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Auckland to Taupo Drive – 3 Day Road Trip

24 May 2023



A journey from Auckland’s bustling cityscape to Taupo’s scenic lakes will lead you past cascading waterfalls, enchanting forests, geothermal wonders and cultural landmarks. Buckle up and prepare for an unforgettable North Island road trip that will leave you with cherished memories and a newfound appreciation for the natural splendour of New Zealand.

Planning your Auckland to Taupo Journey

Image credit: @skytower_nz

How far is it from Auckland to Taupo?

The distance from Auckland to Taupo, New Zealand, is 272 kilometres via State Highway 1. The drive will take approximately 3 hours and 13 minutes without stopping.

Research your destinations

Before you begin your adventure, we strongly recommend taking the time to research the route and accommodation, as well as attraction accessibility, operating hours, ticket prices and restrictions.

Consider the weather and seasons

When you’re packing gear and clothing for your trip, consider the local temperatures! December, January, and February are typically the warmest months nationwide. July is generally the coldest – with the rainiest being May, July, August, and September. Stay up-to-date with the weather wherever you are, using

Ways to travel from Auckland to Taupo

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Auckland to Taupo by car

Renting a car offers unparalleled independence and flexibility in reaching your destination. With your own vehicle, you can explore at your own pace and stop at the best places along the way – in your own time.

Auckland to Taupo by bus

InterCity buses depart daily from Auckland Central and the airport terminals. Fares start at $37 per adult, and the trip takes around 5 hours.

Auckland to Taupo by plane

If you’re pressed for time and already have plenty of activities planned in your destination, you can fly with the national carrier, Air New Zealand, on a 50-minute direct flight to Taupō. Should you desire an extra touch of exploration, search for flights with stopover options in other cities around the country.

Sample Itinerary: Auckland to Taupo in 3 Days

Day 1: Auckland to Rotorua


Image credit: @hamiltongardens

Kick off day one by visiting the iconic Hamilton Gardens to explore the beautifully landscaped gardens and themed areas. The Waikato River is a great spot for leisurely walks or picnics along the riverbank.

Ready to eat? Visit the Farmers’ Market in town to check out the vibrant local food scene. Later, indulge in a culinary experience at Chim Choo Ree or the award-winning Palate Restaurant, serving innovative dishes crafted with locally sourced ingredients.

Matamata – Hobbiton

Image credit: @hobbitontours

If you’re a Lord of The Rings fan, the iconic filming location offers incredible photo opportunities that will make your friends green with envy! Visitors can book a guided tour of the Hobbiton Movie Set and enjoy a leisurely lunch at The Shire’s Rest Cafe or a refreshing drink at the Green Dragon Inn. Join the Hobbiton Evening Banquet Tour for live music and storytelling.

Waitomo Caves

Image credit: @waitomoglowwormcaves

These enchanting caves make a great stop to view thousands of beautiful glow worms illuminating the darkness with their own natural bioluminescence. Want to take it to the next level? Gear up for an exhilarating black water rafting expedition through the subterranean grotto.

Pureora Timber Trail

Image credit: @docgovtnz

This cycling and walking track takes you through the magnificent Pureora Forest Park. Cross the suspension bridges that provide thrilling walkways over deep gorges. Choose from the Pureora to Piropiro section (approx. 42 km) or the Piropiro to Ongarue section (approx. 45 km).

Along the track, you’ll encounter the Maramataha Swing Bridge, the Ongarue Spiral, and multiple lookout points – providing exquisite moments of awe.

Day 2: Explore Rotorua

Whakarewarewa Forest

Image credit: @evcosgrave

The Redwoods Treewalk is a walkway suspended among the majestic Redwoods – giant, lofty trees with huge trunks that will make you feel fully immersed in nature. A great way to enjoy the fresh air here is to hit the mountain biking trails – there are plenty of options that range from family-friendly tracks to challenging downhill descents.

Skyline Rotorua

Image credit: @skylinerotorua

Get ready for an unforgettable adventure at Skyline Rotorua. From a leisurely Gondola ride to heart-pounding activities like the Luge, and delicious cuisine at the Stratosfare Restaurant and Bar, Skyline is a great place to spend the day in Rotorua if you’re looking for great views, an adrenaline rush, and wonderful local food all at once!

Geothermal Hot Springs

Image credit: @nadinebindersubmarine

Immerse yourself in the Earth’s raw power, courtesy of this region’s awe-inspiring geothermal activity. Hell’s Gate Geothermal Reserve features bubbling mud pools, steaming fumaroles and erupting geysers. Relax in the tranquil surroundings of the world-famous Polynesian Spa, or unwind in private baths at Secret Spot Hot Tubs.

Day 3: Rotorua to Taupo

Huka Falls

Image credit: @lovetauponz

These magnificent falls near Lake Taupo are not to be missed. Walk along the river for stunning views of the falls. Explore the Craters Mountain Bike Park, where tracks traverse native forests and open farmland. Keen for adventure? Get up close and personal with the falls on an adrenaline-pumping jet boat ride.

Lake Taupo Golf Challenge

Image credit: @holeinone_taupo

Want to show off your golfing prowess? Aim for a hole-in-one by hitting golf balls onto a floating pontoon on Lake Taupō to win $10,000 cash.

Mine Bay Māori Rock Carvings

Image credit: @lovetauponz

Māori artist Matahi Brightwell intricately carved these depictions of awesome Māori legends, spiritual beliefs, and ancestral figures, providing insights into the rich heritage and traditions of his people.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Image credit: @harrisoncandlin

Walk the Crossing to view dramatic craters, emerald lakes, and volcanic peaks. In winter, nearby Mount Ruapehu boasts slopes and trails for all skill levels. Travellers can take a day trip from Taupō or stay a night or two by the trail.

Explore More Amazing Things to Do and See with Skyline

Explore more amazing things to do and see with Skyline. Our blog features our recommendations for finding the best cafes and places to shop in Rotorua. Why not consider driving from Auckland to Wellington? Don’t wait – book your adventure today to discover how New Zealand will leave an amazing, lasting impression on your soul.


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