As you head south from Auckland towards Tauranga, you will be taking the Southern Motorway which seamlessly becomes the Waikato Expressway. Just south of the first Pukekohe exit, you enter Franklin district.
From the beginning of the Waikato expressway, it is about 80 km to Hamilton and 68 km to the Coromandel Peninsula.
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 Tauranga and 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.
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. Stay on SH2 to Tauranga.
The day we were travelling there was a lilac flower covering the fields on the side of the road which was very pretty. Ngatea is a pretty town - the hub of the Hauraki Plains but across the plains you will see mountains rising up in the distance. The Hauraki Plains were settled in the 1900's by returned servicemen from WW1 and WW2 which is probably why you will see so many RSA (Returned Serviceman Association) buildings in the region.
Next large town is Paeroa (which calls itself "Antique Town of New Zealand"), which is well known in New Zealand as the home of L&P (lemon & paeroa) - a lemon drink made with local sparkling spring waters - look out for the giant L&P bottle! L&P is a New Zealand Campervan Holidays favourite.
From Paeroa on to Tauranga you travel through farmland with lots of native bush all around which adds to the lushness of the landscape. You travel through the Karangahake Gorge which is at the base of the Kamai-Mamuka Forest Park which is beautiful and then you head to Waihi (New Zealand "heart of gold" according to local signage), a reasonably large town on the way to Tauranga and home of gold - it was a busy gold mining town at the turn of the 20th century and there's still gold here today.
The road into Tauranga passes through Katikati (known as the Mural Town) where there are several options for overnight stays including the domain. Look out for thermal pools and natural hot springs as you head towards Tauranga, now a major and growing New Zealand city.
Tauranga is a growing city and has lots to offer. The beaches are beautiful and the surf is great as well.