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Best Stops Along the Hamilton to Rotorua Drive

12 January 2023




Just one and a half hours south of Auckland and east of Tauranga, in the Waikato Region of New Zealand’s North Island, Hamilton is a great place to begin a Rotorua road trip with the whole family. Although driving from Hamilton to Rotorua city is a short journey, stop and check out some of the fantastic places, sights, and attractions in between before arriving at your destination!

How Far is the Drive from Hamilton to Rotorua?

Image credit: Visit Hamilton

The day trip from Hamilton to Rotorua is 108 km via SH1 and SH5 and will take you roughly 1 hour and 30 minutes to complete. Read on to find out the best stops when travelling between Hamilton and Rotorua that will be sure to add some fun and memories to your trip!

Ways to Get from Hamilton to Rotorua

Bus from Hamilton to Rotorua

Catch the InterCity Hamilton to Rotorua bus from the Hamilton Transport Centre for $23-40 (not including return). Buses depart twice daily from Hamilton with a travel time of 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Drive from Hamilton to Rotorua

If you happen to be in the mood for a Hamilton road trip, take a car from Hamilton to Rotorua instead. If you don’t stop, it takes about 1 hour 30 minutes to get from Hamilton to the Rotorua city centre.

Hamilton Gardens

Image credit: @iamcaseylee

This Hamilton spot is the perfect place to relax and stay the whole day. Stop and enjoy a picnic by the pond before you start your Hamilton to Rotorua road trip.

Otorohanga Kiwi House

Image credit: @danieljtalbot

If you happen to love birds, stop and discover the Otorohanga Kiwi House on your way from Hamilton to Rotorua. Experience native birds in the free-flight aviary before continuing on your road trip.

Hobbiton Movie Set Tours

Image credit: @hobbitontours

If you’re a Lord of the Rings fan, visiting Hobbiton between Hamilton and Rotorua is an experience you won’t want to miss. Stop along the way and check out the famous movie set.

Sanctuary Mountain – Maungatautari

Image credit: Sanctuary Mountain – Maungatautari

Halfway between Hamilton and Rotorua city, this conservation project is home to many endangered species. Discover the walking trails or join a guided tour if you happen to be interested in New Zealand wildlife.

The Boatshed Kayaks

Image credit: @theboatshedkayaks

Stop off at the Boatshed Kayaks between Hamilton and Rotorua for a Waikato River guided tour before you carry on your road trip. Offering kayak and paddleboard trips and rentals, there’s something for everyone.

Te Waihou Walkway

Image credit: @stace_mccarthy

Marvel at the Blue Spring on this trail between Hamilton and Rotorua, which is easy enough to suit most walkers. The natural phenomenon gets its clarity from Mamaku Plateau where the water takes up to 100 years to filter through.

OffRoad NZ

Image credit: OffRoad NZ

If you happen to love monster trucks, make a stop on your Hamilton to Rotorua road trip and hop on an all-terrain adventure. From Monster 4X4 Thrill Rides to 4WD Bush Safaris & Raceline Karting, come and explore magnificent New Zealand forest with some high-flying, action-packed fun. Located just a short 20 minute drive from central Rotorua!

Rotorua Bungy Jumping

Image credit: Velocity Valley

Velocity Valley is Rotorua’s home of speed and adrenaline. Check out the thrilling bungy jump where you will freefall 43 metres towards the ground at 60kmph or feel alive on The Swoop swing attraction where you will be taken from 0 to 130kmph in 1 second. Located northeast of central Rotorua the activities on offer here will be sure to get your heart racing!

Skyline Rotorua

Image credit: Skyline Rotorua

For the best way to check out the Rotorua views and local landmarks when you arrive from Hamilton, visit Skyline Rotorua. Take the Gondola up to the top, then hop onto the Luge or Sky Swing Rotorua rides. Stop off at the Stratosfare Restaurant for lunch.

Te Pā Tū – Tamaki Māori Village

Image credit: Te Pā Tū

Take a trip to the Te Pā Tū (formerly Tamaki Māori Village) and learn about the rich Māori culture on your Hamilton to Rotorua trip. Be greeted by a Haka Pōwhiri, enjoy the sharing of stories and pastimes, and experience a traditional hāngī.

Discover more Things to Do and See in Rotorua, North Island of New Zealand

Once your Hamilton to Rotorua city journey has ended, the fun doesn’t stop there! Check out central Rotorua’s restaurants and best cafes, boiling mud pools, Lake Rotorua, hot springs, and day spas. Planning another road trip today? Explore what there is to see between Dunedin and Queenstown. If you happen to love golf, check out the Queenstown golf courses we recommend.


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