It’s time to head out from New Zealand’s biggest city, travel no more than two hours from Auckland and you will find some gold mining history; a town that was discovered by Bohemians; the world’s best left-hand surf break; a colony of Gannets; and an island paradise.
Here’s our picks of five of the best destinations within two hours of Auckland.
Puhoi, a 45-minute/45-kilometre drive from Auckland, is the gateway to the Matakana Coast and Country. Originally settled in 1863 by immigrants from Bohemia (now the Czech Republic), the historic village sits on the picturesque Puhoi River. The town still has touches of its European past, especially if you visit the Puhoi Valley Cheese Factory, think spicy Blues and creamy Brie cheeses. Why not indulge in a classic Kiwi pub lunch at the Puhoi Pub Hotel & Stables, one of New Zealand’s oldest pubs. The main bar, which is a museum of popular pub culture over the past century, has become a tourist attraction.
2. Karangahake Gorge
The Karangahake Gorge Walkway travels through protected department of conservation land in the Coromandel Peninsula. The seven-kilometre easy walk takes about four hours return and you will find yourself clambering through old tunnels, exploring the area’s rich gold mining relics, and marvelling at the untouched landscapes in these deep, overgrown gorges. The Coromandel Peninsula, known for its stunning coastal views, is a great place for hiking as it has some of New Zealand’s most reliable weather patterns. The 129-kilometre journey to Karangahake Gorge along State Highways 2 and 1 takes about 90 minutes from Auckland CBD. The popular tourist attraction, Hobbiton, is a further 70-minutes/97-kilometres away.
A 45-minute/43-kilometre drive west from the Auckland CBD bring you to Muriwai. From August to March every year, Muriwai is home to a huge Gannet colony and the easy access viewing platforms allow visitors to get up close to these white seabirds. If bird watching isn’t your thing, Muriwai also has a tough links-style golf course and some great surf schools. Why not take a walk on Muriwai’s black sand beach before treating yourself to one of best outdoor eating spots near Auckland, The Tasting Shed in Kumeu. This restaurant and wine bar, in a converted 1945 pear cider shed, boasts a seasonal menu and wines from around the world. Order the share plates and you can taste as many things as possible.
If you like left-hand breaks, then Raglan is your place to catch a wave. Experts consider Manu Bay on the Raglan coast to have the most consistent left-hand break in the world. It is where the classic 1966 surf movie Endless Summer was filmed. In the Waikato Region, Raglan, with its palm tree lined streets and eclectic outdoor art, is a two-hour/122-kilometre drive from Auckland. It is also known for its creative arts community. Some of New Zealand’s best artists and artisans live in this area taking their inspiration from the stunning natural surroundings. Take a stroll along the Raglan Art trail stopping at the Raglan Art Gallery, Raglan Artists’ Studios, Raglan Arts Stores, and the Raglan Creative Market, which is the heart of the town’s cultural life.
5. Waiheke Island
This 20-kilometre-long island is a haven for wine lovers, foodies and almost anyone who enjoys getting outside in New Zealand. You can catch 35-minute car ferry from downtown Auckland. If you only have one day to explore the island why not start with some family fun with the Waiheke Island zipline experience, followed by a calming walk along the golden sands of Onetangi Beach. You can then indulge yourself with a long lunch at one of the many restaurants dotted around the Island, our favourites for the views include Cable Bay Vineyards and Mudbrick Vineyard. Finish the day by walking part of the Te Ara Hura Track, the entire walk is 100 kilometres all around the island!