I am going to study in Auckland for one semester starting in March and will not have a whole lot of time to travel NZ afterwards so I was planning on seeing quite a bit of the North Island on weekends. Do you have any suggestions as to what I definitely should do that can be done in a day or two?
Any tips would be greatly appreciated.
Also, what are THE places in Auckland to go at night?
Thanks in advance!
- There's gorgeous hiking through Kauri forest in Whangarei (2 hours and a bit north of Auckland). Start at the Whangarei falls, and then follow the trails along the river until you get to the boardwalk (you can go keep on hiking further from there, too).
- Muriwai beach (50 minutes west) is worth a visit a visit.
- Cathedral Cove, Hot Water Beach and Whitianga are 2.5 hours to the east of Auckland, so should be great for a weekend getaway, too.
- If you're a LotR fan, you could visit the Hobbiton movie set (the only LotR set which wasn't completely removed, and very worthwhile in my experience; the hills really are that green) in Matamata (2 hours and a bit southeast).
- Mount Maunganui (3 hours southeast) is worth a visit, too. Great beach, and great hiking on, over and around the mount itself.
When you can make it a long weekend (or at least leave on Friday afternoon), the following also should become doable:
- Rotorua (3:15 southeast), and especially the thermal region around it (Wai-o-tapu at 3:30 SE is the best, imo).
- Paihia and the Bay of Islands (3:30 north)
- Tongariro National Park (4:30 south) really deserves more time than just a day and a bit there, but is worth it even for such a short time and really must not be missed.
Further to Sander's suggestions, I would also recommend:
Raglan - nice chilled out little surfer town a couple of hours drive from Auckland
White Island - it's around a 4 hour drive to Whakatane, where you can organise a tour to White Island which is an active volcano. It's one of the best things I did in NZ! It's strongly dependent on the weather.
Taupo- nice walks and a few things to do. You can base yourself here for the Tongariro crossing
Waitakere Ranges - rainforest about 45 mins drive from central auckland. There are plenty of walking tracks so it makes a lovely day trip. You could also visit Piha beach while you are there.
Waitomo - glowworm caves
In terms of nightlife, the waterfront area is the most lively area of the city centre, but you might prefer to head to Ponsonby Road for some more civilised bars, if a little more expensive. Karangahape Road (K- Road) also has quite a lively nightlife.
You can also go blackwater rafting at Waitomo--very fun! Sander's already mentioned Whangarei for hiking, so the only other place i can think to add is Piha beach.
I did a small road trip around the whole of the coromandel Penninsula which I thought was the best part of my australia and NZ trip. that is real close to auckland. Piha beach, and raglan are meant to be beautiful. waitomo is s'posed to be good. Rotorua is only 4 hours away...you could do a weekend there. taupo is only 6 hours away, there's heaps to do there.
As for night life in auckland, I prefer the irish pubs. The dog's Bollix is great for live music and for just getting a pint. then Father ted's and the fiddler are great because they never seem to close. There are also some good places on Ponsonby road, sponge wasn't too bad...it's weird most people don't get out that way but I thought it was the most interesting section of town.
oh and steer clear of k-road!
and most importantly, if nightlife is your thing...make sure on your long weekends, and vacations, hop on the first night bus to Wellington. I can go on for days about Wellington. The basement, the "stab", mini-bar, lotus, vespa, Maya, the big kumara, mighty mighty, molly malones...and that's just a few!