How to drive from Auckland to Rotorua

Begin your Kiwi Road Trip in Auckland and take an enchanting self-drive tour to Rotorua, enjoyed the drive down State Highway 1 to Hamilton, a city full of attractions. After Hamilton, you travel through Cambridge, a place known as the ‘Town of Trees’, and finally Rotorua, steeped in Maori history.

Auckland to Hamilton
 127 km (79 miles)
Approximately 1.5 hours
Road Conditions: Southern Motorway – State Highway 1

Auckland is surrounded by the sparkling waters of the Waitemata and Manukau Harbour. The ferry located at The Downtown Ferry building will take you to a large array of magical islands within the Auckland Isthmus. Auckland offers exciting attractions close to its city centre such as Kelly Tarlton’s Underwater World which takes you on a journey along its moving walkway to viewing life below the sea. Auckland’s War Memorial Museum and Auckland’s botanical Wintergarden’s are found within Auckland’s largest park, the Domain.

As you travel down the southern motorway, suburban scenery gradually gives way to the farmland of South Auckland, an area favoured by bloodstock breeders. You will enjoy motorway speeds all the way to Bombay, a major market gardening area.

The Waikato River will accompany you for much of your journey through the green countryside. Places of interest along the way include the wine growing area of Te Kauwhata and the coal mining town of Huntly. Before you get to Hamilton, you’ll notice side roads leading to Waingaro Hot Springs and Raglan, a surf resort on the west coast.

There is so much going on in Hamilton; it is well worth staying a night or two. Take a look at ‘The Hamilton Gardens’ with the Chinese Scholars Garden, Japanese Garden of Contemplation, English Flower Garden, Indian Char Bagh Garden, and American Modernist Garden to the Italian Renaissance Garden.

Hamilton to Cambridge
 23 km (14 miles)
Approximately 0.25 hour
Road Conditions: State Highway 1

The mighty Waikato River brings a unique beauty to Hamilton City. As well as river boat cruising, local attractions include gardens, museums and a giant free flight aviary. At the southern end of the city main street, you will discover a wide variety of excellent restaurants and cafes.

The short trip south takes you through prime Waikato farmland. As you near Cambridge you will notice fewer cows and more horses. Cambridge is known as the ‘Town of Trees’ with a stunning range of exotic trees that add to the English-style town atmosphere.

Only a 15-minute drive from Cambridge is Maungatautari, a mountain sanctuary for native wildlife, and now a beautiful home for reintroduced kiwi and their newborn plus other native birds. On the way to Maungatautari Ecological Island, you pass the beautiful Lake Karapiro, an international water sports venue.

Cambridge to Rotorua
 87 km (54 miles)
Approximately 1.25 hours
Road Conditions: State Highway 1 – State Highway 5

On your way to Rotorua, you’ll come across the town of Tirau, known for its antique shops and animal-shaped corrugated iron buildings.

Enjoy plantation pine forest and a refreshing patch of native bush, Fitzgerald Glade, before you encounter the unusual terrain of the Mamaku district. Mini volcanic cones dot the landscape, some showing their solidified lava core. The last part of your journey takes you past the gondola and luge rides of Mt Ngongataha.

Rotorua is steeped in Maori history; here in Rotorua, you will be able to witness traditional song and dance and explore historic villages. With its unique geothermal springs, mud pools and geysers; Rotorua is truly a uniquely exceptional experience. With 16 picturesque lakes, water-sports revolve around boating, fishing, swimming, kayaking and water skiing. View wild trout in their natural habitat, birdlife in native bush settings, take a gondola ride up to Mt Ngongotaha, take a thrilling ride on the luge or try a bumper boat ride.