Most scenic route from Auckland to Rotorua

Many tourists will take a trip from Auckland to Rotorua, either as a day trip or as part of an extended itinerary that takes them across the nation. Right on Auckland’s doorstep is Rotorua, a stunning lakeside city with a distinctive scent from the rest of New Zealand. For Aucklanders, a day trip to Rotorua has long been a must-do weekend vacation. Still, with so many people’s international travel plans put on hold by all the grounded planes, there has been a noticeable shift toward Kiwis discovering their own country. 

The quickest route, via Hamilton, will need you to drive 230 kilometers in around 3 hours. This route follows Highway 1 to Tirau, where it changes to Highway 5, which you will continue to follow until you reach Rotorua. Although the travel is lovely, we have stops along the way that will astound you.

Between Auckland and Rotorua, there are many unique attractions and things to do. The staff at Skyline Rotorua has compiled a few top road trip suggestions because it can be overwhelming to determine where to travel and what to do along the way. There is a great day here for everyone, whether it’s your first visit to Rotorua or you’re a seasoned pro on the luge circuit.


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On your trip to Rotorua, stop in this small rural village not far from Auckland. While a few hours are plenty for exploration, spending the night is not necessarily harmful if you have the luxury of time. The town center, a vintage area, is where you should begin sightseeing. Some are from the middle of the 1800s! The Waiuku Town Halls, the church, the National Bank, and many more outstanding attractions are all easily accessible by picking up a history map at the nearby information center.


There is also the Waiuku Museum, where you can examine various Maori and European artifacts. It’s time to leave town and check out Karioitahi Beach if relaxation is on your mind. You can go horseback riding or 4×4 driving or take a stroll while admiring the black sand. Waiuku Forest is a peaceful place where you can spend a whole day alone, riding your bike or walking while taking in some breathtaking natural vistas.

Visit Hamilton Gardens to make it the ideal stop on your journey. The spectacular 58-hectare expansive gardens highlight the link between people and plants throughout several civilizations through 5 distinct garden collections. Themed gardens, including the Italian Renaissance Garden and the Chinese Scholars’ Garden, highlight the distinctive beauty of various types of international flora. Stop by the Hamilton Gardens Café for a pick-me-up and grab a tasty ice cream cone or a hot cup of coffee. If you have more time, you may enjoy a tranquil riverboat tour of the city with the Waikato River Cruise, which departs from the area every Thursday through Sunday. The Hamilton Zoo is the biggest in New Zealand and is home to more than 600 different animal species from around the globe. Test your nerves by challenging Oz to a staring match in the Tiger enclosure, which is among the best.

With more than 100 waterfalls in the city itself, Hamilton is best known for them. It is encircled by the magnificent Lake Ontario and the Niagara Escarpment, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, with its trails and mountains. Aside from these beautiful falls, several parks and conservation areas beautifully showcase the site’s natural beauty and are great for outdoor activities like canoeing, hiking, and relaxing. The Sam Lawrence Park, located at the summit of the Niagara Escarpment, offers spectacular views of Lake Ontario, the Dundas Valley, and parts of Hamilton. This city park’s gorgeous rock garden, paths, and wildflowers are also well-known.


The Maori name for this tiny settlement in New Zealand is “home of many cabbage trees.” It’s a fascinating site to visit, for sure. The world’s most extensive corrugated iron sheep and sheepdog are the first things you’ll notice. A wool gallery is inside The Big Sheep. The Tirau Information Center is in the large sheepdog right next to it. Corrugated iron is a traditional building material in New Zealand, but it can also be helpful creatively. You can explore the creative side of corrugated iron at Tirau.

Along with the neighboring Okoroire Hot Springs hotel, which offers natural outdoor baths, a golf course, and lodging, there are a variety of attractive cafés, boutique gift stores, galleries, and antique shops to browse. Primarily constructed buildings resembling dogs, sheep, and rams are present. Pukeko, a praying mantis, and a cow with a shopping cart are among the sculptures. The whole thing makes for a fun pit stop.

You can find one of the giant doll, toy, and train collections in the nation in Tirau. Even a castle is accessible nearby. There are also many stores that you can visit on your own (and tempt yourself with). Kids will adore the Shell & Jade factory and the Christmas Heirloom Company store, which is brimming with holiday decor.


When you first arrive, Rotorua will give you a gentle welcome before you dive right in and start to know this incredible location. Making a list of the “must do” activities in the town is a beautiful place to start because there are so many sights to see. Wai-O-Tapu, a location that incorporates a variety of distinct volcanic phenomena, including the world-famous Champagne Pool and the Lady Knox Geyser, is one of the best spots to view the geothermal paradise in all its splendor. Spend a good two hours exploring Wai-O-Tapu and stopping at all the various lakes, mud pools, and geysers.

With over 90km of top-notch mountain riding trails, Rotorua is somewhat of a mountain biking destination in New Zealand. Races are held in and around Rotorua almost every weekend, and beginners and experts enjoy the area’s terrain.

You can have one of the most excellent experiences at the Skyline Gravity Park, which is perched atop Mt. Ngongotaha and provides a view over Rotorua. Take the gondola to the peak’s top and enjoy more than 8.5 kilometers of downhill terrain. There are half-day, and full-day gondola passes available. For us, cycling here is at its best because there are no hills to climb.

Visit Te Puia for breathtaking displays of Maori culture that you won’t find anywhere else. You’ll hear directly from Maori people about their customs and culture and see a few more instances of geothermal activity. Check out Marae’s Maori culture show and the New Zealand Maori Arts & Crafts Institute housed there. Te Puia also features the renowned Pohutu Geyser in addition to a live kiwi bird enclosure, which is a rare chance to observe the New Zealand national symbol.


Bus from Auckland to Rotorua

Yes, there are daily buses that run from Auckland to Rotorua. The journey takes around 3 hours. You can find more information on schedules and fares on the InterCity website.

Auckland to Rotorua via hamilton

The most direct route from Auckland to Rotorua is via Hamilton. The journey takes around 2.5 hours. You can find more information on schedules and fares on the InterCity website.

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