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Tauranga to Rotorua Road Trip – Car or Bus

5 August 2023



The largest city in the Bay of Plenty, Tauranga is home to one of the most loved beaches in the country. From adrenaline-pumping watersports and shopping galore to relaxing and recharging beside magnificent harbour views, Tauranga has something for everyone.

Once you arrive in Rotorua, unmissable geothermal wonders await, and you can take the opportunity to immerse yourself in Māori culture. So gather your family or friends and discover all there is to experience along the route from Tauranga to Rotorua!

How to get from Tauranga to Rotorua

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Bus from Tauranga to Rotorua

If you’re on a budget, hopping on a Tauranga to Rotorua bus is the cheapest way to get there. InterCity has up to four morning departure times daily, with the scenic bus routes taking around 1 hour 35 minutes. Rotorua buses depart from Wharf Street, arriving at Tourism Rotorua. Prices range from $17 to $36.

You’ll also find other bus services running between the cities of Tauranga and Rotorua for $3 to $5. Pick-up and drop-off points are varied, from Grey Street or Devonport Road – Second Avenue in Tauranga to Ranolf Street or Arawa Street in Rotorua. These Rotorua bus routes take up to 2 hours.

Taxi from Tauranga to Rotorua

Enjoy the convenience of setting your own time and drop off location and travel by taxi from Tauranga to Rotorua. The trip will cost you anywhere between $200 and $250.

Drive from Tauranga to Rotorua

Hiring a car to travel from Tauranga to Rotorua is the best way to take in the landmarks or attractions along the way. Travel time without stops to Rotorua city is around 55 minutes.

Tips for planning your next trip

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Research your destination

New Zealand is a small country, where the driving distance between locations may appear close to each other on a map. But, taking into account traffic and terrain, the distance between Tauranga and Rotorua could be longer than you think, so planning ahead is advised.

If there’s a specific attraction you’re after, or you plan to book reservations for accommodation, we recommend checking whether Tauranga or Rotorua buses run close by.

Check the weather and travel advisories

When planning your Tauranga to Rotorua trip, considering each day’s average temperature is helpful. Check with the local meteorology service for up-to-date details.

Mount Maunganui

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Mount Maunganui is an extinct volcano rising 232 metres from the sea, overlooking the stunning Bay of Plenty. Follow the walking tracks and journey to the peak, kick back on white-sand beaches, go for a surf, or enjoy a bite to eat at one of the local restaurants.

Pilot Bay Beach

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Beautifully tucked under Mount Maunganui is Pilot Bay Beach, where you’ll find plenty of things to do when you arrive. Grab an ice cream and stroll along the Tauranga harbour, or fish off the jetty. Satisfy your search for adventure by hiring a kayak or jetski.

Waimarino Adventure Park

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This attraction is a must-do along the route if you’re up for some fun. Bring the family, swimsuits, and a picnic, and visit Waimarino Adventure Park. Check out The Blob, The UFO, rock climbing, floating trampolines and the only kayak slide in New Zealand.

Baywave Aquatic Centre

Image credit: Baywave Aquatic Centre

Located near Tauranga Airport, the Baywave Aquatic Centre features the biggest wave pool in New Zealand. The complex houses a 25-metre lap pool, a wave pool, children’s pools, and spas. Kids will find hours of entertainment at the new Aqua Play Station, boasting three water slides, water guns, a tipping water bucket, and water fountains galore.

McLaren Falls Park

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McLaren Falls Park is home to one of the best botanical collections in New Zealand. Follow the picturesque waterfall route after dusk to spot glow worms. The fastest way to get there is to drive – it’s just a 20-minute trip from Tauranga by car. Or, catch the InterCity bus, which takes less than an hour.

Marshalls Animal Park

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Within McLaren Falls Park is the Marshalls Animal Park, home to 35 acres of friendly animals. Children will love to try out the flying foxes and bottle-feed lambs, kids, and piglets.

Firth Tower Reserve and Museum

Image credit: Firth Tower & Museum

Come and explore life in the early settlers’ day through interactive learning experiences such as butter making, washing clothes with a wringer, and dressing in period costumes. Or enjoy a cuppa on the Homestead veranda. The route when travelling from Tauranga by car takes around 45 minutes.


Image credit: @hobbitontours

Participate in your own Middle‑earth adventure on a tour to the Hobbiton movie set from The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy and The Hobbit films. Choose your tour package with transfers from Tauranga to Rotorua included.

Tikitere – Hell’s Gate

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Experience New Zealand’s most unique active geothermal area. Visitors love to bathe in the nutrient-rich waters and mud to ease aching muscles and rejuvenate the skin. Located between Lake Rotorua and Lake Rotoiti, Tikitere is just four minutes drive along SH 30.


Image credit: @whakarewarewa

Come and spend a day learning about Aotearoa’s Māori Culture and discovering Jurassic Park-like geothermal features. Drive, or take a 20-30 minute Rotorua bus ride.

Are you ready to explore more hidden gems of the North Island?

Whether you’re looking for the fastest trip possible or following bus routes at a leisurely pace, we hope our Tauranga to Rotorua road trip ideas ignites your sense of adventure. Visit the Skyline blog for more attractions and activities in New Zealand. Looking to discover the best of Rotorua? Check out our guides to the best hot pools in Rotorua, or plan your Taupo to Rotorua itinerary.

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