10 Best Stops on Your Taupo to Rotorua Road Trip

Taupo to Rotorua

If you’re travelling in New Zealand, Rotorua and Taupo are two stops you don’t want to miss. And while there’s much to do in each town on its own, the route between them is also full of incredible natural wonders and exciting attractions.

From thrilling waterfalls on the Waikato River to some of the biggest hot springs in the world, find everything you’ve got to see below. Pick up a rental car from RaD Car Hire Taupo or RaD Car Hire Rotorua to drive around with ease on your North Island road trip.

How long does it take to drive from Lake Taupo to Rotorua? 

The distance from Rotorua to Taupo is 80 km (50 miles, or 1 hour) along State Highway 5, which is part of the Thermal Explorer Highway. This route takes you through the country’s best hotspots, so be sure to spare some extra time for the journey.

Which is better: Rotorua or Taupo?

Rotorua is NZ’s hub of geothermal activity and traditional culture, known for its bubbling mud pools and Māori history. On the other hand, Taupo is all about waterfront sports as the home of NZ’s biggest lake. It’s also a good base for alpine activities in the Tongariro Crossing on the other side. Both of these towns are must-sees for visitors to the country - lucky they’re so close to each other!

Taupo to Rotorua itinerary 

While the distance between Rotorua and Taupo might be short, there’s no shortage of incredible experiences and breathtaking views on the way.

1. Huka Falls

Located just 5 minutes north of Taupo off Wairakei Drive, Huka Falls is one of the most visited natural attractions in New Zealand, and it’s easy to tell why! Experience the sheer power of water gushing from the country’s biggest lake to its longest river at more than 220,000 litres per second. You can even take a jet boat cruise up to this incredible waterfall for an exhilarating yet safe experience for the whole family.

2. Huka Honey Hive

Dive into a golden wonderland at the Huka Honey Hive, where you can taste free honey, view live beehives, and learn all about the honey-making process. Walk through the lush garden filled with flowers or relax by the fire on a rainy day. Savour honey-infused ice creams and drinks before browsing their diverse stock of honey in the gift shop.

3. Huka Prawn Park 

Nearby lies the Huka Prawn Park, a full-sized prawn-themed adventure park. The entire park covers an area of 6 hectares and has heaps of fun things to do for kids and adults alike. Follow the interactive guided tour to learn more about the world’s only geothermally-heated prawn farm, or play with the pedal boats and water trikes. Discover other exciting water activities and geothermal footbaths before grabbing a delicious lunch at the riverside restaurant.

4. Aratiatia Rapids 

The Aratiatia Rapids might seem bare most of the time, but when the nearby hydropower plant Aratiatia Dam opens its gates, you’ll see an incredible flow of pure, wild water crashing amongst the rocks. Aratiatia Dam releases water at 10 am, 12 pm, and 2 pm each day (as well as 4 pm in summer months). Though this beautiful place is too dangerous for swimming, you can really feel the rush!

5. Lilliput Taupo Animal Park

Have fun with the friendly farm animals and bird life at Lilliput Farm! This quaint park features a vast array of animals, from ponies and pigs to parrots and peacocks. Your kids will love the opportunity to feed animals by hand and hang out with the bunnies and guinea pigs in the quiet room.

6. Orakei Korako Geothermal Park and Cave

Orekei Korako is a highly active geothermal area full of hot pools, silica terraces, and steam vents. It’s home to the Ruatapu Cave, one of the only two known geothermal caves in the world. “The Hidden Valley” is also the NZ geothermal park with the most active geysers, including the famed Diamond Geyser.

7. Wai O Tapu Thermal Wonderland

Another amazing area nearby is the Wai O Tapu Thermal Wonderland. Arrive early for the 10 am eruption of the Lady Knox Geyser to see boiling water shoot up 10-20 metres out of the ground. Then check out the bubbling of the Champagne Pool, the stunning lime-green Roto Karikitea, and many more hot springs in all colours and sizes - natural beauty awaits.

8. Waimangu Thermal Valley

Take a scenic walk through the Waimangu Valley to discover Frying Pan Lake, the world’s largest hot spring, and the bright blue Lake Rotomahana, one of the region’s crater lakes. The Waimangu volcanic valley is the former site of the Pink and White Terraces, one of the most iconic attractions in New Zealand’s history. While the terraces have long been buried by a volcanic eruption, you can still find breathtaking landscapes no matter where you go. 

9. Whakarewarewa Forest (The Redwoods) 

Whakarewarewa Forest, also known as the Redwoods Forest, offers amazing views and exciting adventures in its 5600 hectares of land. Get some fresh forest air as you go on a beautiful walk at your own pace on the many official hiking trails. Looking for some more thrilling fun? Take on treetop challenges through Redwoods Treewalk - with paths that are hundreds of meters long and three flying fox swings, you’ll never get bored in this awesome experience.

10. Te Puia

Te Puia houses the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute, the national school for Māori traditional arts. Not only can you browse the Āhua gallery for crafts reflecting local Māori culture, but you can even watch the skilled artisans at work. Te Puia is also home to the Kiwi Conservation Centre, where you can observe cute kiwis live in their nocturnal enclosures. The site also features Pōhutu Geyser, the biggest geyser in the Southern Hemisphere. There’s so much to see!

Make your North Island holiday one to remember with RaD Car Hire 

Discover the best places to go on the route from Taupo to Rotorua with a rental car from RaD Car Hire. With 22 branches at all the major locations in the country, we’ve got you covered wherever you go. Want more tips on making the most of your New Zealand adventure? Learn the best things to do in Auckland at night, or plan your Queenstown to Glenchory itinerary.

Sign up for exclusive deals