Looking for something new to do in Auckland? From markets to vineyards, art and gardens – we've picked nine great spots to discover on the outskirts of the city.
1. Kaipara Coast Sculpture Gardens
Just north of Kaukapakapa, turn off State Highway 16 to visit the Kaipara Coast Sculpture Gardens. A well-marked trail leads through beautiful gardens, past a selection of works by both local and international artists. New sculptures are installed each November, but there’s always plenty to see as the garden changes by the season. You can also ‘go bush’ and explore the lower Conservation Track that passes through regenerating native forest with streams and waterfalls to discover. There’s a good garden centre and café here, too, with a play area for kids.
2. Clevedon Farmers’ Market
Just 35 minutes from Auckland CBD, Clevedon is a great spot for a weekend drive. Visit on a Sunday and you’ll find the local Farmers Market in full swing from 8.30am – 1.00pm selling seasonal produce, fresh baking, coffee and specialty foods. Stop in at Clevedon Coast Oysters to sample some of their suculent oysters or try out the honey and bee products at Cammells Honey.
3. Āwhitu Peninsula
Signposted from Waiuku sout-west of Auckland, the Āwhitu Peninsula is a rugged beauty. This rough chunk of land between the Tasman Sea and the Manukau Harbour hosts a lighthouse, a replica of the original that was first lit in 1873. Climb to the top and admire the commanding views, but be sure to hold on to your hat.
4. Northern Kauri
Mahurangi was once synonymous with kauri. Little pockets of these magnificent trees remain around the Mahurangi area, with a spectacular stand at the Parry Kauri Park, just off the main road south of Warkworth, which includes the two largest trees remaining on the east coast. Next to the patch of forest is the Warkworth District Museum, which tells the story of the district’s early days where milling tools and kauri gum rub shoulders with war medals, old china, bottles and buttons, musical instruments and stuffed birds.
5. Ayrlies Garden
Whitford, a small village at country crossroads in south-east Auckland, features a couple of cafés, a pub and a designer shop or two. But the real star of Whitford is Ayrlies Garden – one of only two of New Zealand gardens featured in the BBC series, Around the World in 80 Gardens. Encompassing four hectares of informal country garden and 10 hectares of protected swampland, it includes still ponds and huge trees framing wide vistas and intimate areas with rare flowers.
6. Te Atatū Coastal Walkway
It’s easy to forget you’re close to the city on the Te Atatū Coastal Walkway, meandering through a variety of coastal landscapes, often with only the twittering birds and the salty sea breeze for company. Follow boardwalks through the wetlands before emerging at a playground and a pretty little beach where kids can paddle at high tide when the sand is only a little muddy underfoot. Continue along the waterfront towards the peninsula’s eastern side where a stunning cityscape emerges – Rangitoto, the Auckland Harbour Bridge and then the city’s skyscrapers. Te Atatū Peninsula’s wetlands are also home to rare fernbirds and godwits, the birds who visit the peninsula all the way from Alaska.
7. Karioitahi Beach
The magnificent black-sand beach of Karioitahi on the west coast is a windswept landscape that suits all sorts of invigorating activities. From hang gliding to paragliding, blokarting to surfing, you can even take your four-wheel drive for a spin along the beach if you’re game. There’s not much there in the way of commercialism, no shops or boutiques – it’s really just a whole lot of nature, much as it would’ve looked thousands of years ago. A mere eight kilometres from Waiuku, grab your favourite takeaways on the way through and settle on down to watch the sunset
8. Scandrett Regional Park
Scandrett, out from Sandspit north of Auckland city, is one of the most beautiful of all Auckland’s regional parks, with its historic farm buildings, a safe and shallow swimming beach, kikuyu-covered hills to explore and the long finger of Mullet Point sticking out into Kawau Bay, where there’s always something new to be found in the rockpools. Swimming in the gin-clear water at high tide on a still summer’s day here is magical.
9. Villa Maria Estate
You don’t have to head too far out of the city to enjoy an exceptional vineyard experience. A little slice of Italy tucked away between Auckland International Airport and Māngere, Villa Maria is famous for hosting some of the best outdoor summer gigs. You can also visit Villa Maria for lunch at the Tasting Room and to sample the wines. The lushness will trick you into thinking you are imbibing the afternoon away somewhere in Tuscany.