South-Auckland – Where to go and what to see

Magical South-Aucklans

When we moved to Auckland in early September last year, we never imagined that 5 months later we are only half way through our travel plans. I mean yes, we have visited many different sights in and around Auckland, but there are still a lot of great places around Auckland, where we have not been yet. That said, this post in not about places we haven’t been, so lets move on. 😀

After spending nearly 3 months around South-Auckland area and making at least one discovery trip a week, we can say that this part of Auckland has some of the best views, great historic sites and lots of interesting beaches. In this post we will introduce 15 of the best sites that we’ve wandered in South-Auckland.

Ambury Regional Park

Starting from the closest place to Auckland downtown (15km) is Ambury Regional Parl. As this park is also a working farm, visitors can see and walk among farm animals like sheep, cows, goats etc.

Things to do in South-Auckland
Ambury Regional Park

This park is a great spot to fill a couple of hours, full day or even stay overnight. There are picnic tables, BBQ facilities and camping area (permit is required and there are fees associated) as well as an occasional icecream truck. It really is a great place to spend all day or for just a quick stop to get that essential photo of New Zealand sheep 😉

Puketutu Island

About 6 km south from Ambury Regional Park is Puketutu Island. Te Motu a Hiaroa (Puketutu Island) is a volcanic island in the Manukau Harbour, New Zealand. It’s approximately 195 hectares in total and has a central volcanic cone.

Things to do in South-Auckland
View from Puketutu Isand

If you plan to visit this park then note that Puketutu is currently under development. This means that although you can drive across you can’t drive arond the island. That said, you can still go for a walk and enjoy great scenery.

Otuataua Stonefields

The Otuataua Stone Fields are the only place in Auckland where you can still see Maori stone structures on public land. After you have entered the stonefield you can take various walkways which all take you through great landscape and views. For the most part you’ll be walking on overgrown grassland with few steps to cross the paddocks.

Places to visit in South-Auckland
Otuataua Stonefields

Near the stonefields is also Ihumatao Rd Waterfront Reserve with great views over Waitakere Ranges and Awhitu Peninsula.

Places ti vivit in South-Auckland
Ihumatao Rd Waterfront Reserve

If you are really into walking tracks then there is a 8 km walk (16km return), that will take you through Otuataua Stonefields, Puketutu Island and Ambury Regional Park. You can start the walk from either Otuataua Stonefields or Ambury Park. For a shorter walk, start at Oruarangi Creek, or at Creamery Road.

Villa Maria Winery

Weather you are looking for something to do over the weekend or during the week, visiting a winery is always a safe choice. Just minutes from the Auckland International Airport is an award-winning Villa Maria Winery. This beautiful winery has regular winery tours as well as different tasting options. If you don’t want to participate in those activities then go wander around in this beautiful vineyard by yourself.

to do in South-Auckland
Villa-Maria Wineri in Spring

In addition to the winery they also have a great restaurant/café where you can enjoy beautiful views over the vineyard while sipping away some great wine and/or delicious food. Also if you are into outdoor events then during the warmer months they host great concerts at their Auckland Winery.

Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Temple

This temple has made to our list because it is such a beautiful and relaxing place to visit. (We do not promote Buddhism as we are not religious people). The Fo Guang Shan Temple is 23 km from Auckland downtown and it’s the largest Buddhist temple in the country.

Places to visit in Auckland
Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Temple courtyard

The temple has many areas (courtyard, exhibition hall, tea house, gift shop, etc.) and visitors are welcome to wander around. In the courtyard there are also two different wooden paths amongst cherry trees making it a great spot to admire cherry blossom during spring.

Auckland Botanical Garden

Auckland Botanical Garden is further 6,5 km south from Fo Guang Shan Temple or 24km from Auckland downtown. This magnificent garden covers 64 hectares of land, including 10 hectares of native fores. To discover this place we recommend to grab a brochure from Huakaiwaka visitor centre and do a self-guided tour. Alternatively you can also arrange a group tour on request or join a free guided walk on every Wednesday.

Places to visit in Auckland
Simon posing at the Auckland Botanical Garden

Once you have strolled around the garden, wander back to the visitor centre and sit down at the Café Miko. From there you can take in the stunning views over the Gardens accompanied by a cup of aromatic coffee with a slice of your favorite cake. This surely will be a cherry on top of your experience. No pun intended 😀

Clarks Beach

This place was our little hideaway for nearly two months and we absolutely love it. It has two different beach areas, one with rocky surface and the other with sand (700m from each other). Both beaches are clean with the warmest water in Auckland. Best yet, Clarks Beach has beautiful views and it doesn’t get too crowded. (Except on Christmas Day when it was crazy busy)

Clarks Beach
Clarks Beach

If you are adventurous then we recommend to go for a walk along the beach (during low tide) as this beach has very interesting shore. PS! Go during high tide for a beach day and for the sandy beach follow Halls Access, Clarks Beach.

Henry Reserve Cascade

Another interesting spot near Clarks Beach is Henry Reserve. This hidden cascade is located in a little town called Patumahoe. To get to the falls from Hunter Rd you have the option of taking a short but steep side track ( 1-2 minutes) or the longer and easier track (8-10 minutes) that will take you to the bottom of the cascade. If you choose to take the short track, you will get straight to the viewing platform. That said this track can be very slippery so make sure you have proper footwear.

best picning spots near Auckland
Henry Reserve Cascade viewing platform

To get the full experience we recommend going down to the falls following the designated path and then taking the side track on your way up. If you think that this little cascade is not woth a trip from Auckland then you can visit it on your way to Glenbrook Vintage Railway or Manukau Heads Lighthouse (10 km detour).

Manukau Heads Lighthouse

Manukau Heads is located on top of Awhitu Peninsula and is around 100 km and 1:30 h from Auckland downtown. Although the drive is long it’s 100% worth. From the lighthouse you can admire stunning views over Waitakere Ranges, Whatipu Beach and Manukau Harbour.

Best places to visit in Auckland
Manukau Heads

Another great thing about this lighthouse is that unlike the Cape Reinga Lighthouse in Northland, this one is opened for public. This means that as long as you visit the place during park opening hours you can actually enter the lighthouse and take the stairs all the way up to the lightkeepers’ balcony.

Places to see in South-Auckaland
View from the balcony over Manukau Harbour and Maori Carvings on the right

Once you’ve taken in the views and learned about the history of this place you can either go for a small walk to the Māori Carvings or head back down to the car park for a picnic or continue your journey to Awhitu Regional Park.

Awhitu Regional Park

You drove all the way to Manukau Heads and are not ready to return home yet? Not a problem, you can easily extend your day trip by visiting Awhitu Regional Park. Normally when we visit Manukau Heads Lighthouse we don’t have lunch over there as it can get quite crowded. So instead we drive to Awhitu Regional Park and have our lunch/picnic in this peaceful retreat.

Places to see in Awhitu Peninsula, Auckland
Great picnic spot near Auckland

Beside the great views and more private picnic spots, Awhitu Regional Park has great walking and mountain bike trails as well as nice, sandy beaches. Also, if you prefer to stay all weekend then Awhitu Regional Park got’s you covered 😉 (Check out the prices and rules)

Grahams Beach Reserve

Now, if walking tracks are not for you and you just want to cool down and chill while in Awhitu Peninsula, then head to nearby Grahams Beach.

Awhitu Peninsula, Auckland
Awhitu Peninsula, Auckaland

This is one of nicest beaches in the peninsula with well maintained picnic tables, children’s playground and public toilets. Bear in mind, during the summer months this beach gets quite busy with people, boats, kayak’s, jet skis etc.

Karioitahi Beach

On the western side on the beginning of Awhitu Peninsula lies an expansive and rugged black-sand beach, Karioitahi. This beach is an awesome spot for different on and off water activities like surfing, 4WD, horse riding, paragliding etc.

Best beach near Auckland
Black sand beach near Auckland

If you decide to go for a ride on sand then make sure you know when the tide comes in, have a proper vehicle and relevant experience as a lot of cars have found their end on this beach.

Best beaches in New Zealand
Car wreck in Karioitahi Beach

PS! We tried driving on sand with a motorcycle as well as a front wheel drive vehicle and struggled a lot so decided to keep the drive short 😛

Castaway Resort & Bersanti Spa

Looking for a place to recharge your batteries and pamper your body? About 70 kilometres from the Auckland CBD is one of the most wonderful resorts in New Zealand – Castaway Resort. We discovered this resort and spa on our trip to Karioitahi beach. The place is set in tranquil and relaxing surroundings high on the cliff tops above Karioitahi Beach.

Best places to visit in Auckland
Views from Castaway Resort

Beside different size chalets they also have clamping opportunites, wedding venue, converents rooms with breath taking ocean views as well as restaurant and day spa.

Talking about the spa, Bersanti Spa has such a great vibe and tranquil setting that once there, it’s easy to instantly fall to rejuvenation and relaxation mood. I mean have a look at these outdoor stone baths overlooking the Karioitahi beach and Tasman Sea.

Bersanti Day Spa
Bersanti Day Spa outdoor stone baths

Although you can’t see the view from this picture we promise that once you get closer and look through the bamboo straws you’ll be amazed 🙂

Port Waikato and Sunset Beach

Port Waikato is a quiet seaside town, 88 km south of Auckland. Although it’s a well-known surfing spot as well as whitebaiting destination it’s somewhat an untouched slice of New Zealand coastline. The most known place in this town is the beautiful Sunset Beach known for the obvious – magnificent sunsets. The thing we love about this place is the lack of crowds making it a great get away place.

Places to go in South-Auckland
Sunset Beach in Port Waikato

PS! Once in Port Waikato we also recommend to visit Cobourne Reserv and slide down from the Port Waikato Sand Dunes.

Waikaretu and Nikau Glow Worms Cave

After spending some time in Port Waikato head 40 minutes further south along the coast to the Nikau Caves. On your way down, you will past some ridiculously awesome limestone outcrops in the surrounding hills.

Places to see in South-Auckland
Waikaretu Valley

If you are a fan of “The Lord of The Rings” movie then know that Waikaretu valleys were used in The Lord of the Rings films. Although the setting for Weathertop Hollow is located on private farmland you can view the limestone formations and scenery from the road side (Waikaretu Road). 

Drive. Some days, nothing beats a really good #drive

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