Long weekend on Great Barrier Island

 Look out spot on the way to Medlands Beach, Great Barrier Island

Look out spot on the way to Medlands Beach, Great Barrier Island

Great Barrier Island is a place where you wave to every car you pass, you can be totally off the grid and the views will take your breath away.

Getting there

The island is a 30-minute flight from Auckland Domestic Airport or a 5-hour ferry from North Wharf on Auckland's viaduct with Sealink. The ferry is NZ$84 one way or NZ$105 return, which is slightly cheaper than the flights, which start at $89 one way with Barrier Air. I took the ferry there and returned on the plane which was great, I wanted to take the ferry because a lot of the time people see dolphins or whales. I saw one dolphin so that was awesome, but I think next time I would just fly there and back; it still offers incredible views and involves much less travel time. 

The Beaches

The beaches on Great Barrier Island are a huge drawcard. I visited Pah Beach, near my friend's bach in Tryphena which is a gentle harbour beach with some cool rock formations near the local store and pub. On the east side are some stunning surf beaches, which I didn't have a surfboard for sadly, but I did some boogie boarding and body surfing anyway. Medlands was about a 10-minute drive from Tryphena, has a cool island in the middle of the beach and some great little waves. Apparently, they have surf comps there too! I really loved Awana Bay, which was another 15 minutes north, on the east. The waves there were great too, and the beach itself is stunning and very empty due to its location further afield. Great place to stop after doing the punishing Mt Hobson. 

 The Island of Medlands Beach, Great Barrier Island

The Island of Medlands Beach, Great Barrier Island

 Medlands Beach, Great Barrier Island

Medlands Beach, Great Barrier Island

Mt Hobson

 View from the walk to Mt Hobson, Great Barrier Island

View from the walk to Mt Hobson, Great Barrier Island

 Made it to the top of Mt Hobson, Great Barrier Island

Made it to the top of Mt Hobson, Great Barrier Island

Speaking of Mt Hobson, what a cool walk! It's a 40 minute drive from Tryphena to the start of the walk, and the walk itself isn't very long, just quite intense. I think it took us between 60-90 minutes at a good pace, stopping a few times, to reach the top. We definitely didn't time it well though, we started the walk before lunch time, I think around 10 or 11 am and boy oh boy it was hot! Did I mention this trip was in January, the middle of New Zealand's summer? I think it was around 26°C and there were parts where it felt much hotter.

The first third was in the bush, lots of stairs with uphills and downhills. Then there's a lot of walking along a ridge out in the sun, but unfortunately the wind wasn't blowing in the right direction and this part was sweltering. The final third was in the bush again but it was a lot of stairs, all going uphill. The view along the path, and especially at the top, was really worth it though and I'm so glad we pushed through to reach the summit. 

Waterfall hike

My friend Bri has been going to Barrier for years and knows all the good spots! So naturally, I was keen for her to show me the waterfall while I was there. It's off Aotea Road, and about a half hour walk. Like Mt Hobson, it's a very steep walk. This one was straight downhill to the waterfall and straight back up to the road when we were done. Unfortunately, the steepest bits didn't have stairs and due to recent rainfall, we were slipping a lot on the way down. Poor Bri landed on her rear about 3 times, each one looked so painful. 

 Waterfall hike, Great Barrier Island

Waterfall hike, Great Barrier Island

Food & drink on the island

Because the island is quite far out, the food at the local store isn't cheap, and you have to buy water or boil it to make sure it's drinkable. I saw a lot of people taking 10L bottles of water over on the ferry which is a great idea because they had none in stock when we were there so we were constantly buying 2L bottles or boiling water, which gets expensive. Head down to the local pub in Tryphena, Currach Irish Pub, for a delicious wood-fried pizza and a beer, or try the cute little food stalls on the way out to Medlands Beach. Even better, enjoy some of the kaimoana (seafood) that you catch yourself, like kingfish or scallops, there are plenty of great spots! Just make sure you read up first to see what the limits are etc, you can find more information here.

Have you ever been to Great Barrier Island? Would you consider a trip out there? 

What to do in Cebu, Philippines

By the reactions from locals we spoke to on the way to Cebu, it's not as much of a holiday destination as El Nido or Boracay but I loved it!

A lot of people visit this part of the Philippines to swim with whale sharks in Oslob which was the main drawcard for me initially, but after some research I found the ethics to be quite questionable and I decided not to. We found some other really awesome things to do in the area instead!

Sea turtles at Apo Island

It's a bit of a journey, but if you keep going south past Oslob and then across the water to Dumaguete, you'll be able to go to Apo Island. The snorkelling there is amazing and from research, it seemed like the only place in the Philippines where you're guaranteed to see sea turtles. It was a bit of a journey but one we were keen to make considering we weren't going to swim with whale sharks. 

What to do in Cebu 2

We arrived too late to make the ferry across on the first night to stay on Apo Island so opted to stay at Harold's Mansion, right next door to where the tours left. "Mansion" is a bit of a stretch, but the place was tidy enough, has air-con and a nice rooftop restaurant with its own vege/herb garden. When we checked in they informed us that we were too late for the Apo Island tour, it was all booked up. They offered us a spot on the snorkelling tour to Dauin instead.

When we got to Dauin the next morning we managed to negotiate spots on the Apo Island tour anyway and we were so happy that they let us! Dauin was just a beach that probably had nice underwater views, but once we got to Apo Island we were rewarded with the most amazing snorkelling, the best we had on the whole trip and we saw so many turtles! We also saw sea snakes, sea slugs, starfish, giant clams and a plethora of different types of tropical fish. I even saw flying fish on the boat ride over.

What to do in Cebu 4

We were about two swimmers to one guide who showed us around and told us what not to do, but I still saw other tourists try to touch the turtles. Our guide took us to some caves on the shore and we had fun jumping off the boat with the other guides and watching them make bubble rings underwater, it was a wonderful trip. 

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Travel to Liloan

After the tour, we headed back to Cebu Island via the quick ferry and went to our accommodation in Liloan - Tropara Resort which can be found on Airbnb. We loved it there, it was right on the beach and everything about it was really tropical and relaxed. Our room, the Mermaid Room, had a balcony that opened out to the water which gave us some spectacular sunrises and sunsets. 

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What to do in Cebu Kawasan Falls

Kawasan Falls and Cebu City

The next day we were picked up to do the Kawasan Falls, which I will write a full blog post for soon. Let's just say it is highly recommended! 

After that, we took another yellow bus up the island back to Cebu City, where we stayed in the Bayfront Hotel Cebu. It was a nice enough hotel just across the SM Cebu City Mall which we took a trip to. The mall itself was pretty standard, there wasn't anything too outrageous and when I visited the supermarket I struggled to find anything weird and wonderful to take home. We were disappointed by the supermarket's lack of Asian fruits like mangosteens or dragonfruit. But I was really happy with my dried mango purchases and wish I had bought more, apparently, Cebu mango is much cheaper in Cebu, who would've thought! 

We spent a lot of our time in Cebu travelling (it was 6 hours from Cebu to Liloan on the bus alone) but it was a really cool part of the trip; I feel like we got to experience the less touristy sides of the Philippines like the city centre and the small towns that don't see a lot of foreigners. 

Would you give Cebu a try? Or have you been yourself? 

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The 2017 round-up

Well...2017 did not turn out the way I thought it would! It was an emotional rollercoaster, to say the least. I won't go into the bad stuff because that's what angsty diary entries are for, but when 2017 was good, it was really really good! Here are some of my highlights from 2017:

5. Mini roadtrips with great friends

One thing I've really come to appreciate over the last few years is how good friends make all the difference. As well as the overseas trips I took, I was also really lucky that my friends have been keen to come on mini road trips out of Auckland! I wrote this post on some of them - the 10 best day trips from Auckland. Even before summer arrived I was hitting the road with friends and going away for bush walks, exploring new beaches and getting cool drone shots of amazing places. 

 Beach day at Leigh.   Photo: Nattaya J Creative

Beach day at Leigh. Photo: Nattaya J Creative

4. Surfing

I have been surfing a couple of times each summer for the last few years, but only in 2017 have I actually put in the effort to get better. I also bought myself a board which has helped my skills dramatically. Although I'm still splashing around in the whitewash, I'm much more confident and able to catch heaps of waves. My biggest resolution for 2018 is to get over my fear of unbroken waves and start making my way out the back.

One of my favourite surf trips this year was when I and my friend Lois went to Ohakune for a weekend of snowboarding but couldn't get up at all due to bad weather. There's not a lot to do in Ohakune when the weather is bad, so we cut our losses and drove home via Raglan and had a quick evening surf. The boards we hired weren't right for our skill levels, being October it was very cold and the waves were quite dumpy, but when I'm surfing those kinds of things don't matter. It felt so surreal being out there on a grey day, being pelted by heavy raindrops, and I was content to just be there.

3. My first trip to Queenstown

I had never been to Queenstown until 2017, and although it was a trip that had a lot of emotional collateral, I still had a wonderful time. I enjoyed being out in nature, with the Southern Alps as a backdrop. A highlight was Glenorchy where I went horseriding along the river bed, with the best view of the Alps. Also, Fergburger for brekkie! You can check out my Queenstown highlights video here.

The 2017 round-up Queenstown

2. Girls weekend in the Gold Coast

After going to the GC twice in the past, I never thought I'd go back there without kids of my own, but I signed up for a girls' weekend away in 2017 and had the best time. I particularly enjoyed Byron Bay, which isn't even in the GC, but it was so fun to go away with a couple of girlfriends and just do girly stuff. 

The 2017 ruond-up Gold Coast

1. Philippines

You might remember that for one of my "Travel to ...." posts I featured the Philippines? Well, I went in 2017! It was so amazing! There was a really decent sale through work that I took advantage of and headed to the Philippines for 9 days, which wasn't nearly enough. I went with my friend Nat to Cebu and Coron, which were both incredible places. We went snorkelling with turtles, canyoneering where we did 45ft jumps into an electric blue river, had a waterfall "massage", discovered a mysterious island with black caves and slept in a tree house. 

Teh 2017 round-up Philippines 3

So far I have a blog post and video on what to do in Coron, but another of my goals for 2018 will be to finish all my content around the Philippines, I have so much I want to share from that trip! 

 View of the entry to the Twin Lagoons, Coron.   Photo: Nattaya J Creative

View of the entry to the Twin Lagoons, Coron. Photo: Nattaya J Creative

What was your favourite part of 2017?! 

Queenstown Highlights Video

How much can you cram into a 4 day weekend in Queenstown? Well, quite a lot it turns out! 

Check out my Queenstown highlights video for an idea of all the adventures you can have in one of the most beautiful places on earth, and this isn't even half of what I would like to do down there! Four days crammed into a 6 minute video, it was hard cutting it all down. If you want a bit more info, you can read the full post about my 4 days in Queenstown here

4 days in Queenstown

4 Days In Queenstown

When I saw a great deal on flights to Queenstown late last year I knew I had to buy them, 24 years old and I'd never visited the "adventure capital of the world"! 

Queenstown 1

I feel like I did my first trip really well, I managed to get spectacular weather, saw a lot of the highlights of Queenstown and the surrounding areas and did some adventure things too. I will admit right here and now that I didn't do one of the infamous bungy jumps; I've done one in my life which was huge for someone with a fear of heights, so I've decided that's it for me!

Anyway, here's what my 4 days looked like. I've also put some other ideas at the bottom for you, including some of the things on my to-do list for next time that I missed out on. 

Day 1

Queenstown 2

Arrived and picked up my rental car from Ace at the airport, they were the cheapest I could find. Always looking for a bargain! I think it was about $50NZ for 4 days, not including petrol. 

Drove to Queenstown and after a recommendation from the lady at Ace, had a late breakfast at Vudu, which was amazing! It had a really similar vibe to little and friday, but healthier. After that I wandered around town then headed to Skyline for some fun. The special of the day was $59NZ for a gondola pass and 6 luge rides which was only a few more than the regular 3 ride pass. The gondola is about a 5 minute ride up the mountain, with spectacular views of Queenstown, passing the bungy on the way up. 

It was a mild day, with a solid cover of cloud hanging over Queenstown, creating a strange effect. It almost looked like a border on my photos! 

Queenstown 5

The luge was lots of fun, though a bit short, and there is a beginners and fast track. There's a chairlift to the start of the track, which is also located near the start of the Ben Lomond walk, and the takeoff spot for the paragliders. It was a really cool place, you could watch the paragliders launch off the side of the mountain and soar down towards Queenstown. 

Dinner was pizza at The London, cheap and cheerful! Also good for breakfast the next day (I never said I was on a diet OK!!). I went to the Queenstown Gardens and just so happened to be there at the same time as the LUMA festival! It was a lovely festival of interactive light displays, but I couldn't capture them very well unfortunately.

Queenstown LUMA

Day 2

The High Country Horses Rees River Trail half day ride was definitely the highlight of my trip! The morning was brisk but there were few clouds in the sky, and the drive out to Glenorchy was stunning in the early hours of the day. 

Queenstown 6

The horse ride itself cost $138 and it was well worth it for half a day of riding through some of the most spectacular scenery. We were nearly entirely surrounded by mountains and crossed over the Rees River in several places. The riverbed is covered in lupin plants, which looked quite ugly and lifeless in the cold, but in spring and summer are famous for their beautiful purple flowers. I would love to go back and see them in the warmer weather.

Queenstown 3

My horses name was Snoopy, and although he was one of the more handsome horses, he was a bit of a lazy boy, reluctant to trot and constantly eating. I actually felt like he was a kindred spirit. 

Day 3

My day started off great; a burger for breakfast. A Fergburger burger to be precise! Even though I ordered the wrong one (Cockadoodle Doo not Cockadoodle Oink), it was still delicious, and a very filling breakfast. By going in the morning I beat the crowds, but later found out you can just call up and order which is just as efficient. 

I wandered around for a bit then headed to Arrowtown, where I met a school friend who is living nearby, for lunch. I had a look around the place a bit first, venturing down to the river where they have some of the remnants from the gold mining days. There were parts of the town that were still covered in frost, as the midday sun was yet to reach them. 

Queenstown Arrowtown

For lunch we went to a little French cafe and had crepes (I thought I should have something healthy for lunch to follow the great breakfast I had ;) ) and afterwards she showed me around. We went into a couple of the famous sweet stores, including Patagonia, which is famous for its fudge and chocolates, and Remarkables Sweet Store, which had all sorts of treats. They weren't cheap though, and I only bought a little 6 pack of fudge to share with the family. 

That afternoon I thought I would walk up the Ben Lomond track, apparently it's only a few hours to the saddle, which isn't too bad. But I got to the Mid-way Clearing where a bunch of paths and mountain bike trails met, and it was already dark at 3pm and a local lady warned me not to do it in the dark by myself. Reluctantly I went back down and checked into my hostel. 

Queenstown 6

When I was there I met a nice Aussie girl who wanted to come out with me so we wandered around trying to find good spots to take photos of the sunset. It wasn't the best but it was nice just chilling out and meeting someone new. We had curry for dinner then talked to some people in the hostel for a while then it was bed time. 

Queenstown 7

Day 4

Queenstown is not cheap, but I figured I might as well make the most of it while I was down there, so on Tuesday morning I went on the Thunder Jet. I got a deal from one of the adventure resellers in town for $110 which is why I chose Thunder over my preference which was the Skippers Canyon jet, recommended to me by my parents. It was really fun but sooooo cold. Seriously cold! I met an American girl and we got hot drinks afterwards to get the feeling back in our fingers again then went to Fergbaker to have lunch. I had a great steak and cheese pie, it was quite pricey at $7 but it was definitely worth it.

Queenstown Thunder jet

Then I had a bit of time to kill before my flight (which had been delayed by an hour) so I decided to drive out to the Kawarau Bridge to watch the bungy jumpers. I nailed the timing, there was a big Contiki tour group there so I got to see several jumpers; I'm not sure what it's normally like but it was very busy when I was there. 

Queenstown Bungy jump

After that it was bon voyage to Queenstown! 

Next time I go I will definitely do the Ben Lomond walk properly, I'd also like to do the walk up to Roy's Peak which is in Wanaka. I'll definitely be going to Milford Sound next time and maybe do one of the walks around there. I was really gutted to miss out on going to Onsen and having a nice relaxing spa day, so I'll definitely be booking that the minute I have flights sorted! 

Have you been to Queenstown? What were your highlights? 

The Tongariro Crossing

Finally ticked off one of my big bucket list items and I really don’t know why I haven’t done it already!

The Tongariro Crossing is a 6-8 hour walk from the base of Mt Ngauruhoe (a.k.a. Mt Doom from L.O.T.R), past a couple of craters and the Emerald Lakes, along the ridge that leads to the Mt Tongariro summit and then down to ground level at Ketetahi.  

The Tongariro Crossing 1

Gear  

You only need a day pack with a big water bottle (at least 1 litre), some snacks, sunblock, maybe some first aid and a packed lunch. Most people wore hiking boots or sturdy sneakers (I wore my old netball shoes with long socks because I don’t own hiking boots yet) and hiking clothing/active wear. It starts off very cold so you will need a jumper, and it can be wet so a waterproof jacket is recommended. 

The Tongariro Crossing 2

Tip: pack a pair of jandals or sandals; once you get to the end of the walk you won’t need proper footwear and although I thoroughly enjoyed walking through the bush with bare feet, jandals would’ve been more comfortable.  

It’s about a 5 hour drive from Auckland CBD and there are plenty of options for accommodation in National Park which is about 20-30 mins from either end of the walk. We drove down on Friday, stopping in Otorohanga and Taumarunui, and stayed at the charming Tongariro Crossing Lodge for Friday and Saturday night. On Saturday morning we were picked up by the shuttle van that was arranged by the lodge and driven to Mangatepopo where we started the walk at 7.30am.

The Tongariro Crossing 4

They recommend everyone start at Mangatepopo and finish at Ketetahi to avoid congestion, but it also makes sense in terms of ease. From the Mangatepopo car park it’s an easy walk for the first hour or so, then it there’s a lot of winding uphill as you quickly ascend.  

Ngauruhoe

Once you get to the top of the first leg, up the hill from Soda Springs, you have the option to walk to the summit of Ngauruhoe which they say takes about 3 hours to the top and back down. One of the couples from our shuttle did it and they said it took them about 1.5 hours to get to the summit and about 30 mins to get back down. There’s a path that takes you up the base of the mountain but once that finishes you basically have to just make your way up the steep face, navigating the loose rocks and shingle and keeping an eye out for ones falling on you from above. Apparently someone had to be airlifted out a few weeks ago when he was hit in the head by a falling rock. They said the view was good but the best views can be seen from the crossing. It sounds like it's a walk for the bragging rights, not the view.

The Tongariro Crossing 5

From the bottom of Ngauruhoe, the walk crosses through the South Crater, then leads steeply up some rock faces, and then even more rock faces, and once you get to the high point of that section there’s the option to walk to the summit of Tongariro which is another 1.5 hours return. We didn’t do it, we stuck to the main path where we were offered incredible views of the Red Crater. Once you come over the other side of the highest point near the Red Crater you’re treated to an incredible view of the Emerald Lakes.  

Emerald Lakes

The Tongariro Crossing 6
The Tongariro Crossing 7
The Tongariro Crossing 8

There are three lakes in this area, two emerald coloured lakes and one that is more bluey. The area is very active and there are steam vents just to the side of the lakes. Getting down to the lakes is a bit of a mission, it’s all loose rocks and shingle, and you can see why they don’t recommend doing the walk in reverse; it would be a tedious walk getting back up that! The lake area smells strongly of sulfur and although I'm struggling to find it online anywhere, I'm fairly sure you're not meant to swim in them as they're unsafe and you definitely can't drink from them. 

The Tongariro Crossing 9

From there you press on across another crater and up to the Blue lake, which is much bigger, but not quite as striking. This lake I could find more information on and it is tapu (sacred to the local Maori) and so you cannot swim in it or eat near it. From there you have to go up hill a bit more, but for the most part that is the end of the hard slog.

The Tongariro Crossing 10

It’s not long until you come out the other side of the ridge and can see Lake Rotoaira and Lake Taupo in the distance as you begin your descent. It’s a relief to get the breeze along there and the walk gets easier as it is mostly downhill back to the Ketetahi hut; a much welcomed relief at this point! From the hut to the carpark is about 2 hours if you’re on the slower side, and it does tend to go on and on, and on and on, as the landscape doesn’t change for ages. Once you finally get to the bush it’s a little steeper but lovely and cool in the shade. The path eventually runs alongside the river and you can see plenty of little waterfalls, which is always a plus for me!

The Tongariro Crossing 11

I couldn’t recommend this walk enough, unless you hate walking!  

For more information, you can find plenty here, or feel free to comment below if you have any questions! 

The 10 best day trips from Auckland

This summer I've been trying to squeeze in heaps of day trips and mini getaways, since I've used all my annual leave for International travel (check out my trip to Fiji here). I don't have a car but I'm super lucky to have friends that are happy to go away for the day or do a little weekend roadie, so here are some of my recommendations for places that can be visited from Auckland in a day!

These are all under 3 hours from Auckland CBD, so they're a decent way out but still manageable for a day trip. Some are technically in Rodney but the rest aren't actually in Auckland because that might have to be a whole new post. I'm just going to order them from North to South, so here goes: 

Matapouri (Mermaid Pools)

Drive time (all from Auckland Central): 2hrs 37mins

Road trip 1
Road trip 2

I was really gutted that the day I planned to go to the Mermaid Pools wasn't warm and sunny, but it was still beautiful at Matapouri nonetheless. The beach itself is stunning and quite a distance from Auckland (it's past Whangarei), so you really feel like you're on holiday. At the end of the beach you can do a bush walk up through a hill and down the other side to the stunning "Mermaid Pools". Though it's a fairly short walk, maybe 20 mins, it's very, very steep, so don't take grandma up! 

Whangarei Falls

Drive time: 2hrs 8mins

Road trip 3

If you're already up that way, the Whangarei Falls are a beautiful place to visit too. There's an easy loop track down to the falls that takes about 15 minutes return, and it's very well paved. Be careful to lock your car and take your belongings with you though, especially if the attendants aren't there. Yikes! Thanks to my girl Steph from beautylust.co.nz! She was so patient with all the photos I wanted to take and drove the whole way :) 

Mangawhai Heads

Drive time: 1hr 24 mins

It's been a long while since I've been to Mangawhai, so as with a couple of other places I don't have any recent photos, but it's a stunning spot and a popular place for summer vacations. The surf is pretty good too, and it's a short drive to plenty of beautiful beaches like Waipu and Langs Beach. 

Matakana & nearby beaches

Drive time: 47 mins

Road trip 4

Matakana is lovely area north of Auckland, it has a delicious ice cream store, quaint movie theatre and a great farmers market every Saturday. But the best part about it is the surrounding beaches. Omaha has been an old favourite of mine with its stunning stretch of white sand and calm water, as has Tauwharanui, a reserve just around the corner with awesome rock pools and a few more waves.

Then there's Goat Island, a marine reserve with possibly the only colourful fish we get in NZ waters (Blue Mau Mau) and a cool little island you can swim out to. I haven't been in years but it was a favourite when I was a kid, even though the water always seemed to be a few degrees colder than other beaches. There's also Leigh, Kawau Island and the beaches around the Snells Beach peninsula. You're spoilt for choice really! 

Karangahake Gorge

Drive time: 1hr 40mins

Driving through the Karangahake Gorge can be very daunting, but if you detour there you'll find some stunning scenery and a great place to explore. There's a historic walk there while follows an old railway line, passes through a 1km tunnel and follows the Ohinemuri river in places. 

Cathedral Cove (Te Whanganui-A-Hei), Coromandel

Drive time: 2hrs 24mins

Road trip 5
Road trip 6

If this list was ranked, Cathedral Cove would definitely take out the top spot. The 40 minute walk does little to thin out the crowds as the beach is well worth the trek. It took to the big screen when it made a cameo in Prince Caspian from the Narnia Chronicles, which you can watch here. Gives me tingles seeing my beautiful country shown off like that!

I visited recently on a long weekend, which didn't help with the crowds, plus the weather was stunning. It was really hard to get a photo without at least 20 other people in it, which I suppose is pretty normal for people from more populated parts of the world but for me I was a little put off. Still, I jumped off the tiny island and went wandering along the rocks and marvelled at how clear and pristine the water was. 

The Pinnacles

Drive time: 1hr 50 mins

This is one walk that I've been really keen to do for a while, and am very excited to do soon. The walk is about 5 hours to the top and back, depending greatly on your fitness as it can get quite steep I've heard. It can be done in a day, or you can hire out the hut at the top, complete with BBQ. I have heard only good things and am looking to go in the next few weeks. 

New Chums Beach

Drive time: 2hrs 53mins

This is another hidden gem that was a lot quieter a few years ago. Search for it on Instagram and you'll see why it's worth the walk. From memory, the walk from the carpark isn't too bad, maybe 20 minutes max, but you may get wet if the tide isn't out. Make a day of it, even if there are plenty of other people it's a big enough beach that you can sit far away from others if you want to. 

Mount Maunganui

Drive time: 2hrs 42mins

Road trip 7

Climbing Mount Maunganui and getting a selfie at the top is a pretty standard thing to do if you're visiting the area, so why not? The view is incredible and the walk itself isn't too hard. Just don't wear jandals. Or do, if you're ambitious/unprepared like me. 

Omanawa Falls, BOP

Drive time: 2hrs 27mins

Road trip 8

I have one big regret in life right now and that's that I didn't climb down to the bottom of the Omanawa Falls. In my defense, you're not allowed to, and when I was there I was alone, wearing jandals (it was the same day I climbed Mount Maunganui), carrying my belongings in a plastic bag, it was raining, I couldn't actually find the dangerous walkway and it gave me the heeby jeebies. There's an abandoned hydro-electric dam at the top, complete with creepy, gloomy staircases, broken gates and graffiti everywhere. I'll go back one day though, more prepared, and get some awesome shots from the bottom. 

The Blue Springs, Putaruru

Drive time: 2hrs 18mins

Another regret of mine is only taking my GoPro to the Blue Springs. I was still getting used to it and so I only have shaky footage from one and only trip. Honestly, I did it no justice and I'm determined to go back and shoot it again with my DSLR, or at least my phone camera. 

It's absolutely stunning and the water is so blue and pure, but bloody freezing as it stays a chilly 11 degrees Celsius all year round. You could easily get down there in a day and back from Auckland, as the walk itself isn't too long and very easy to do; I went with my whole family, including grandparents. Sadly, grandma wasn't up for a swim though. 

Of course, those aren't the only spots just out of Auckland that are worth visiting, but I wanted to keep it to 10. Here are some other honourable mentions: 
Uretiti, Te Arai, Waipu Cove, Kai Iwi Lakes, Piroa Falls, the giant L&P bottle, Hot Water Beach & Hahei, Whangamata and Pauanui. 

Do you have any highly recommended day trips from Auckland? I'd love to hear them! 

If you're looking to go a bit further south, or are based in the central North Island, check out some great day trips from Taupo by The Wandering Linguist