Local Escapes

Auckland’s Top 10 Hidden Adventures Worth Grabbing Your Runners For

By Armelle Frimpong

Mercer Bay from the top of the Ahu Ahu track.

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 to explore it. 

There are a few 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 10 of the lesser-known adventures to go on near Auckland. 

Frolic At Mercer Bay

A view of the track at Mercer Bay.Image credit: Monica Ska | Alltrails

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. In these times of Kauri Dieback, there's no off-roading, but you can take the one-hour loop walk, taking in the impressive coastal views along the way. 

Explore Whatipu Caves And Omanawanui Track

Women walking up steps near Whatipu beach.Image credit: ATEED | Supplied

Considered one of the hidden adventure jewels on the wild West Coast, the Whatipu caves track is definitely worth checking out. It's 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.

Park at the Whatipu public car park, follow the track along the base of the hill through the back dunes and fill your exploring boots. Oh, and this is all just a (basically, stunning) one-hour drive from the big smoke. Return or knock off both in one day, conquering the mighty Omanawanui Track which has been reopened to great acclaim.

Explore Rotoroa Island 

People walk along the beach at Rotoroa Island. A great place for a hidden adventure in Auckland.Image credit: Fullers 360 | Supplied

For more than 100 years, Rotoroa Island was a place for recovering alcoholics and addicts. It doesn’t sound like 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 Auckland.

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. Here are our tips for the best things to do on Rotoroa once you've hopped off the ferry.

Hike Kendall Bay In Kauri Point Centennial Park 

A view of the city from Kauri Point Centennial Park.Image credit: Fou Johnson | Alltrails

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. Kauri Point Centennial Park Loop 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. 

Mission Out To Āwhitu Peninsula

Someone looks out from the lighthouse over Manukau Heads.Image credit: ATEED | Supplied

Head to Āwhitu Peninsula and make a day of exploring this West Coast gem. While the road to the Manukau Heads Lighthouse and its cliff-top views worthy of an Instagram post is temporarily closed you can still enjoy white sandy beaches and rugged black sand beaches in this corner of Auckland. Have an afternoon dip at Grahams Beach.

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, not to mention the option to jump on a horse for a scenic tour of the forest. 

Kayak Down The Puhoi River

Someone kayaks down Puhoi River with their dog in the back.Image credit: Puhoi Kayaks | Facebook

Secure those life jackets 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 Kayaks has everything you need for an unguided kayak adventure. 

Soak In Kaitoke Hot Springs On Great Barrier Island 

People put their feet in the hot springs at Kaitoke Hot Springs, Great Barrier Island.Image credit: ATEED | Supplied

A trip to Great Barrier Island requires at least 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.  

Take On Te Ara Tahuna Estuary Cycleway And Walkway 

A view over the estuary at Te Ara Tahuna.Image credit: Linda Rugg | Alltrails

Located just 35 minutes north of the Harbour Bridge, Te Ara Tahuna Estuary Cycleway and Walkway is a tranquil escape within easy reach of the city. Head to Red Beach 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.

Hike Around Panmure Basin

Panmure Basin path overlooks boats.Image credit: Ryan Abdullah | Alltrails

For a little getaway that feels a world away from the hustle and bustle of Auckland proper, head to the Panmure Basin. A 3km loop around the water on a mostly flat gradient it's ideal for all abilities.

If you want to up the ante, be sure to pump some iron and try your hand at the various workout stations around the lake. Once you've knocked that off, drop in at Peach's Hot Chicken, one of the best fried chicken purveyors in Auckland. 

Want more to explore? Check out Auckland's best walks.

Main image credit: Mercer Bay by Oliver Strewe 

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