10 things to do in Auckland for nature lovers

Things to do in Auckland for nature lovers

Whether you’re fulfilling your Lord of the Rings fantasies, escaping to a place with only one venomous spider, or hitting up the City of Sails’ vibey waterfront hub, New Zealand is a favourite holiday destination.  

New Zealand is well known for its biodiversity – you’ll find regional parks, glow-worm filled caves, volcanic islands and craters, and black sand beaches ideal for water sports. With all these outdoor options, why choose Auckland, the country’s largest city, for your stay?  

The answer lies in the sheer number of things to do in Auckland for nature lovers. Firstly, you can spend the day roughing it on the trails and then wind down at one of the city’s many excellent restaurants, head back to your hotel room – which, unlike a tent, comes pre-constructed – and rest your head on a real pillow in a bed without any sand in it.

Secondly, we know that when you’re planning a group trip balancing everyone’s interests can be difficult, but with Auckland as your base, there’s something for everyone within two hours of the city. Lastly, Auckland is a cultural and historical hub, so you can spend relaxed days learning about the land you walk and the Māori who were the first to walk it.  

Please note, due to recent flooding and other environmental factors some trails may not be currently open to the public. 

Things to do in Auckland for nature lovers: visit a regional park 

Wenderholm Regional Park 

What to expect: pristine beaches and prime BBQ spots, so don’t forget to bring your cozzie and a good lunch to grill. 

At the mouth of the majestic Puhoi River sits New Zealand’s first regional park. Comprising 900 metres of white sand coastline and green grass shaded by põhutukawa trees, this is the place to go if you’re looking for a chilled day spent BBQing beachside. The park features four lookouts – each one offering stunning coastal views, which can be reached by four trails of varying length (so there’s a walk for every experience level): 

  • Couldrey House lookout (15 minutes) 
  • Te Akeake (30 minutes) 
  • Maungatauhoro Te Hikoi (90 minutes) 
  • Perimeter Track (2.5 hours) 

Insider’s tip: rent a kayak or paddleboard from Wenderholm Beach Hire to explore the native mangroves up close. 

📍 37 Schischka Road, Waiwera 0873 

Shakespear Regional Park  

What to expect: plenty of sporty activities both in and out of the water, so bring your walking gear or a wetsuit if surfing is your thing. 

The trails at this park are a gateway to the region’s history, as well as its biodiversity. Traverse native forests, wetlands, and farmlands on the Heritage Trail or try out the Tiritiri Track which passes an original Māori settlement and provides phenomenal views of Tiritiri Island. Fans of water sports can head down to Te Haruhi Bay for gentle surfing and kayaking, or Okoromai Bay for a spot of kitesurfing. 

Insider’s tip: Okoromai Bay is one of the only places in the country where you can still collect cockles to eat.  

📍 1501 Whangaparaoa Road, Army Bay 

Waitākere Ranges Regional Park 

What to expect: 250 kilometres of walking track, so wear your sturdiest shoes and be sure to take enough water and snacks to keep you fuelled up.  

Known for its extensive hiking and walking trails, this park is a tramper’s paradise. While short tracks such as Kitekite Falls Path, which lead to the base of the Karekare Falls, are perfect for a leisurely day out, more experienced hikers can brave the Hilary Trail. A four-day self-guided hike through forests, wetlands, valleys, and black volcanic sand beaches, this trail isn’t for the faint of heart (or foot), but it can be broken up into shorter day excursions.  

📍 300 Scenic Drive, Nihotupu, Auckland 0604 

Things to do in Auckland for nature lovers: explore an island

Rangitoto Island 

What to expect: volcanic landscapes and lava caves, so wear comfortable clothes and good hiking boots, and carry a headtorch. 

At just 600 years old, this is the youngest (and largest) volcanic island to emerge from the depths off the coast of Auckland – and one of the most popular among locals and tourists. Just a short ferry ride across the harbour, you’ll find a summit looking to be conquered either by foot or on 4WD tours. You’ll also find colourful lava caves ready to be explored.  

Insider’s tip: you can book a night kayaking trip to the island with Auckland Sea Kayaks where you’ll leave as the sun sets behind the iconic peak, and return to a spectacular view of the city lights. 

📍 Ferry terminal: 99 Quay Street, Auckland CBD, Auckland 1010 

Waiheke Island

What to expect: a range of activities making for a great all-day getaway.  

Zip lining, diving, snorkelling, mountain biking, surfing, kayaking, and hiking are just some of the different outdoor activities that you can enjoy on this island. However, with sweeping white-sand beaches and a collection of top-shelf wineries, this is also the ideal spot for those looking for a more laidback day in the sun. After a morning of adrenaline pumping zip lining or hiking the criss-crossing trails of Te Ara Hura, a chilled glass of wine would be just the ticket.  

Tiritiri Matangi Island 

What to expect: one of New Zealand’s oldest conservation sanctuaries – avid bird watchers should bring their binoculars. 

Reclaimed and reforested with the express mission of providing a pest-free haven for endangered native wildlife. Much of the wildlife here is extremely rare, especially the kōkako and tīeke (saddleback) birds and the tuatara – a spiny reptile endemic to the region. Your little adventurers can learn too by picking up a Kiwi Ranger booklet and completing the educational tasks – once completed, these can be taken to a ranger who’ll present them with a special Kiwi Ranger badge.  

Insider’s tip: the island is home to New Zealand’s oldest lighthouse, and the lighthouse keepers’ cabin can be rented for overnight stays. Since places fill up fast it’s best to book well in advance. 

Things to do in Auckland for nature lovers: excursions 

Mount Eden/Maungawhau 

What to expect: a deep dive into the history and culture of the Māori in Aotearoa. 

Once a vast Pā – a fortified settlement housing thousands of inhabitants – and now the most visited peak in Auckland, this mountain is a must for those looking to explore Aotearoa’s cultural heritage. Though damaged by mining and industrialisation, much of the original layout of the settlement can still be seen and you can learn more about the site and its history on the Māori-led Heaven to Earth walking tour, where you’ll be regaled with stories passed down through the generations. 

📍 250 Mount Eden Road, Mount Eden, Auckland 1024 

Manu Bay, Raglan 

What to expect: known for its excellent surf; pack your boardies and your board. 

If your ideal day is grabbing your board and catching the perfect wave, then Manu Bay in the Waikato district of south Auckland should top your to-do list. Pros and enthusiasts from around the world flock to this famous spot to surf one of the longest left-hand breaks around. Grab your wettie and hit the waves or, if you’re looking to learn, Raglan Surf School comes highly recommended.  

📍 Manu Bay, Waikato 3297 

Waitomo Caves 

What to expect: subterranean exploration – wear comfortable and practical footwear. Ruakuri Cave is wheelchair accessible.  

Picture this: your sailboat glides through a cave illuminated by constellations of native glow-worms emitting blue light. Sounds like a scene straight out of a fairy tale, right? Welcome to Waitomo Caves, home to three systems, each with their own unique appeal. There’s the Glowworm Cave, home to the tallest chamber known as the cathedral– and the aforementioned luminous insects. Fully accessible by a wheelchair is the limestone and crystal Ruakuri Cave, which is also home to glow-worms. The last system to explore is the Aranui Cave – filled with colourful stalagmites and stalactites. 

Insider’s tip: book a black water rafting trip through the caves if you’re looking to ramp up the adrenaline.  

📍 39 Waitomo Village Road, Waitomo Caves 3977 

Auckland Botanic Gardens 

What to expect: a natural haven in the heart of the city, perfect for a quick outdoor excursion. 

Day trips are fun but if you’re looking for a dose of natural beauty within the city limits, then be sure to visit the Auckland Botanic Gardens. Revel in 156 acres of unspoilt nature, including a native forest, criss-crossing streams, and an abundance of animal and plant life. The little ones will love the Potters Children’s Gardens, where they can dive into an array of exciting activities designed to teach them about the local wildlife and sustainability. Kids aren’t the only ones who can learn a thing or two here, and we recommend heading out on the Native Plant ID Trail to learn how to identify local plants and their traditional Māori uses. 

📍 102 Hill Road, The Gardens, Auckland 2105 

We hope this list has inspired you to hop on a plane and explore Auckland’s natural charms, whether you like tramping through the wilderness on hikes, catching waves on black sand beaches, or throwing freshly caught fish on the barbie while enjoying the sounds of a waterfall thundering in the distance.  

To compile this list, we consulted Westpac Concierge travel specialists. Our team is on the ground and has extensive knowledge of the country’s travel scene. Every day, we help our members with hotel and flight suggestions, bookings, and additional lifestyle services. What’s more, this service is completely complimentary to eligible Westpac cardholders. You might even already have access. 

Emma Lancaster

Emma grew up obsessed with the art of language and the written word - which led her to pursue a career in copywriting. After specializing in social media marketing, she leapt into the art world, and studied curating at Sotheby’s in London, followed by a stint at a boutique gallery. Today she combines her love of writing and curation as a content writer, focusing on dining, travel, entertainment and retail content.

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