If you’re one of those folk who likes adventures but can’t be faffed travelling far and wide for them, Auckland is the best place to live. An outdoor playground lies—quite literally—just beyond our doorstep, waiting for us all to explore it.
We’ve got secret swimming spots, hikes and waterfalls, but there are a few other hidden adventures that are guaranteed to quench your wanderlust and send you back to your desk on Monday morning with an ear-to-ear grin of satisfaction.
Here are 9 of the lesser-known adventures to do near Auckland.
Conquer the Omanawanui Track in Whatipu
The first thing you should know about Omanawanui Track is that Justin Timberlake digs it and JT is never wrong. Considered one of the hidden adventure jewels on the wild west coast, this track is located in the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, an area made up of sand dunes, rocky cliffs, wetlands and a black-sand beach—perfect for some casual adventuring. Omanawanui Track is just over two hours long and once you hit the top, you’ll be treated to sprawling views of the Manukau Heads and a serious sense of accomplishment #worthit. Oh, and it’s just a one-hour drive from the big smoke!
Explore Rotoroa Island
For more than 100 years, Rotoroa Island was a place for recovering alcoholics and addicts. It doesn’t sound the most appealing place to visit but now, Rotoroa Island has reinvented itself as a stunning spot for bush walks, lounging on golden beaches and soaking in the scenery—just an hour’s ferry ride from downtown. There are no shops, limited places to stay and usually very few people, so you’ll really feel like you’ve stumbled upon a secret island. Be sure to visit the museum for an adventure and history trip rolled into one.
Splash about at Kendall Bay in Kauri Point Centennial Park
A hidden adventure…in Birkenhead. It may be the unlikeliest of places but this corner of North Shore suburbia is home to a truly epic area to channel your inner explorer. The Kauri Point Centennial Park is dotted with trees and pristine walking tracks, which will lead you to shelly, sandy Kendall Bay. Set up a picnic and go for a dip before continuing on the track for some great harbour views.
Take in the views at the Pukematekeo Lookout
If you ever find yourself at the Waitakere Falls, don’t forget to head to the Pukematekeo Lookout for some breathtaking views of the Auckland area—right from the Bombays in the south to Whangaporoa in the north. You’ll also be able to see the falls in the distance—perfect for those who want to check them out, but can’t do the walk.
Bike through Woodhill Forest
Get on ya bike and hoon through the trees in Woodhill Forest. With more than 100km of tracks and jumps, this is a mountain biker’s paradise just outside of Auckland. Not a speedster? Not to worry. Woodhill Forest has several scenic walking trails, or if you’re after something different, Tree Adventures will have you soaring through the treetops on their 18 flying foxes.
Frolic in a cave at Mercer Bay
We included this west coast spot in Auckland’s Best Beach Day Trips, but as far as hidden adventures go, Mercer Bay is a winner. Situated down the Te Ahuahu turnoff towards Piha, Mercer Bay offers adventures of every kind. You hard-core peeps can scale down the cliff to explore the cave at Mercer Bay itself, or take the one-hour loop walk, taking in the impressive coastal views along the way.
Kayak down the Puhoi River
Secure those lifejackets and meander down the Puhoi River in a kayak. Just 35 minutes from Auckland, Puhoi River is a tranquil place to switch off from life’s woes and cruise for 8km. Don’t have your own gear? Puhoi River Canoe Hire has everything you need for an un-guided kayak adventure.
Soak in Kaitoke Hot Springs on Great Barrier Island
A trip to Great Barrier Island requires a weekend and trust us, you’re going to need it. A four-hour ferry (or a swift 35-minute flight) from Auckland, Great Barrier Island offers a wealth of adventures. From tramping through the beautiful native forest to snorkelling, fishing and—our personal favourite—soaking in the Kaitoke Hot Springs. The Barrier is an explorers’ mecca.
Set up camp at Red Beach
Located just 25 minutes north of the Harbour Bridge, Red Beach is a tranquil escape within reach of the city. There’s plenty of beach space for relaxing and adventure fiends can fish, swim and run around. Make sure you head around the rocks towards Orewa, or via Jacob's Ladder if the tide is high, to access the hidden cove.
Image credit: Rotorua Island