NZ's largest city is pretty special in its own right - from world-class coffee and pumping nightlife to waterfront walks and a thriving entertainment scene - but one of the best things about it is its proximity to so many other adventures. If you need a break from the bright lights and busy streets, or just want to take a weekend road trip, we've picked six easy access spots to head to for a short break from Auckland.
Drive time: 2 hours
Best for: Surfers
Grab a surf board, or a book if that's more your thing, and take to the roads for a short trip to this super chill coastal town. Hit the waves at the famous black sand beach, yarn with the locals over next-level coffee at the Shack or venture a further 15 minutes to reach the epic Bridal Veil Falls.
Drive time: 37 minutes
Best for: Hikers
Just a 40-minute drive from the city, the Waitakere Ranges are where you'll find half of Auckland's young professionals getting their nature hit on a Saturday morning. The forest tracks are currently closed to protect the native kauri tree from extinction due to dieback disease, but there's plenty of beach walks, waterfall chases and lush wetland treks to try out. We love the Whatipu Caves Track, Anawhata Beach Track and Te Henga Walkway. Spend the night at a campground or treat yourself with a bach hire at one of the west coast beaches. Too easy!
The Coromandel Peninsula
Drive time: 2-2.5 hours depending on your beach of choice
Best for: Beach hopping
The Coromandel is a stretch of land on New Zealand's east coast just a couple of hours away from Auckland, and it's home to heaps of seriously spectacular beaches. Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach are generally the top of tourist wanderlists, and for good reason, but there's a tonne of other options that offer different highlights. Check out New Chums Beach for an unspoiled paradise, dive into the native rainforest with the Pinnacles hike, and don't miss Whangamata's Donut Island (Whenuakura Island). It's basically made for Instagram!
Drive time: 4.5 hours
Best for: Winter adventures
This one might need two nights, but it's totally doable for a weekend trip if you leave Friday arvo (ask any Auckland-dwelling South Islander!). Pack your thermals, get your road trip playlist sorted and buckle up for a 4-5 hour drive to the country's only skiable volcano. Turoa and Whakapapa are the two huge ski areas at the mountain and both have a variety of runs available for all different skiers and snowboarders, but Whakapapa's Happy Valley would be our choice for anyone brand new to the slopes.
Poor Knights Islands
Drive time: 2.5 hours
Best for: Divers
Get acquainted with the underwater life in this Northland marine reserve, accessible by boat from Tutukaka, just a two-and-a-half hour roadie north of Auckland. Divers of all levels will be treated to a crazily colourful show of subtropical fish, and non-divers can opt to go snorkelling, paddle boarding or just enjoy a day on the sea. Dive! Tutukaka are our pick for a local operator.
Ferry time: 35 minutes from downtown
Best for: Wine lovers
If you prefer your outdoor time with a side of alcohol, Waiheke is going to steal your heart. It's simple to get to from town, and you'll feel a world away from city chaos (even though you can still see Auckland's skyscrapers on the horizon!). Boasting white-sand beaches, stunning places to stay and, of course, dozens of vineyards, this is our idea of heaven. Book a winery crawl, hire a scooter and explore the island's little beach towns, or go all out with a helicopter, dinner and drinks experience - you deserve it. Don't miss Cable Bay's picnic lawn, arguably the most iconic vineyard view in the country.
Title Image by Adam Bryce