the Hunua Falls area cannot be called a day trip without doing this popular hike to Cosseys Reservoirs.
How to Get there
Hunua Falls is located about 50 minutes south of Auckland Central (50km). On State Highway 1 going south, take the exit at Route 20/Manukau and turn left onto Redoubt Road then keep right onto Mill Road. This turns into Cosgrave Road, then Clevedon Road shortly taking a right onto Dominion Road which turns into Hunua Road, where Hunua Falls will be signposted along this road.
For a taste of the far north of Auckland, the Wenderholm is a great day trip! With forest, a campground, barbecue areas and a long stretching beach, you can certainly enjoy summer in this regional park. Wenderholm also has historical significance where the Maori peace agreement was made between the Kawerau and Hauraki tribes in the 1780s.
Combine your trip with a visit to the Waiwera Thermal Resort just below Wenderholm Regional Park.
To make the most of Wenderholm’s nature, take a look at these easy walks:
Maungatauhoro Te Hikoi (1h30min Return)
Spot a few native birds as you walk along the forested headland. Start this track near the Couldrey House at the Maori carving.
Te Akeake Walk (30 Minutes Loop)
From the car park, follow the trail along the Puhoi River to its estuary, along the beach and back to the car park. This trail is not signposted, but, hey, you’ll find a formed trail.
Couldrey House Lookout (15 Minutes Oneway)
Follow the Couldrey House Track from the Maori carving. It’s a steep but quick climb to rewarding views of the historic house and estuary.
Perimeter Track (2h30min Return)
Begin at the carving and walk in the footsteps of early Maori settlers. This track goes right around the Maungatauhoro headland through areas rich in history and native birds. After a climb up the mountain, descend to Kokoru Bay by the Waiwera Estuary. You’ll eventually loop back to the car park.
More Places to Visit in Auckland
Do you have more opportunities to go on some Auckland road trips? Lucky you! Our guide is pretty excessive so take a look at these articles more Auckland road trip inspiration.