Top 5 Family-oriented Day Trips from Auckland 

blog auckland motorway cars sky tower
Meghan Advent
17 Nov, 2022
11 minutes to read

Something for everyone

Auckland is one of the most diverse, interesting and family-friendly cities in New Zealand. With fantastic beaches, beautiful parks, and exciting activities at your fingertips, there's always something to do. With access to educational museums, world-class entertainment and pristine wilderness in equal measure, families are spoilt for choice with how to spend quality time together. As the nation's largest urban centre, there is a lot of ground to cover, so making the most of the attractions, cultural experiences and dining options available means a car rental in Auckland is essential.  

What are the best day trips in Auckland?

Going further afield offers even more family fun - and you don't need much time to take advantage of it. With a rental car from Auckland city, you can reach world-renowned attractions and tick off bucket list experiences in just a few hours. So, if you're looking for an exciting but stress-free family day trip, these five places will turn the trick. 

A white SUV driving along the road.
People sitting in self dug hot pools on hot water beach.

Coromandel Peninsula - 100-200 kilometres - 2-3 hours’ drive 

The Coromandel Peninsula is a great option for a day tour from Auckland for families who want to spend some time outdoors. With its beautiful beaches and easy access to hiking and fishing, there's something for everyone to enjoy. Drive 2-3 hours from Auckland and take your pick of gorgeous beaches dotting the peninsula. 

The Coromandel is home to several nature reserves, including Waiau Falls, where you can walk among ancient trees and view some of New Zealand's most giant Kauri trees! Here are a few other must-see places in the Coromandel region:  

  • Go to Hot Water Beach - Hot Water Beach is a natural attraction where hot springs bubble up through the sand. Visitors can dig their own pools to sit in or simply enjoy the warm water. The beach is located just a short drive from the town of Thames.    
  • Check out Cathedral Cove - Driving around eleven minutes north of Hot Water Beach, you will arrive at Cathedral Cove, a stunning natural rock archway that can be accessed by a short walk from a nearby car park. The walk takes around 45 minutes and is suitable for families with young children. Once you reach Cathedral Cove, you can swim in the crystal-clear water or just enjoy the views. It's one of the most iconic locations in New Zealand!   
  • Miranda Hot Springs - This quiet location is a great option if you're looking for something a little closer to Auckland. The hot springs are situated on the edge of the Firth of Thames, so you can enjoy beautiful views while you relax in the warm waters. There are also several walking tracks in the area if you want to burn off some energy beforehand.  

Great surf, cafes and art galleries add to this very Kiwi experience, and there's no shortage of ice cream shops along the way - a necessary stop on any family day trip from Auckland.  

Rotorua - 225 kilometres - 2.5-hour drive 

Rotorua is an ideal family day trip destination for visitors of all ages, with plenty of activities to suit everyone. Go from riding adrenaline-inducing thrill rides to relaxing in natural mud baths - all of the attractions are a short drive from the main town centre. Rotorua is also an excellent Auckland day trip for families who want to learn about Maori culture and see some of NZ's natural wonders up close.    

  • Visit Te Puia to see bubbling mud pools and geysers, or go white-water rafting on the Kaituna River.    
  • Learn about Maori culture at Rotorua's museums or cultural centres.   
  • Climb in a wet, inflatable ball and roll down a hill with ZORB Rotorua.   
  • Zipline your way around the prehistoric native forest with Rotorua Canopy Tours.  
  • Race downhill on the luge at Skyline Rotorua.   

If you're travelling with teens, take a walk through the famous Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Valley. It's a stunning place where the colour of the water changes depending on the minerals in the water. There are many different pathways to explore, and it's an excellent spot for photographers. For something a little more adventurous, try the Shweeb: a three-wheel human-powered monorail that whizzes you down a mountain at high speed. It's a great way to get the blood pumping and a few thrills.  

If you're travelling with younger children, there are several fun-filled attractions to keep them happy and engaged. Ride the Skyline Gondola, which provides a breathtaking view of Lake Rotorua, or head to Rotorua Heritage Farm to feed fuzzy farm animals.

A mud pool bubbling.
Explore Middle Earth on a tour that will take you through many of the notable sites you might recognise from the films and give you insight into some of the movie magic behind the camera.
A Hobbit's front door in Hobbiton New Zealand.

Hobbiton - 170 kilometres - 2-hour drive 

If you're a fan of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films, this is one of the most exciting and amazing day trips from Auckland. Located just outside Hamilton in Matamata, Hobbiton is where scenes of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films were shot.  

Explore Middle Earth on a tour that will take you through many of the notable sites you might recognise from the films and give you insight into some of the movie magic behind the camera. In addition, you'll get to take photos and explore the landscape, which is absolutely breathtaking. 

  • Explore the famous Hobbit holes and step inside Bag End, the home of Bilbo Baggins and his famous ring.  
  • Be wowed by the incredible attention to detail throughout the site and learn about the inspiration behind filming locations throughout New Zealand.   
  • Enjoy lunch at Shire's Rest Café or grab a drink at The Green Dragon Inn and imagine yourself clinging glasses with Bilbo himself.  

Hobbiton is a must-visit for any Lord of the Rings or Hobbit fan (of any age!). However, as it is such a popular Auckland day trip, booking your Hobbiton tour well in advance - particularly during school holidays - is essential.  

Matakana - 70 kilometres - 1-hour drive 

Matakana is a beautiful town located about an hour's drive from Auckland. There are plenty of things to do in Matakana, making it the perfect destination for a day trip with your kids in New Zealand's north island. Here are just a few of the activities you and your family can enjoy:  

  • Visit the Matakana Farmer's Market. The market is open every Saturday morning and is the perfect place to find fresh produce, artisanal goods, and delicious food. If time permits, drop by the New Zealand Honey Centre for a unique experience learning about manuka honey and how it is produced. There is also a playground next to the market, so your kids can burn off some energy while you shop.  
  • Take a hike: Matakana is home to many beautiful hiking trails. Spend time exploring the area with your family and take in the stunning scenery.  
  • Enjoy some of the region's best sculptures, animal displays and art at Sculptureum.  
  • Take your family on an adventure through the Matakana Country Park! Younger kids will love riding in mini train cars, petting zoo animals and taking pony rides.  
  • Learn about the river and its history on a relaxing one-hour Matakana River Cruise to Sandspit Basin.   
  • Head a little bit north and check out the Waipu caves and have a glimpse of the best free glow worms in New Zealand.

A day trip from Auckland to Matakana must include a visit to one of the ice cream shops in town - particularly if you hit up one of the nearby beaches on the same day. You may also visit the west coast and have a glimpse of the famous Waitakere Ranges Regional Park. The combination of sunshine, salt water and fresh air makes for the perfect Kiwi family outing.

Vegetables at the Matakana Farmers Market.
The Mount Maunganui coastline looks like a grand invitation to come and come back to a Tauranga adventure!

Mount Maunganui - 230 kilometres - 2.5-hour drive 

Mount Maunganui is a popular Auckland day trip destination for families. Pick up a car hire and head 2.5 hours south through Hamilton toward the east coast. Here are some of the best things to do with kids while you're visiting:  

  • Explore one of the many hiking trails in the area. There are options for all fitness levels, and you're sure to find breathtaking views along the way. If you're up for a rigorous 2-hour summit walk, head to the top of 'The Mount' and get the best view of all.  
  • Visit Pilot Bay Beach and take a dip in the water. The kids will have a ball swimming, bodyboarding, and building sandcastles.  
  • Head to Mount Maunganui Main Beach for some sunbathing and people-watching. This beach is one of the area's most popular, so something exciting is always happening.  
  • Stop by one of the cafes or restaurants for a bite to eat. Plenty of kid-friendly options are available, and it's a great place to order fish and chips.  
  • Spot the dolphins in the Bay of Plenty - there are incredible tours for kids and kids at heart. Swimming with dolphins is a one-of-a-kind experience that will stay with you forever.  
  • If your kids are a little older, you can make the most of the water sports on offer, such as jet skiing, surfing, windsurfing and sailing.   
  • Head to the Mount Hot Pools for a relaxing saltwater soak.   
  • You may also opt to go east and visit the Waiheke Island or the Rangitoto Island through an exciting ferry ride.

A visit to 'The Mount' is well worth a day trip from Auckland, but if you have the time, there's enough entertainment to keep you busy for a night or two.  

Family day trip from Auckland road trip tips 

How do I plan a one-day trip? 

The most important aspect of a family day trip from Auckland city is transportation. A rental car will allow you to schedule excursions to suit your timeline and offer the flexibility to stay longer in certain places or switch up the order. After all, when you go to New Zealand’s top attractions, you never know what will capture your attention along the way. A few more tips to help you on your way: 

1.  Start Planning Early 

One of the most important tips for planning a successful family day trip from Auckland is to start planning as early as possible. This will give you plenty of time to map out your route, make reservations, prepare snacks, and pack everything you need. 

2.  Choose Your Route Carefully 

When planning your day trips from Auckland, it’s important to choose your route carefully. You’ll want to avoid highways that are prone to traffic jams and take into account the needs of your family, such as rest stops, restaurants, and attractions. 

Stunning view of the 328-meter Sky Tower.
Spend summertime at the Piha Beach.
3.  Pack Carefully 

When packing for your family road trip, it’s important to be organised and efficient. Make a list of the planned activities and pack only what you absolutely need. Don’t forget hats and sunscreen! It’s also a good idea to prepare snacks and drinks for the journey.  

What day trips in Auckland are 1 hour or less? 

As mentioned above, Matakana is a fantastic day trip from Auckland. Its secret is its small-town charm - something you can find in many other places close to downtown Auckland. Here are a few more to get you started:  

  • Maraetai - 39 kilometres from Auckland – 40-minute drive 
  • Muriwai Beach – 42 kilometres from Auckland 40-minute drive 
  • Piha Beach -  40 kilometres from Auckland – 48- minute drive 

Ready to book?


Hit the road

It’s easy to get out of the city center and explore the surrounding areas with these fantastic Auckland day trips. Whether you're interested in spending time on the beach, exploring native bushland, or learning about Maori culture, there's something for everyone within driving distance of New Zealand's largest city. So load up the rental car and get ready for an adventure.

Cars travelling at night on the motorway towards Auckland city.