Everyone loves a summer roadie, but what about a winter one? After all, it’s not exactly like sitting in the car is strictly a good weather activity, right? Auckland has a tendency to feel a bit grey and gloomy when those colder months start drawing near, but lucky for us, we’ve got plenty of places perfect for a cozy weekend getaway within driving distance of our Auckland. All you need is a little bit of petrol, a killer playlist and some tasty snacks (don’t drive hangry, kids).
Here are the best road trips from Auckland to take this winter.
Mangawhai is a beautiful village with a lot to offer, but it’s worth driving the hour out of town to visit the legendary Bennetts of Mangawhai alone. Nab a spot in the sun next to the big French windows and order yourself one of the Bennett’s hot chocolates, where you stir a stick of house-made dark chocolate into hot milk. After you’ve eaten your fill – and hopefully more – at the café, toddle on over to the chocolate shop and pick up a few truffles for you to nibble on as you drive home for your afternoon nap. If you’re up for it, the surf beach is spectacular on a stormy day and the cliff top walk offers some breathtaking views. On Saturdays there’s a pretty epic market in the village centre with some amazing stalls and a gourmet sausage sizzle.
Now this one is not strictly a road trip as you’ll have to take some form of water transport too, but we couldn’t let a little detail like that get in the way of having Waiheke Island on this list. Waiheke is typically thought of as a summer destination, but we reckon it’s perfect for winter too. Wine tastings are just as fun in cold weather right? Book yourself in for a winery tour or freestyle it according to your tastes (and budget!). Both Cable Bay and Mudbrick have open fires in their dining rooms, perfect to warm your cockles after a tour of their beautiful grounds. If you’re after an activity that’s not wine-related (as if), head to Oneroa and check out the shops there. There aren’t many, but they are quirky and eclectic and you’re sure to find a gem. For maximum ease, take the car ferry over as otherwise transport on the island can be a bit of a hassle.
Miranda Hot Springs
Only one hour south east of Auckland you can find Miranda Hot Springs. Soak your travel weary bones in one of their three large pools or splash out on a private spa pool. Thermally heated and filled with fresh mineral water, there’s pools to suit all swimmers including an adults-only one to avoid those splashing kids. The pools are located in stunning parklands with electric barbecues for your use as well as food vendors, so you can come for a dip and stay all day. There’s something reckless and daring about donning your swimmers in the midst of winter so this is definitely one to check out!
If you’re a little bit over the 6am starts most road trips require, Bracu is the perfect option for you. Take it easy in the morning and drive just 45 minutes from Auckland’s CBD to Bracu Olive Estate and Restaurant. Enjoy a tour of their grounds and learn the ins and outs of creating an award-winning olive oil. After you’ve worked up an appetite with all that walking and fresh air, cozy up in the restaurant for dinner. Choose whether to admire the vistas from their all-weather verandah or soak up the atmosphere in the beautifully restyled Kauri villa. Order a la carte or, if you’ve got time, indulge in the seven-course degustation menu. If olives aren’t your thing, never fear! Bracu has teamed up with Villa Maria to offer you the opportunity to wine at Villa Maria, then dine at Bracu. Ahh, perfect!
The Hunting Lodge
Yeah, there’s a lot of wine going on in this list, but Auckland just has so many good spots to offer and The Hunting Lodge has got to be one of the best. With a passion for fresh, seasonal produce, The Hunting Lodge’s food and wine experience evolves with the seasons. If you’re not a wine drinker they’ve still got you well looked after with a selection of interesting teas, juices and kombucha. Operating all day with both a café and restaurant where you can fill your belly, the Hunting Lodge also has a Cellar Door area where you can taste their fantastic wines. The extensive grounds have roaming gardens for you to explore at your own leisure and a family zone of petanque and a kid’s play area. Located in Waimauku, just over half an hour from Auckland central, the Hunting Lodge’s cozy interiors make it a perfect winter roadie destination.
Hallertau Brewery & Restaurant
If you’re more into your craft beers than your wines, West Auckland’s got you covered there too. Riverhead boasts one of Auckland’s top breweries, Hallertau. It’s pretty unique in the New Zealand craft brewery scene as beer tasting and brewery tours are available to educate the public on the care that goes into creating the perfect brew. Hallertau provides delicious food and beers to the good people of Auckland and is a mere 30-minutes out of the city. Check out their funky biergarten and cozy up in front of the outdoor fires with some blankets. If you’re still feeling the cold, a tasting paddle of their house-made beers is sure to warm you up in no time.
Matakana Village Markets
Bundle up in your puffer and beanie and head out to the Matakana Village markets. Make sure you arrive early to find a park and scope out all the best deals. Stock up on high quality market produce for the week ahead, chat to the stall holders and sample some delicious wares. Stagger back to the car under the weight of your purchases and pop over to new opening the Farmers Daughter in nearby Omaha for brunch—try the house-made granola with buffalo yoghurt. On your way back to the big smoke, it’s well worth making a wee detour to check out the Puhoi Valley Cheese Factory. Share a cheese platter inside the homey cafe or grab a coffee and take a stroll around the lake.
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Image Credit: Lydia Arnold