Wellington to Rotorua - Plan your Trip

Are you travelling from Wellington to Rotorua, New Zealand? The scenic route takes you through the volcanic heart of the North Island, past spectacular landscapes, adventure activities, and stunning geothermal wonders. When you arrive in the Rotorua district, take your time to soak in bubbling mud pools, learn about the famous pink and white terraces, and experience Māori culture.

Whether you’re searching for the cheapest flight from Wellington to Rotorua, browsing for rental cars or joining fellow travellers for a coach ride, we’ve listed some travel options to help anyone visiting Rotorua maximise their time in the Bay of Plenty region.

How to Get from Wellington to Rotorua

A person stands on a bridge and marvels at the Pōhutu Geyser erupting at Te Puia in Rotorua.
Image credit: @the_wanderer_photographer

Drive from Wellington to Rotorua

The driving distance from Wellington to Rotorua is 450km - around six hours non-stop. Take State Highway 1 to Taupo, then SH5 to Rotorua.

Wellington to Rotorua Bus Services

The cheapest way to get to Rotorua is by bus. InterCity operates daily services between Wellington and Rotorua, and ticket prices cost around $40-$60. Buses depart from platform 10 of the Wellington Railway Station and arrive in Rotorua outside the i-SITE on Fenton St. The journey takes around 7 hours.

Cheap Flights from Wellington to Rotorua

Air New Zealand operates four flights from Wellington to Rotorua airport daily. Wellington to Rotorua flights (and Rotorua to Wellington flights) take around an hour and ten minutes, and you can expect to pay about $200-$300 NZD return. Check the Air New Zealand site regularly to find the cheapest flights and best prices for flights to Rotorua.

Tips for Planning your Road Trip Itinerary

A stunning birds eye view of a car parked on a remote Rotorua dirt road shrouded by native New Zealand bush.
Image credit: @carbon.click

Research your destination

New Zealand’s North Island may appear small on a map, but the road distance between cities could be further than you think due to winding roads and rugged terrain. Plan your driving routes before you leave home. Also, check entry requirements for attractions you plan to visit.

Check the weather and travel advisories

When planning your Wellington to Rotorua adventure, consider the average daily temperature and any forecasted weather changes. Check with the local meteorology service for up-to-date information.

Te Papa - the National Museum of New Zealand

An exterior photo of the famous Te Papa Museum in Wellington, New Zealand.
Image credit: Te Papa Museum

The Te Papa National Museum in the Wellington city centre features enthralling interactive displays that bring to life the social history and native culture of NZ.

Wētā Workshop

Lord of the Rings memorabilia and statues on display at the Weta Cave in Wellington, New Zealand.
Image credit: Wētā Workshop

Join a Wētā Workshop guided tour in Wellington to discover the magic behind how iconic movies such as the Lord of the Rings were made.

Southward Car Museum

Hundreds of vintage and rare cars on display in the Southward Car Museum.
Image credit: Southward Car Museum

A 45-minute drive north from Wellington brings you to Otaihanga and the Southward Car Museum. Browse the most extensive collection of Bugattis, Bentleys, and other vintage cars in the Southern Hemisphere.

Taihape - the Gumboot Capital of New Zealand

The giant corrugated iron gumboot sculpture in Taihape, New Zealand.
Image credit: @wandawompling

Just over a further two hours north will lead you to Taihape – the gumboot capital of New Zealand. Get some epic Instagram shots of the iconic giant gumboot sculpture made from corrugated iron and wire.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

The Emerald Lakes on the Tongariro Crossing hike in New Zealand.
Image credit: @backpackercl

Not far from Lake Taupo is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in Tongariro National Park. The Crossing is considered one of the top ten one-day treks worldwide. You’ll pass lava flows, steam vents, an active crater, and emerald-coloured lakes along this challenging geothermal walk.

Chateau Tongariro

Chateau Tongariro in the twilight with Mount Ruapehu towering in the background covered in snow.
Image creidt: @visitruapehu

Still within the Tongariro National Park and surrounded by the sacred volcanic peaks of Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe, and Tongariro is the Chateau Tongariro Hotel. You’ll find various accommodation options with furnishings and decor reflecting the hotel’s remarkable history.

Huka Falls

The Huka Falls Jet approaches the bottom of the magnificent Huka Falls on their jet boat with customers aboard.
Image credit: @hukafallsjet

To the north of the famous Lake Taupo is the 100m-wide Waikato River. The gushing water is forced through a 20m-wide gorge, creating the magnificent Huka Falls that will delight the whole family.

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

A birds-eye view of a geo-thermal feature in the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland located in Rotorua, New Zealand.
Image credit: @waiotapu_wonderland_nz

Wai-O-Tapu is the result of thousands of years of volcanic activity and boasts some incredibly colourful and diverse geothermal features. Check out the striking hot pools and get there early to watch the daily eruption of Lady Knox Geyser.

Lake Rotorua

Stunning aerial photo of a lake in Rotorua, New Zealand.
Image credit: @paulmichael

Located in central Rotorua is the second largest lake on the North Island of New Zealand. Geothermal activity continues around and below - watch the clouds of steam drifting around the shore. The water’s high sulphur content gives the water an enchanting green-blue colouration.

Skyline Rotorua

Friends head through an illuminated tunnel on the Rotorua Night Luge.
Image credit: Skyline Rotorua

Celebrate your arrival in Rotorua and take a scenic ride on the Skyline Gondola. Then, try your hand at the Luge or visit the Stratosfare Restaurant and Bar for a glass of champagne and to watch the spectacular Rotorua sunset.

Discover More Incredible Things to See and do Near Rotorua

Visit Skyline’s blog page for more ideas and activities to fill your time here in Rotorua. With boiling mud pools, Kakahi Falls, Hell’s Gate, exciting mountain biking trails, Waimangu Volcanic Valley, and the spectacular silica terraces, you’ll never run out of things to see and do. Up for a different kind of road trip? Take a look at our suggested Tauranga to Rotorua itinerary. You’ll find New Zealand truly is a magical place to visit.

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