The Ultimate Roadtrip: 5 days, 4 nights

This itinerary has been designed to showcase the range of experiences and landscapes on offer in the central north island, and all within a couple of hours of each other. Starting in Auckland travel though the picturesque coastal region of the Bay of Plenty and on to the famous geothermal wonderland of Rotorua where Maori culture abounds. Taupo, on the shores of New Zealand’s largest lake, is next on the list for a spot of fishing or adrenalin pumping activities. Underground adventure then awaits at Waitomo, whether it’s a boat ride through the glowworm grottos or abseiling in to cave with names like The Lost World. Your road trip will end in the metropolitan city of Hamilton known for its café scene, boutique shopping and vibrant nightlife.

Leg 1: Auckland to Bay of Plenty via Matamata


Hobbiton Movie Set, Matamata, NZ

Head south out of Auckland and take SH2 then SH27 towards Matamata. Drive time to Matamata approximately 2 hours.

Matamata options:

  • Stop for lunch or a snack at Kaimai Cheese, watch the cheese making process and sample some of its fine cheeses.
  • Visit the set of Hobbiton Movie Set where Peter Jackson brought his Lord of the Rings vision to life.

Head on to Tauranga and the Bay of Plenty via SH29. Drive time approximately 45 minutes.

Bay of Plenty options:

  • Walk along the beautiful white sand beach of Mt Maunganui and around the base of its famous landmark, Mauao.
  • Relax in the hot saltwater pools before enjoying an evening meal at one of the many restaurants nearby.
  • Check out the funky cafés and shops in the Mt Maunganui township.
  • Take a scenic flight over the Bay of Plenty for amazing views of the coast.

Overnight Tauranga / Bay of Plenty

Leg 2: Tauranga / Bay of Plenty to Rotorua


Wai-o-tapu Wonderland, Rotorua, NZ

A 35 minute drive east of Mt Maunganui on SH2 is the town of Te Puke well known for kiwifruit growing.

Te Puke options:

  • Te Puke Learn about the fruit named after New Zealand with a fun tour at Kiwi 360.
  • Take a jet boat ride on the Kaituna River at Springloaded Fun Park.

Continue on SH33 to Rotorua. Drive time approximately 45 minutes.

  • Take in a farm show in Rotorua or get the heart racing with one of its adventure activities.
  • At the end of the day, soak it all away in the famous Polynesian Spa on the shores of Lake Rotorua.

Overnight Rotorua

Leg 3: Rotorua to Taupo


Lake Taupo, NZ

Head south on SH5 towards Taupo. Drive time approximately 1 hour.

Taupo options:

  • Visit New Zealand’s only prawn park, on the banks of the Waikato River, and catch yourself dinner.
  • Treat yourself to a round at world-class Wairakei International Golf Course.
  • Visit Taupo Museum and the wondrous Ora Garden, which won gold at the Chelsea Flower show.

Overnight Taupo

Leg 4: Taupo to Waitomo via Te Kuiti


Mangapohue Natural Bridge, Waitomo, New Zealand

Head north west connecting with SH30 towards Te Kuiti and Te Purerora Forest.

  • Visit the Pa Harakeke Eco Cultural Centre (45 mins south west) amid the beautiful native bush of Pureora for an enriching experience and insight into Maori lore.
  • Ride a section of The Timber Trail along an old tramway in the Pureora Forest

Continue on to Waitomo Caves. Drive time approximately 50 minutes.

Waitomo options:

  • Try one of the many caving experiences among Waitomo’s weird limestone formations.
  • Check out the myriad glowworms that cast their light from the cave ceilings.
  • Take the short bush walk to the enchanting natural limestone bridge of Mangapohue - just like the Waitomo Caves, but above ground.
  • Visit Hairy Feet Waitomo near Piopio where scenes from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey were filmed

Overnight at Waitomo

Leg 5: Waitomo to Hamilton via Maungatautari


Great Spotted Kiwi, Otorohanga Kiwi House, Otorohanga, NZ

Head north from Waitomo on SH 3 to Otorohanga.

  • See New Zealand’s iconic bird up close at Otorohanga Kiwi House.

Stay on SH3 to Kihikihi and take a right turn towards Pukeatua.

  • Explore Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari, a huge inland sanctuary where New Zealand’s wildlife lives as nature intended.

Continue back on SH3 towards Hamilton.

  • Step into Waikato Museum, where you will find leading art exhibitions and the region’s fascinating heritage showcased.

Overnight Hamilton