5 amazing activities to do during your 3-day road trip from Auckland

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Gareth Meade
5 Sep, 2022
9 minutes to read

You don’t have to go far to enjoy fantastic destinations

Auckland is big. In fact, it’s the biggest city in New Zealand. But that doesn’t mean you have to go far to find yourself somewhere special. As soon as you get onto one of the motorways, you can head north, south, west, and east coast, within an hour or so be somewhere completely different. This is what makes road trips from Auckland so great. Whether you take a day trip or extend your journey to a few days, you find can somewhere to relax, somewhere to explore or somewhere to (literally) push the boat out.

GoSee has looked under the hood to find you the perfect activities to enjoy on a 3 day tour in and around Auckland. As far as NZ road trips go, these are short, sharp jaunts that will nonetheless have something to make your holiday a memorable one. So, read on, get inspired and then check out our selection of campervan rentals in Auckland. You’ll be on the road in no time!

The perfect day itinerary out west

Planning a weekend getaway? The west coast of New Zealand has a reputation for being rugged and wild. And there’s a good reason for this. The surf is bigger, the sand is darker and there are copious walks through untamed nature to enjoy. Even the route from Auckland to Piha, one of New Zealand’s best-known beaches, can be narrow and windy. But it is definitely worth making time for, on your 3 day itinerary.

Approximately an hour from downtown Auckland, the drive to Piha takes you through the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, a lush forest rich with native flora and fauna. Make sure to take note of road signs, as some road can be affected by slips. As you approach Piha, you’ll pass by the Piha Beach lookout. Make sure to take the time to get a snap of the beach and Lion Rock (originally named Te Piha). From there, you can head down to the township and choose between a swim, a surf or both! Just remember to be careful, as Piha beach is known for being dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Spend summertime at the Piha Beach.
A person standing at the top of a hill looking out over a beach.

Once you’re done enjoying the water, choose one of the nearby walks to discover more of the area. There’s a leisurely 45-minute track that will take you to the Kitekite Falls. Or if you’d prefer something a bit longer, you can do the Marawhara, Laird Thomson, Rose and White track loop. Taking around 2-2.5 hours, you’ll get up close with native forest, see stunning views of Piha and its surrounds, and take in Whites beach, which will be quieter than the sometimes-touristy beach at Piha.

When it's time to go, it won’t take long to get back to Auckland and prepare for your next road trip.

Head north on your road trip from Auckland

No matter where you are in New Zealand's biggest city, it should be pretty easy to get on State Highway 1 and head to the north island. The motorway will take you over the Harbour Bridge (unless you’re already staying on the North Shore) and past built-up industrial areas and sprawling suburban housing. But in around half an hour, buildings will give way to grass and rolling hills. You can either take the toll road and tunnel to get to Puhoi, or you can take the more scenic, but longer, Twin Coast Discovery Highway for free.

If it’s a nice day, head to the Puhoi Pub, an historic NZ pub, the likes of which are becoming rarer and rarer these days. Once you’re fed, carry on to Matakana, via Warkworth. It’s about 25 minutes from Puhoi and offers boutique shopping, a range of food options and even a small cinema, all surrounded by beautiful farmland. Be aware, that if you travel to Matakana on a Saturday, the incredibly popular Matakana Village Farmers Market is on from 8am to 1pm. The little village explodes with people wanting to get a taste of the artisanal goods on offer. If you’re doing a day trip from Auckland for the market, be prepared for it to take a bit longer to get in and out of your destination.

Puhoi catholic church.
Aerial view of Goat Island surrounded by blue ocean.

If you want to get closer to the water on this trip, you can continue past Matakana for about 15 minutes and find yourself at Goat Island Marine Reserve in Leigh. Goat Island, or Motu Hawere, sits just 100 metres off the beach and is surrounded by water perfect for snorkelling, diving and kayaking. The island itself is a nature reserve, so you are not able to walk around it, but you’ll find plenty to see off its shores.

While it’s easy to head back to Auckland after you’ve spent time around Puhoi, Matakana and Leigh, you can also continue north and spend a few nights in Paihia, Kerikeri and the Bay of Islands.

Because there is so much to do, you can either load up the itinerary, or pick and choose a few things so that you have time to relax.

Bay of Islands: The ultimate road trip from Auckland

This one isn’t something you’re going to want to do in a day. You’ll want to allow about 4 hours to get from Auckland to Paihia, the gateway to Northland’s Bay of Islands. You’ll find a number of holiday parks to choose from to park your campervan in Paihia, including:

  • Bay of Island Campervan Park
  • Paihia Top 10 Holiday Park
  • Waitangi Holiday Park

Once you’ve settled in, you can get exploring. Because there is so much to do, you can either load up the itinerary, or pick and choose a few things so that you have time to relax.

Aerial view of a peninsula surrounded by ocean and boats.
The lighthouse at Cape Reinga.

By far the most time intensive thing you can do is a day trip by bus to Cape Reinga and back. This is an organised tour, which includes driving along Ninety Mile Beach, sand surfing at Te Paki Stream, visiting Cape Reinga (NZ’s northernmost point with stunning view of Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea), all with historic commentary. The trip is about 11 hours and departs early, so make sure you get a good night’s sleep before you go.

If you want to keep it local, you can find more than enough to entertain yourself in and around Paihia. Get out on the water and take a cruise to the ‘Hole in the Rock’, on Motukakako Island. As well as seeing the unique rock formation (and sailing through it if weather permits), you’ll also encounter dolphins and breath-taking views. Or catch a short ferry ride to Kororāreka, also known as Russel. New Zealand’s first capital city, many of the buildings on Russell have historic significance, thanks to the rich history of the area. Eat, shop or explore your way around and discover the incredible, sometimes difficult, history of this part of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Whatever you choose to do in the Bay of Islands, you’ll have lots of great stories to tell once you get back home.

Go south to the Coromandel

Taking the southern route from Auckland, you can make your way to the Coromandel Peninsula. Similarly to driving to Paihia, you’re going to want more than a day for this trip. In fact, you could easily spend your entire 3 day road trip on and around the Peninsula, seeing a part of New Zealand famous with holidaymakers across the country and around the world.

Maybe the best-known thing to do on the Coromandel is to visit Hot Water Beach. Totally inconspicuous at high tide, it’s at low tide that what’s special about this beach reveals itself. Thermal water sits just beneath the surface of the sand, which when dug into at the right time, can create a magical outdoor spa pool perfect for relaxing in. The best time to visit is two hours either side of low tide, but be aware that you won’t be alone. This is a very popular spot for good reason. There simply aren’t that many places in the world that you can experience something like this!

Once you’ve soaked and swum, you can set off to explore other parts of the peninsula, including Whitianga, which bustles in summer; Cathedral Cove near Hahei, Coromandel Township; or any other of the nooks and crannies this special part of the country has waiting for you.

People sitting in self dug hot pools on hot water beach.
People riding on a rollercoaster.

Keeping your 3 day tour local

If you want to stay in Auckland during your trip, there should be plenty to keep you occupied within the ‘Super City’. You could take a day trip to Rainbows End in Manukau and spend hours experiencing their exciting rides and activities. The next day, drive to Kumeu, park up and then spend a leisurely day visiting highlights like Hallertau Brewery, Soljans Estate Winery, The Hunting Lodge Winery & Restaurant and the Riverhead Pub, New Zealand’s oldest riverside tavern. Make sure you have a sober driver so that you can experience the libations on offer at these wonderful locations.

For the last day of your 3 day New Zealand itinerary, leave the campervan where it’s parked and head down to the downtown Ferry Terminal at the bottom of Queen Street. From here you can catch a ferry ride to Rangitoto Island, New Zealand’s youngest volcano at 600 years old. Once you arrive, you can take the Summit Track and head to the top of the island and back in around 2 hours return. The track takes in pōhutakawa trees, lava fields and ultimately results in panoramic view of Auckland and the Hauraki Gulf. You can also tack on a side trip to the Lava Caves, which you are free to explore. Just make sure to bring a torch! If you have more time to spare, you can also head to Waiheke Island, which is packed with beautiful beaches, wineries, nature walks, and shopping.

Boats docked in the harbour at Waiheke Island.

Ready to book?

Stunning view of the 328-meter Sky Tower.

Time to get going on an Auckland road trip

Hopefully you’re feeling inspired by the many things you can do in your 3-day road trip from Auckland. If you want to know how and where you can pick up your campervan in Auckland, check out our helpful blog. GoSee has great deals on campervans and also car rentals, as well as a price beat guarantee and a customer support team available 24/7.  We’d love to help you get on the road and experience all that this part of New Zealand has to offer!