Visit the Waitakere Ranges, replete with impressive waterfalls and rugged but beautiful beaches. Around 45min (peak hours) drive from central Auckland.
Drive or walk up one of Auckland's many volcanic cones such as One Tree Hill or Mount Eden to experience panoramic views of the city, and to see cows and/or sheep in a major metropolitan area!
Climb the Auckland Harbour Bridge.
Do the Sky Jump, a cable controlled base jump from a height of 192m on the Sky Tower. Or try the Sky Walk, a walk around a 1.2m walkway with no hand rails.
Rainbow's EndA family-based theme park with many rides and attractions.
Visit Rangitoto Island, a dormant volcano that stands prominently near the entrance to the Waitemata Harbour. Climb to the summit for fantastic views of the harbour and Auckland city. Take a picnic or have a swim. Get there on a ferry from downtown.
Rent skates in Okahu Bay and take a scenic skate along Tamaki Drive.
Visit Waiheke Island, home to an abundance of art galleries, sculptures and beautiful winery cellar doors. You can rent a scooter and get around the island fairly quickly.
Manukau coastal walks between Onehunga and Blockhouse Bay. The track is 9km long in total, but meets the roads in many places, so you can easily do just part of it. It includes areas of native forest.
There are many beaches, due to Auckland's straddling of two harbours. The most popular ones are in three areas:
North Shore beaches are on the Pacific Ocean and stretch from Long Bay in the north to Devonport in the south. They are almost all sandy beaches with safe swimming, and most have shade provided by pohutukawa trees. Most are accessible by bus. St Leonard's Beach is gay male nudist. Just north of Long Bay is a family nudist beach. Others are conventional. Takapuna Beach is the most centrally located, with a lovely beach front café at one end.
West coast beaches are on the Tasman Sea, and have large expanses of sand and rolling surf. They have unpredictable rips so you should swim only between the life guards' flags, which cover select areas of the most popular beaches. They are about 40min drive from central Auckland and the roads are narrow and winding. You'll need your own transport. There's little shade available, and few shops. The sand on these beaches is dark in colour due to high iron content from its volcanic origins. There are several smaller beaches accessible only by foot. The major beaches from south to north are:
#Whatipu is the southernmost beach, and the most isolated. The last 7km of the road there is unsealed, but in good condition. There's a track from the carpark to the beach conservatively signposted as 15min walk. There are several volcanic outcrops surrounding the beach, and native vegetation including cabbage trees along the path. Manukau Harbour is just to the south of the beach, separated by Paratutae Island. Paratutae is joined to the beach except at high tide. There are caves signposted 20min walk from the car park; the track is muddy during winter. The caves are less spectacular than they once were because they've partially filled up with sand. No dogs are permitted.
#Karekare is the next beach north of Whatipu. It's considerably more popular and there are lifeguards patrolling the beach during summer. Karekare Falls are a waterfall not far from the road.
is the best known and most popular beach. It has lifeguards during summer. The most notable feature is Lion Rock, which separates the northern and southern sides of the beach. There's a steep track partway up Lion Rock to get decent views. Kitekite Falls are a small and pleasant waterfall near the beach. Laird Thomson Track is a walkway from North Piha to the isolated Whites Beach
, which usually has very few people on it.
#Anawhata has no road access to the beach, but there's a fairly steep track down from an unsealed road. This is the least used beach and you may be the only people there at any given time.
#Te Henga (Bethells Beach) is accessible by road, and has lifeguards in the summer. Erangi Point separates it from unpatrolled O'Neill Bay to the north, which can only be reached by foot.
is the second most popular of the west coast beaches. There's a colony of gannets (seabirds) which nest in huge numbers and are worth seeing year-round. Muriwai has a café, a golf course, and lifeguards during summer.
Tamaki Drive beaches are on the Waitemata Harbour, in the upmarket suburbs of Mission Bay and St Heliers. These are sometimes-crowded family beaches with a good range of shops lining the shore. Swimming is safe. Mission Bay beach is Auckland's equivalent of Los Angeles' Venice beach and is extremely popular on a hot summer's day. To its east, Kohimarama and St Heliers beaches are usually less crowded. Ladies Bay to the east of St Heliers has historically been a nudist-friendly beach, but is frequented by regular beachgoers too, and is accessible by a 5min walk down from the cliff-top road.