Auckland to Wellington via Rotorua and Hawkes Bay – 3 or 4 Days
Buckle up for a rare road trip taking in stunning coastline, pristine inland lakes and geothermal wonders, stopping off at world class wineries and taking in Maori cultural experiences along the way. Only in New Zealand!
Drive south from Auckland on State Highway 1 through lush farmland and native forest to Rotorua. Cambridge is a quaint stop for lunch and a stroll to break up the three-hour drive.
A popular tourist destination, Rotorua is an adventure playground set in exquisite scenery. The smell of sulphur marks the region as a geothermal area. From backpackers to lakeside resorts, luxury options and everything in between, there is accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets.
Maori culture is accessible and everywhere here. Visit the Buried Village of Te Wairoa, a Maori and colonial hamlet that was preserved in mud and ash when Mt Tarawera erupted in 1888. Allow a good few hours to explore Te Puia which spans 70 hectares within the historic Te Whakarewarewa Valley. This is home to the Pohutu geyser, mud pools, hot springs and the national schools of wood carving. Tour a living Maori village, Whakarewarewa, or take a Kiwi Hatchery tour at Rainbow Springs nature park.
An hour’s drive the next morning takes you to Tapuo, set in native bush on the edges of New Zealand’s largest lake by surface area. This is an angler's paradise with great fishing on back-country rivers, beaches, and on Lake Taupo itself. Book a fishing charter, or enjoy other water-based activities like jet boating, sailing, cruising, kayaking or white-water rafting. Take a walking trail, find a quiet spot for a swim, visit hot pools or just soak up the sun on a beach.
Tours to see the giant Mine Bay Maori rock carving are popular, or for an incredible geothermal experience, head for the Craters of the Moon walk and take your pick of Taupo township’s array of eateries and drinking establishments to wind down after an epic day.
Napier / Hastings / Havelock North
After a relaxed breakfast at one of Taupo’s cafes, you’ll be in the Hawkes Bay by lunchtime - it’s only two hours from Taupo. In addition to its natural beauty, Hawkes Bay is home to rich cultural sites and an impressive wine region, boasting seventy-two wineries. Napier proclaims itself to be the Art Deco Capital of the world, the legacy of an earthquake that devastated the town, with the rebuild reflecting the architecture of the time. Go on an Art Deco walking tour, check out the museum, take a tour with Waimarama Maori Tours or explore Otatara Pa in Taradale, just outside of town on the way to Te Mata Peak. There are beautiful views from Mount Ruapehu to Cape Kidnappers on a clear day. Or simply walk, cycle or skate along Marine Parade on the way to New Zealand’s National Aquarium.
The Arataki Honey visitor centre is nearby in Havelock North, as is Te Mata Winery and very popular Black Barn. It’s possible to spend a week in this area visiting all the wineries, so choose a special few and drive safe!
If you have children with you, Splash Planet is a must-do in Hastings, twenty minutes from Napier. Finish the day with a meal at Napier foodie hot spots Mister D or Café Tennyson and a glass of local wine.
Two and half hours inland on State Highway 2 is Masterton. Top of the list of things to do here is Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre. It’s 30 km’s north of the town, an epic 942-hectares of unfenced sanctuary for native wildlife. If you’re travelling in a campervan, check out their campervan tours.
Food and wine aficionados will love charming Martinborough, known for its twenty or so vineyards, all within walking or cycling distance of the village square, and its exceptional eateries. The region is best known for its Pinot Noir. It’s forty minutes through stunning landscape from Masterton. If you've got a spare afternoon and it's the right time of year you can pop in to the lavender fields and soak up their calm scents!
Stay in style at Peppers, rent a holiday house, or the Martinborough Holiday Park offers sites for campervans, tents and has self-contained cabins. Martinborough’s beguiling vineyards are an hour and fifteen minutes away from Wellington City.
A friendly cosmopolitan city with a vibrant arts scene set on an attractive waterfront, Wellington is New Zealand’s coffee, craft beer and culinary capital.
Don’t miss Te Papa Tongarewa, the Museum of New Zealand, pop into Te Aro Wine, an urban winery making wines from local fruit, visit Zealandia - the world’s first fully-fenced urban ecosanctuary – and finish up the day with a meal at famous Fidel’s on Cuba Street.
This road trip to remember could be done in an action packed three or four nights or could easily be stretched out to a week. Or just do it again next year!
From all of us at ___Mode, enjoy.