An escape from real life
When you’re in a country like New Zealand, but living the city life, sometimes an escape is much needed… You can’t come to this country and not enjoy the endless natural beauty. BUT, we all have jobs and a real life to tend to, so when the weekend hits, it’s time to take full advantage of being in such a breath taking country!
So pack a bag, fill your cooler (or as the kiwis call it – chilly bin…), and some roady snacks. And take that weekend off, you deserve it!
BAY OF ISLANDS
Distance: 3.5 – 4 hour drive from Auckland (228 kms)
There is so much to do and see in this area, so hopefully you can get off work early on Friday to get a head start!!
The little town of Paihia is just that – little. Though she is little, she is cute! Paihia is such a lovely beach town! There is a great beach and coast to walk along, and is mostly protected from the wind due to the surrounding islands.
Grab your morning coffee and pastry at Ti Bay Cafe & Eatery , then walk down the beach into the main town along the coast. Wander around the township, pop in and out of the shops, and even catch a market in the main park selling local goods! You can also rent a kayak right on the beach and explore the surrounding mini islands throughout the bay!
I would highly recommend Craft Bar & Kitchen for a meal along the way or after your day of walking the town. Sit out back in the sun room to enjoy the summer breeze and water views while dining on the amazing food.
If you’re in the area, take a little drive down to the Haruru Falls and dip your feet in the water! Walk (carefully…) across the top of the falls and take in the river views from the top. When you’re finished at the water, sit up at the car lot with some snacks and watch the wild chickens run about!
You HAVE to visit this town if you are going to be in the Bay of Islands! Fun fact: Russell was the first capital of New Zealand! COOL, I know. So, catch a 10 minute car ferry across the bay at a very reasonable price of $13.50 each way per car and all it’s passengers!
Take a stroll down the boardwalk and wander into the quaint little town (it won’t take you long!) to enjoy the small community vibes packed with local shops and restaurants. Make a stop at Christ Church, which is the oldest European cemetery in New Zealand. Be sure to read a few of the headstones, you’ll find some interesting things! Have a picnic on the main beach and then walk north along the rocks for more pretty views of the bay. Don’t forget to look for stingrays in the shallows!
If you have more time, go over to the east side to visit Oneroa Bay Beach for a swim and more lounging!
There’s not much to do here other than to see the wharf and mass amounts of yachts docked in the harbor. It’s nice to take a stroll along the public docks and check out the assortment of boats that stay here. Stop for a quick bite at the Opua Cruising Club where you can happily stare out onto the harbor and munch on delicious fish n chips.
This is also where you can catch the 10 minute ferry to Russell. You can take your car, bicycle, or go on foot. It’s a lovely little cruise on the sea!
If you are feeling extra touristy, head over to Waitangi for some cultural history. This is where the Waitangi Treaty was signed in 1840, which started creating peace between the Māori and British people, and is often referred to as the founding document of New Zealand. Find more information on entering the grounds here.
CAPE BRETT LIGHTHOUSE
For those adventurous and outdoorsy people, the Cape Brett Trail is a great option for you. It’s located a 30km drive north of Russell.
Trek along the trail through native forest and Māori owned land to get to the historic lighthouse site from 1908. Take in breath taking scenery and take a small detour for a swim / snorkel at Deep Water Cove. For more information click here!
Distance: 2 – 2.5 hour drive from Auckland (159 kms)
South west of Auckland, is this laid-back surfers town. As a west coast beach, it is much like Piha with big waves, lots of wind and fine black sand.
Raglan is lined with gorgeous old Victorian style buildings and is shrouded in history. The streets are quaint and pretty to wander along. This is an ideal location for a take-it-easy and relaxation weekend, unless you’re planning on surfing that is!
Have brunch in one of the many cafes taking up residence in the historical buildings, then take a walk along the beach to watch the surfers. While strolling along the beach, keep an eye out for the abandoned and unused WWII defense bunkers!
Distance: 3 hour drive from Auckland (221 kms)
South east of Auckland lies this beach community and summer hot spot! Hit up this area in the Bay of Plenty if you are looking to sunbathe, swim and eat your way through the weekend!
The city runs along a long wharf that has a great walking path. We opted to grab a quick coffee in the late morning, then lather up in sunscreen to stroll along the water. Bring your swim gear and stop for a quick dip at the small dock to cool off from the hot NZ sun!
When you reach the end of the path, have lunch at Bobby’s Fish Market. Shout out to a long time friend for the suggestion! They make delicious fish n chips and deep fried prawns! Careful not to order too much, because the serving sizes are larger than expected… They also sell fresh sea food you can take home with you.
After lunch, head to the opposite side of the street and enjoy the ocean-side town feels on the way back. walk through the streets this time and pop into the shops, or stop into a local pub or restaurant for an ice cold drink and snacks.
Firstly, what a beach; WOW! This is the ideal beach for a long walk. Take off your shoes and put your feet in the sand. This beach stretches as far as the eye can see along the Bay of Plenty! After your walk, set up your beach spot not too far from Moturiki Island Reserve, so that you can make a quick dash to grab your fresh fruit froyo and ice cream from the food truck on the boardwalk.
Be sure to go for a stroll on the little island for some beautiful water and ocean views.
You, of course, have to take a hike up the mount itself, it is called Mount Maunganui after all. The views from up top are stunning to say the least, as you can see the cute ocean side town stretched out along the beach.
Distance: 2.5 – 3 hour drive from Auckland (168 kms)
A major summer hot spot and bach country due to the numerous stunning beaches and great weather. Every direction you look you are going to be impressed. A bigger bonus if you know someone with a boat!
HOT WATER BEACH
First things first, bring a shovel! A strange thing to say, but you’ll thank me once you get there. Under the sand there is a spa waiting for you! Dig yourself a nice big hole (or steal someone else’s vacated one…) and sit down to feel the warm water coming up from below you.
Wander down the beach for pretty ocean views and great photo op locations! This beach is too beautiful to miss.
While it takes some effort to get to, it’s well worth it! Rocks and caves that were formed from an eruption 8 million years ago, loom over in impressive white rock shapes. Hop from one mini sandy beach to the next which are divided by all the naturally eroded giant rocks.
Distance: 3 – 3.5 hour drive from Auckland (228 kms)
Rotorua is known for it’s geothermal activity and Māori culture, as there is a village in the area. As you drive into the town, you can instantly smell the sulphur in the air! You can walk along the bubbling and steaming mud pools to take in the geothermal activity first hand.
By far my faaaaaavorite part of Rotorua was going to Kerosene Creek. This is natural thermal river. Have you ever stood in a hot waterfall before? Walk along the steamy river towards the hot falls, stopping to wade in the occasional hot pool on the way.
BLUE & GREEN LAKE
These neighboring lakes make you feel as if you’re suddenly on a dreamy mountain vacation. Swim in the fresh water and enjoy being engulfed in lush New Zealand greenery. Pure serenity.
Distance: 3.5 – 4 hour drive from Auckland (274 kms)
I promise this longer drive is completely worth it! As the largest lake in the southern hemisphere, Lake Taupo should be on your bucket list, it’s even bigger than the entire country of Singapore! Scattered with little beaches and ideal fishing spots, it’s the perfect city escape into nature.
Maybe you can convince your boss to give you Friday off to squeeze in some extra time at this breath taking location….
Taupo Town is the main tourist spot in the area. Easily find yourself an Airbnb, hostel or holiday park here. There are markets every weekend, cute cafes to frequent for morning coffees, and local restaurants for tasty food!
For all your cafe needs The Storehouse has everything you could dream of. With a cozy atmosphere, amazing brew and adorable flower shop it can’t be beat. Order your cuppa and head up to the loft on the second floor to enjoy it.
In the evening hit up Pauly’s Diner for simple but delicious burgers. The perfect finish to a vacay day.
This main attraction is right on your way into town. Although it’s a tourist hot spot, it’s a not-to-miss as well! Huka Falls is one of the most visited natural attractions in New Zealand. Take the scenic walk along the Waikato River to admire the crashing water.
Of course if you come to Lake Taupo, you are going to spend time at the lake itself! If you are looking for a more local and private experience, turn off of State Highway 1 towards the Anglers Tracks south of the town. This is where all the fishers go, so it’s pretty quiet. Begin your serene walk and go as far as you want before turning back.
I personally love to have off-the-beaten-path experiences while travelling. This lake track is so peaceful and an easy relaxing walk with beautiful views. Though Lake Rotopounamu is freezing, it’s perfect to dip your feet in and listen to the native birds as you walk around!
For those water loving adventurous types, head to Bulli Point for amazing cliff jumping into majestic blue waters!
Distance: 40 minute ferry ride from Auckland (37 kms)
Calling all wine lovers!
If you have read my other posts you know this is one of my favorite places of all time! Since I’ve already written about Waiheke, I won’t go into too much detail.
Take a 40 minute ferry ride to this nearby island for wine tasting, beaching, and amazing food. Be sure to book your accommodation at least a month in advance in order to get the best price and location! It goes quickly in the summer. I would also highly recommend renting a car when you arrive so you can have ultimate freedom on the island.
Check out my post on Vineyard Hopping to help plan your time on the wine island! Also, stay tuned for another post about Waiheke Island coming soon!!
Now start ticking off these trips from your New Zealand travel list!