Auckland to Rotorua and then Taupo
Auckland to Matamata
As you head south from Auckland you will be taking the Southern Motorway which seamlessly becomes the Waikato Expressway.From the beginning of the Waikato expressway, it is about 80 km to Hamilton and 68 km to the Coromandel Peninsula. New Campervan holidays will be heading to Rotorua on this page.
As you come over the Bombay Hills, you will notice the lush pastures of Waikato ahead of you as you leave Auckland. To get to the Coromandel and Matamata towards Rotorua, take exit 477 onto SH2. This is a pretty drive through farmland with lots of native-bush clad hills surrounding you. The landscape is lush and on a fine day the colours are vivid with the different greens of the different trees contrasting with the bright blue of the sky.
An alternative route to Rotorua from Auckland is to continue on SH1 to Hamilton rather than taking the route via SH2 - the distance is similar and we wanted a change of scenery having driven through Hamilton to get to Auckland.
The road is mainly single land and it's important to be careful here as accidents are common especially in the vicinity of Maramarua.
Shortly after Maramarua, you will come to the turn off to SH25 which heads to the Coromandel Peninsula - to the east you will see the bush-clad mountains of the Coromandel rising up. Not long after that turn off is the turnoff to the right onto SH27 that takes you south to Matamata and Rotorua.
The scenery is very lush and this is a very pretty drive but take care as the road is narrow in parts. As you near Matamata the road is quite straight and the landscape is flat.
See and Do
- If you are a keen ornithologist or just interested in nature, take a left onto Kaiaua Rd and head to Miranda on the Firth of Thames to view migratory birds
- Take a photo next to the "Welcome to Hobbiton" sigh in Matamata - yes this is where the shire was located in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Keen Lord of the Rings fans can take a tour of location sites
Eat and Drink
- Pukeko's Nest cafe near Maramarua- you can also get gifts here
- Cafe on 2 - this is a quaint cafe on SH2
- Stop for Plains View Tomatoes on the side of the road near the beginning of SH27
- The New Zealand Campervan Holidays team stopped at the Patetonga Cafe and Takeaways - it was a good place to stop
- Stop at Kaimai Cheeses for some tasty local cheese at Waharoa
- If you're a fan of Betty Boo, look out for Cafe 27 (it's purple!) in Waharoa
- There are many cafes in Matamata to stop
- Stay at Opal Hot Springs and Holiday Park in Matamata- as the name suggests this holiday park has mineral hot pools including private pools
Matamata to Rotorua
Volcanic Air Safaris
As you leave Matamata, you leave the flat plains behind and the landscape is more of rolling hills as you head towards volcanic country - Rotorua is New Zealand's geothermal hot spot.
We took a slight diversion off SH27 out of Matamata and headed on SH24 for a short time before turning back towards Rotorua before Te Poi. At Tirau, you take SH5 towards Rotorua. If you have come from Auckland via Hamilton on SH1, you will take SH5 from here. You could also choose to continue south on SH1 towards Tokoroa and Taupo. The New Zealand Campervan Holidays team took SH5 to Rotorua.
We loved passing through Fitzgerald Glade which is a narrow stretch of road with the bush from both sides overhanging giving a natural tunnel effect. You then enter the Kaimai Mamuka Forest Park and this is quite spectacular with lush native rain forest and an on the lefthand side the road falls away sharply. And then before Rotorua you drive through rolling hills and farmland
See and Do
- Adrenaline junkies can stop at Off Road New Zealand at Mamamku for some quad bike action
- Stop at the Agrodome Leisure Park before you reach Rotorua - you can watch sheep shearing which is a great spectacle if you haven't seen it before and probably a must see for anyone who wears wool!
- Take a downhill trip in a Zorb at the place where Zorb was invented - click here. This attraction is close to Rotorua near the Agrodome Leisure Park
Eat and Drink
- We took a slight diversion our of Matamata and head on SH24 before heading back to SH27 and went through Te Poi. At the time the New Zealand Campervan Holidays team was travelling, you could get an all-day breakfast for just $10.00 at the Te Poi cafe
- Fitzgerald Glade cafe and shop
- Stop at Parawai Bay on Lake Rotorua to stretch your legs and have a picnic
Rotorua Hot Thermals
As mentioned already, Rotorua is the geothermal capital of New Zealand, and if you didn't know it before you couldn't miss knowing once you get close to the city as you can smell the sulphur. Don't let that put you off though as once you're in Rotorua you don't really notice the smell.
There are many activities you can get involved with in Rotorua and its surrounds so do check out the local iSite - we will just mention a few we liked, but there are heaps more things to do here.
Rotorua is also a cultural capital of New Zealand and it's a good place to learn about Maori culture if you haven't already. Rotorua is also the location of the greatest Maori love story - the island in the middle of Lake Rotorua is Mokoia Island and this is where Tutanekai lived. He used to serenade Hinemoa, who lived on the lakeside. Hinemoa's relatives disapproved of Tutanekai so hid the canoes at night, but one night Hinemoa swan across the lake to the island to be with her lover. This story is the inspiration for Pokarekare Ana - a famous New Zealand song.
Attractions off SH5 on the road to Taupo are detailed below as are attractions a little out of Rotorua like the Blue (Tikitapu) and Green (Rotokakahi) lakes and Lake Tarawera, (click here).
See and Do
- Take the Lake Coastal Walk. Start at Memorial Drive and follow the path around the lake. The walk around the coast to Queens Drive and the Energy Event Centre is just over 3.5 km. This is a great walk for those of you you are interested in birds. At Sulphur Bay notice the change in colour of the water and check out Camerons laughing gas pool
- Take the Skyline Ride up on the gondola for fantastic views of the area. If you are an adventurous type, take the luge down!!
- There are many places to view active geothermal activity and hot bubbling mud pools around Rotorua, such as Hell's Gate, and most have an entry fee. However, for a free option, head to Kuirau Park in Rotorua - here you can walk around and there are bubbling mud pools all around surrounded by manuka - the fences around these are to protect you. The temperatures are boiling, so do keep to the safe paths
- Visit the Rotorua Museum of Art and History in the Government Gardens - the gardens are beautiful and it's a great way to spend some time. You can walk from here to the lake and join up with the Rotorua Walkway that goes round the lake. It's a great way to spend a balmy Rotorua summer evening
- Visit the Tamaki Maori Village to learn about Maori culture from the past and present. Have a hangi while there
Eat and Drink
- When you visit Rotorua you must go to the lake end of Tutanekai St which is lined with restaurants - the road is blocked off and there are tables and umbrellas on the pavement spilling onto the street in an area known as Eat St. There are restaurants of every nationality and the whole area seems very Mediterranean/European as you check out the menus. A New Zealand Campervan Holidays favourite is Cafe Ephesus - a Turkish restaurant with delicious food
- Have lunch at the BathHouse Cafe next to the Museum of Art and History - you can sit outside looking over the beautiful grounds of the Government Gardens
- Have a hangi meal at the Matariki Hangi and Concert Center near the Novotel on Tutanekai St
- Another favorite of ours is Fat Dog on Arawa St just off Tutanekai St heading towards Princes Gate - you may have to queue to order but the wait is worth it. The decor is quirky and the food is great
- Stay at the Rotorua Top 10 Holiday Park which is close to the city
- The All Seasons Holiday Park, near the airport, is quite close to the lake and is in a park like setting
Rotorua to Taupo
The Blue Lake
There are some great attractions on SH5 from Rotorua to Taupo or on short diversions of SH5. Some, like Wai-o-tapu and the Blue and Green Lakes are not far from Rotorua and can easily be visited during your stay there.
See and Do
- An absolute must-do is to visit the Blue (Tikitapu) and Green (Rotokakahi) Lakes. They are stunningly beautiful and there is great swimming and water sports at the Blue lake (Tikitapu). Take Tarawera Rd off SH30
- Continue on the road into the Blue and Green lakes and you reach Lake Tarawera - another beautiful lake with areas of hot pools and it's a good spot for water sports. On route you can stop to visit the Buried Village - an excavation to show the devastation caused by the Mount Tarawera volcanic eruption in 1886
- For those who want an ecotour in the world's youngest geothermal system, visit Waimangu Volcanic Valley. You can take a boat cruise on Lake Rotomahana
- Visit Wai-o-Tapu thermal park - this is very colourful and there are beautiful pools such as the champagne pool and the Lady Knox geyser.
- Closer to Taupo, you can visit Orakei Korako Cave and Thermal Park - again there are spectacular scenes of bubbling mud and geothermal activity
Eat and Drink
- Stop and have refreshments at the cafe at the Buried Village on Tarawera Rd
- Even if you don't stay, yStop and have refreshments at the cafe at the Buried Village on Tarawera Rd
- Stop at the lookout between Tikitapu and Rotokakahi (Blue and Green lakes) and just enjoy the view of the lakes and the ponga covered hills around you
- Blue Lake Top 10 Holiday Park - this is right on the lake shoreline and has easy access to the lake. There are great bush walks
- Stay at Golden Springs Motel, Holiday Park and Restaurant midway between Rotorua and Taupo. It's the closest holiday park to Wai-o-tapu and Orakei Korako