Auckland to Hamilton Drive

Auckland to Hamilton Drive

So you’re planning a North Island road trip from the City of Sails, Auckland to Hamilton, New Zealand? RaD Car Hire will get you driving off on your journey in one of our late-model rental vehicles. We’re here to help you discover the wonders and attractions of the cities en route from Auckland to Hamilton.

We’ve come up with some great ideas to add to your NZ road trip. So, we suggest you mark our route and destinations on your travel map and get ready to start your next adventure. New Zealand roads are well sign-posted and sealed. Arriving at your destination safely is important, so please adhere to the posted speed limits.

Auckland Airport to Tauranga (Bay of Plenty)

The first destination on your drive from Auckland to Hamilton is the picturesque Bay of Plenty. Home to world-class beaches and rich Māori heritage, you’re sure to fall in love with this amazing region.

Drive time from the Airport

The driving distance between the Auckland Airport and Tauranga City is 196 km, with a travel time of two and 3/4 hours. Follow the Auckland Southern Motorway, then turn onto State Highway 27.

Must-sees in Tauranga

Hobbiton movie set

Learn the secrets behind Middle-earth magic with a trip to the Hobbiton Movie Set. A tour guide will lead you around the 12-acre set, surrounded by lush pastures and the Kaimai Ranges towering in the distance. Keep an eye out for Lord of the Rings fans dressed as elves, dwarves, and hobbits!

Book online:

Mt Maunganui

Take a trip to the laid-back town of Mount Maunganui. Set on a peninsula, Mt Maunganui is also an extinct 232-metre high volcano. Walking tracks to the peak provide a spectacular 360° view spanning the entire length of the Bay of Plenty.

Wairoa River (white water rafting)

Enjoy the thrill of high-speed whitewater rafting on the Wairoa River. You’ll pass through a remarkable rock and tree-lined gorge as you navigate turbulent rapids. Exciting drops provide the ultimate adrenaline-packed whitewater action.

Where to Stay

Visit the Bay of Plenty’s tourism page for hotels and other accommodation options.

Bay of Plenty to Rotorua

Travel to a world-famous geothermal location. The city of Rotorua is one of the top destinations for travellers from all over.

Drive time

Taking a direct route to Tauranga, the driving distance to Rotorua is 59.9 km along State Highway 36, with a travel time of approximately one hour.

Get in on the Rotorua Action

Velocity Valley

If you want to find adrenaline-packed activities on your Auckland to Hamilton road trip, look no further. Start your day at a place where speed, adrenaline and fear collide.

  • Fly 45 metres skyward in a reverse Bungy cage at a speed of 80km/hr
  • Try mountain biking with a twist as you leap and land on a giant airbag
  • Race your friends on the Shweeb Racer—the world’s only pedal-powered monorail
  • Dive 40m head-first on a superhuman swing
  • Lose control on the Agrojet delivering 3Gs of force as you glide along wild waters at 100km/hr

Where: 1335 Paradise Valley Road, Ngongotaha.

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Lake Rotorua

Hire a kayak at Lake Rotorua and paddle out to explore secluded coves and the mysterious Mokoia Island. Bank your canoe and rejuvenate tired muscles in the natural hot pools.

Rotorua Rafting

Are you ready to experience adrenaline-packed whitewater rafting down the infamous Kaituna River? We suggest you hold on as you fly at high-speed by striking waterfalls, rock and tree-lined gorges and native forests.

Where to Stay

Check out the official Rotorua tourism site for accommodation options.

Rotorua to Taupō

Taupō is a city worth planning for your next trip, on your journey from Auckland to Hamilton. At this NZ adventure and sporting mecca, you’ll enjoy enchanting forests, looming volcanic peaks and a remarkable view of Lake Taupo.

Drive time

The driving distance between Rotorua and Taupō is 79.6 km along State Highway 5 and the travel time is about an hour at average driving speed.

Experience Taupō

Waikato River

Take a break from driving with a relaxing, scenic cruise along the longest river in New Zealand—the Waikato River. You’ll find a good cafe on board to grab a coffee and a snack while admiring the breathtaking views.

Taupo Museum

Spend a day browsing the museum’s galleries, recounting stories of a unique history and culture. Pick up some souvenirs in the gift shop before you leave.

Hours: 10 am to 4.30 pm daily.

Where: 4 Story Place, Taupō.

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Ora Garden

Before you leave the museum, step out into the award-winning '100% Pure New Zealand Ora - Garden of Wellbeing'. This unique native bush garden features a geothermal landscape and bird song soundtrack.

Ora Garden is home to almost a thousand NZ plant species that are either endangered or are of significance to the region. Other plants carry medicinal, culinary and bird attracting qualities.

Where: Story Pl, Taupō.

Hours: 10 am to 4.30 pm daily

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Craters of the Moon

This cratered valley is a must-see on your New Zealand road trip. Traverse winding paths floating above clouds of steam emanating from geothermal activity.

Hours: 10 am to 4 pm daily.

Where: 171 Karapiti Road, Wairakei Park.

More Information:

Where to Stay

Visit Taupō’s official site for accommodation options.

Taupō to Waitomo

En route between Auckland and Hamilton is a city surrounded by exquisite nature. Waitomo is waiting for travellers to discover her natural hidden wonders.

Drive time

Travel time from Taupō to Waitomo takes around two hours with a distance of 149 km, along State Highway 30.

Get Back to Nature in Waitomo

Pureora Forest Park

As you depart for Waitomo, stop in at Pureora Forest Park, west of Lake Taupō. Hike or ride one of the walking or mountain biking tracks to uncover historic tramway bridges and tunnels.

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Pa Harakeke Eco Cultural Centre

While you’re at Pureora Forest Park, stop in at the Pā Harakeke Eco-Cultural Centre. Here you’ll find a flax plantation, native plant nursery, and a flax processing centre. A visitors' centre and accommodation are also onsite. Spend a day working with the flax, planting a native tree, or taking a guided walk.

Where: Pureora Forest Park, Taupō

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Huka Falls

The 100m wide Waikato River is driven through a 20m wide gorge to create the magnificent Huka Falls. Stand on the footbridge and watch the water’s dramatic 20m drop into the beautiful blue-green pool below.

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Glowworm Caves (Waitomo Caves)

Take a trip to the beautiful, mesmerising Waitomo Caves where you’ll find thousands of luminescent inhabitants hidden in the darkness. Enjoy an eerie boat ride through an underground grotto and marvel at the constellations of living lights.

Note - Currently closed during level 3 lockdown.

Where: 39 Waitomo Village Rd, Waitomo Caves

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Where to Stay

Visit the Waitomo visitor page for accommodation options.

Waitomo to Hamilton

Welcome to Hamilton—the largest inland city in New Zealand! Now that you’ve completed your epic drive from Auckland, here you can enjoy an eclectic mix of leisure and activity options.

Drive time

From Waitomo to Hamilton, travel time is one hour, with a distance of 72.3 km, along State Highway 39.

What to See and Do in Hamilton

Otorohanga Kiwi House

Otorohanga conserves kiwi and other unique New Zealand creatures such as the tuatara, which pre-dated the dinosaurs.

Hours: 10 am to 4 pm daily.

Where: 20 Alex Telfer Drive, Otorohanga, Hamilton.

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Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari

This mainland ecological island is home to many endangered New Zealand birds, skinks, frogs, geckos, bats, and insects.

Travel to another world to walk amongst native, ancient trees, with a gentle cacophony of birdsong in the background. Enjoy a variety of hikes and bush walks, or take a guided tour to learn more about this special conservation project.

Note - Currently closed during level 3 lockdown.

Hours: 9 am to 4 pm daily.

Where: 99 Tari Road, Pukeatua, Hamilton.

More Information:

Waikato Museum

Drive to the Waikato Museum and spend an hour or two learning about social history, tangata whenua (people of the land) and science.

Hours: 10 am to 5 pm daily.

Where: 1 Grantham Street (South end of Victoria Street), Hamilton.

More Information:

Where to Stay

Search for accommodation options at Tourism Hamilton.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the perfect rental car for this road trip?

At RaD, we offer a wide range of vehicles for your trip from Auckland to Hamilton, New Zealand. We have economical hatchbacks and sedans for couples and business travellers. We can provide SUVs and 8 or 12-seater passenger vans for groups and families. Search our range of available rentals for a car to suit your needs.

Can I drop off our rental car in Hamilton?

Yes! You can book a one-way hire from Auckland to Hamilton, New Zealand. Head to our booking page and enter your rental dates and cities to receive an instant quote!

When is the best time to visit Auckland and Hamilton?

If you’re planning on driving from Auckland to Hamilton for skiing, come between July and October. Don’t forget to add snow chains to your car hire booking!

From December to February, New Zealand weather is perfect for touring. Temperatures range between 19 and 23°C. Track the weather conditions online.

How long is the drive from Auckland to Hamilton without detours?

The fastest route between the two cities of Auckland and Hamilton, New Zealand takes 1 hour and 20 minutes (109km via SH1. We base travel times on an average driving speed under normal road conditions.

The team at RaD Auckland Airport looks forward to helping you book a car rental for your next New Zealand adventure! Find more amazing travel tips on our travel blog today.

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