How to Spend a Sunny Day in Auckland

Known as the City of Sails, Auckland is one of the most beautiful cities on New Zealand’s North Island. Its 48 volcanic cones make for a unique landscape, as well as endless scenic vistas. Then there are the more than 50 islands of the Hauraki Gulf, many of them easy to visit on a ferry. Auckland is also New Zealand’s biggest city, so there’s a never-ending list of fun activities in which to take part and sights to see, especially on a sunny day. 

Feeling adventurous? Take a bungee plunge off the Auckland Harbour Bridge. Packed a picnic lunch? Head to Clevedon Scenic Reserve, take the easy walk to the old Thorp Quarry site and set up beside the waterfall. Ready to stretch your legs? Catch the ferry to Rangitoto Island and walk to Rangitoto Summit, atop one of the famous volcanic cones. It takes about two hours there and back, and along the way, you’ll see lava fields and a pōhutukawa forest before arriving at the top where there are spectacular views of the Hauraki Gulf. 

Here’s what to do on a sunny day when you’re visiting Auckland. 

Hit the Beach 

There are stunning beaches all around Auckland, and many of them are quite different from the ones you’ll have experienced in Australia. One of the most beautiful – so much so it was a location for The Piano – is Karekare Beach. Located 35 kilometres west of Auckland, it has black sand dunes, pounding waves and looming rock headlands. It’s not a great place for a swim, but the drama of the setting makes it perfect for photographers. A 15-minute walk from the beach, you’ll find Karekare Falls. Piha Beach, with the famous Lion Rock, is also nearby. 

About 45 minutes’ drive in the rental car west of Auckland (or 15 kilometres north of Karekare) is Murawai Beach. The stretch of sand here is a couple of kilometres long, so leave the car in one of the parking areas and go for a long walk. At the southern end of the beach, there is a series of cliffs that host some very special guests at certain times of the year. From August to March, more than a thousand pairs of gannets (large white seabirds) nest on the cliffs. There are viewing platforms so you can get close to them and their babies, which hatch in the spring. 

If you’re keen on a dip, Orewa Beach is 35 minutes’ drive north of Auckland. Facing the Pacific Ocean, it sports white sand and plenty of spots where you can swim, surf or kayak. When you’ve had enough of the beach, take a stroll along the Orewa Millennium Walkway. It follows the water’s edge and loops around an estuary where you can spot wildlife and enjoy the views. 

Take a Hike 

Walk to the place that supplies a majority of New Zealand’s bottled water. The start of the Te Waihou Walkway is about a two-hour drive from Auckland, but it’s well worth it. The 10-kilometre hike, which follows the Waihou River, takes in wetlands, farmland and waterfalls before finally arriving at the Blue Spring. The pure water, which comes out of the spring at a constant 11ºC, is a sparkling turquoise colour. 

About a 45-minute drive southeast of Auckland is the Hanua Ranges Regional Park, with native forest, waterfalls, streams and incredible views from the ridgelines. There are a number of walks to choose from, including the popular Hanua Falls Loop Walk, which is easy and short but does let walkers check out the falls from all angles. Make the visit worthwhile by heading to the Wairoa picnic area and joining the six-kilometre Wairoa Loop Track. It climbs to a lookout that has spectacular views of the Wairoa Reservoir. 

Explore a New Town 

If you really want to make the best use of your rental car, head an hour north to the town of Leigh. Just a bit further along and off the shore is Goat Island. Surrounded by a marine reserve, it’s an amazing place to snorkel or paddle around in a clear kayak, which can be hired from Clearyak on the beach. There are hundreds of species of fish, and the reserve is visited by fur seals, dolphins and orcas. 

Prefer to stay dry? There are some great walks, including one that takes you to a pink sand beach.   

If it’s a Saturday morning when you’re driving to Leigh, stop at Matakana Village Farmers’ Market, 10 minutes away, where you can get coffee and some delicious supplies for a picnic. On other days, it’s still worth visiting beautiful Matakana, with its stylish boutiques and galleries. One of the best places to visit is the Sculptureum, a series of galleries and gardens. There are hundreds of works on display, plus an excellent restaurant called Rothko, where the chef works with local farmers to ensure the menu features the finest produce from the area. 


When you’re ready to explore Auckland and beyond, hire a rental car to make getting on the road easy.