The city of Auckland is located on the narrowest point of the country, which means that it is easily accessible from the diversity of the east and west coasts. Photo / Getty

The city of Auckland is located on the narrowest point of the country, which means that it is easily accessible from the diversity of the east and west coasts. Whether you head south or north, in under two hours – traffic permitting – you can find yourself on a beach, a mountain or even an island.

For your next weekend, think about these five off the beaten track destinations. Adventurous by nature and typically Kiwi at heart, they offer quiet getaways where beach and bush walks are the favorite activities, and accommodation is in a simple bach or holiday park.

Port Waikato

Formerly a fishing port, now a peaceful town of Bach, Port Waikato sits beside the Broad Delta where the Waikato River empties into the Tasman Sea. It’s only 70 minutes from Auckland, but it might as well take years.

Surrounded by acres of dunes and bordered by a vast black sand beach battered by wild waves, Port Waikato has the feel of a remote, windswept place from a place much further removed from civilization.

The busiest place in town is the wharf, which is often lined with people, walking sticks in hand. If you want to cast a line but forgot your fishing gear, don’t worry; the wharf store, which has been in existence since 1864, stocks fishing supplies alongside typical dairy products.

On a clear day, sit in the front row on the beach as the sun sets and watch the sun set over the sea.

Spend the weekend at Port Waikato Holiday Park, where you’ll find everything from tent pitches to cabins.

Tapu Valley

It would be quite easy to drive straight through the small town of Tapu heading north along the Thames coast. It would be even easier to miss the deviation from the Tapu-Coroglen road, a winding ribbon of gravel that often narrows in one direction and does indeed take you off the beaten track.

In the Tapu Valley, a perfect slice of the Coromandel, you’ll find outdoor and artistic treats. Head to the 1,200-year-old Kauri Square for a 20-minute walk and a glimpse of what the Coromandel forests looked like. Or visit the Rapaura Water Gardens to explore extremely tranquil gardens. Another creative place to stop is Mahara Sculpture Park and Pottery, a working gallery and private garden featuring artwork interspersed with native bush.

Stay at Tapu Creek Campervan Park for a peaceful camping weekend, or try the River Gypsy House Bus for a unique Airbnb experience.

Discover Tapu as you travel north along the stunning Thames Coast.  Photo / 123rf
Discover Tapu as you travel north along the stunning Thames Coast. Photo / 123rf

Waipū

The village of Waipū and the surrounding countryside is a picturesque pocket of rural New Zealand, just over 90 minutes from Auckland.

The Waipū Caves are a local natural wonder. Equipped with boots and a torch, you can explore these caves laden with stalagmites and stalactites. Make sure you turn off your lights at least once; among the karst rock formations there are glowworms galore.

The Waipū Caves Trail, which begins near the cave entrance, is also worth exploring. It takes around 90 minutes to complete the 4 km return trail, through unique limestone rock formations and a regenerating bush.

Embrace the rural atmosphere of the area and stay at Waipū Glamping for a rustic country retreat.

The village of Waipū and the nearby Langs Beach offer a picturesque corner of rural New Zealand.  Photo / Whangarei District Council
The village of Waipū and the nearby Langs Beach offer a picturesque corner of rural New Zealand. Photo / Whangarei District Council

Pakiri Beach

Pākiri Beach is in the Auckland region, so it’s perfect for a getaway once the city turns red in the upcoming Covid traffic light system. Its wide strip of white sand between cerulean water and the muted green of mature pōhutukawa is exceptionally pleasing to the eyes.

The gentle waves of Pākiri make this beach perfect for beginner surfers. It’s also a great place for bird lovers, as a breeding ground for endangered fairy terns and dotterels.

For a different perspective on the beach, you can experience Pākiri on horseback with Pākiri Beach Horse Rides.

Stay in the oceanfront cottages at Pākiri Beach Holiday Park, where you can watch the sunrises from your own patio. Or for a little more luxury, book in the glamping tent by the river.

Kawau Island

Crescent-shaped Kawau is the exotic island escape you’ve been dreaming of. With no real roads, wandering wallabies, and glowing peacocks strutting about historic gardens, Kawau feels like she’s traveled over an hour north of Auckland.

Accessible by a quick ferry ride from Sandspit Wharf near Warkworth, the island’s main attraction is Governor Grey’s Mansion House and its park-like gardens. There are also several walks that wind through the Kawau Island Historical Reserve, including a track leading to an ancient Pā site and the remains of a copper mine engine room built in 1854.

There are a small number of tarpaulins available for hire on the island. If you plan ahead, you can enjoy a quiet weekend with plenty of time to explore.

Pakiri Beach has all the typical colors of Northland;  a wide strip of white sand between the Cerulean waters.  Photo / Auckland unlimited
Pakiri Beach has all the typical colors of Northland; a wide strip of white sand between the Cerulean waters. Photo / Auckland unlimited

Check alert level restrictions and advice from the Department of Health before traveling. covid19.govt.nz