Best Auckland Driving Routes

Panoramic view over Shakespear Regional Park near Auckland

Auckland​ is famous for it's beautiful harbour and surrounding islands, meaning many visitors choose to explore the sights by sea. However, there is another way to discover the City of Sails - and that is by car.  We at VroomVroomVroom can help you find the perfect rental car for your next adventure. ​With top sights like the Coromandel and the Bay of Islands within easy reach, you will be spoiled for choices when it comes to finding the ideal road trip. 


The Bay of Islands & Cape Reinga

bay of island

Take a drive north of the city to the beautiful Bay of Islands, one of the North Island's iconic holiday destinations. Discover the unique coastal scenery all the way to one of the northernmost tips of the country.

Travel Time: 5hrs 40mins

Directions: Head north on State Highway 1 toward Whangarei. Exit onto Tarewa Road to explore the city, and see the sights of the Bay of Islands. To reach Cape Reinga, continue following State Highway 1.

Recommended car: Since this is quite a long drive, we suggest choosing an SUV such as a Toyota Rav4, Hyundai Tucson, Nissan Xtrail or similar. This vehicle can accommodate up to 5 people and can store 2 big luggages and 2 small luggages. 

Highlights:

  • Paihia: If you'd like to take a sightseeing cruise in the Bay of Islands, Paihia is a great place to start. The region features many beautiful beaches and coves. 
  • Cape Reinga: Visit the lighthouse that marks Cape Reinga, one of the northernmost points of New Zealand, where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean. This is as far as the road will take you, and offers stunning views. 
  • Ninety Mile Beach: This seemingly endless stretch of sand lines the western coastline of Northland. One of the best ways to see the beach is with a scenic flight.

The Coromandel

cathedral cove

It is one of New Zealand's most well-known destinations, home to incredible beaches, unique towns and scenic country roadways. You'll find plenty of hidden treasures while exploring the Coromandel Peninsula.

Travel Time: 3hrs 40mins

Directions: Head south on the Southern Motorway until you reach State Highway 2. Exit the motorway onto State Highway 25, which will lead all the way around the Coromandel Peninsula. Be sure to take Hot Water Beach Road to explore Hahei and Cathedral Cove.

Recommended car: The perfect vehicle for a family road trip is the Wagon/Estate such as a Mitsubishi Outlander or similar.  You have more room to move around since this vehicle can fit in 5 people. 

Highlights:

  • Thames: Soak up the history in this heritage town, which is also your gateway to the peninsula. Surrounded by the Kauaeranga Valley, the town features many interesting little shops and cafes.
  • Cathedral Cove: This famous beach is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful sights in New Zealand. The rock formations and giant archways make for postcard-worthy scenery.
  • Hot Water Beach: When it is low tide, visitors can dig their own heated pools in the sand at Hot Water Beach. There is no better way to relax after a long day's drive!

Piha

rocky beaches of Piha

For a shorter road trip just west of the city, head through the scenic Waitakere Ranges to the rocky beaches of Piha. You won't believe the natural wonders within such easy reach of Auckland.

Travel Time: 50mins

Directions: Leave Auckland on the North-Western Motorway, before exiting onto Te Atatu Road. Following Forest Hills Road and Piha Road will lead you directly into the Waitakere Ranges.

Recommended car: Since this does not require a long drive, an Economy Car like a Toyota Yaris or similar is enough to enjoy a road trip.

Highlights:

  • Piha Beach: This popular surfing beach is within an hour of Auckland. One of the best places to see Piha Beach is from Tasman Lookout, offering a fantastic view of the dramatic coastline.
  • Arataki Visitor Centre: The visitor centre is a great introduction to the Waitakere Ranges. Learn more about the landscape, explore a few hiking trails and have your photo taken in the makeshift picture frame!
  • Kikekite Falls: A short walking trail will take visitors along the Glen Esk Stream to the beautiful Kitekite Falls. In summer, this is a popular swimming spot.

Tauranga & Karangahake Gorge

Mount Maunganui Beach

Experience history and natural beauty on this road trip from Auckland. Explore the rail tunnels of the Karangahake Gorge, and relax on the popular beaches of Tauranga.

Travel Time: 2hrs 50mins

Directions: Follow the Southern Motorway and take the exit for State Highway 2. This road will lead all the way to central Tauranga. For Mount Maunganui, exit onto Totara Street.

Recommended car: A Crossover Car such as Holden Captiva or similar has the capability of driving on the highway and to the summit. 

Highlights:

  • Karangahake Gorge: Follow the Rail Tunnel Loop to discover historical mining sites, walk through disused tunnels and cross over dramatic suspension bridges.
  • Waihi Gold Mine: Take a tour of the Waihi Gold Mine and learn more about the mining process, and the history of gold-mining in the area. You can also take a self guided walk to some great vantage points above the mine.
  • Mount Maunganui: For unparalleled views over the Mount Maunganui Beach and its surrounding islands, you can't miss a climb to the summit of Mount Maunganui.

Rotorua & Matamata

Waiotapu Geothermal Park

Following the interesting Thermal Explorer Highway will uncover some of New Zealand's volatile, volcanic landscapes. You can also visit a Hollywood film set hidden away in the countryside.

Travel Time: 3hrs 10mins

Directions: Taking the exit for State Highway 2 on the Southern Motorway, you will come to a junction for State Highway 27. At Matamata, follow signs for the Thermal Explorer Highway to Rotorua.

Recommended car: If you are travelling with the whole gang to Hobbiton, then the best choice is a Passenger Van such as a Toyota Hiace or similar. This vehicle can accommodate up to 12 people.  

Highlights:

  • Hobbiton film set: Located in the small town of Matamata, relive the magic of the Lord of the Rings films at the filming location. Set in beautiful farmlands, you can still explore the Hobbit holes that were used in the films.
  • Redwoods Treewalk: Take a walk through the giant redwoods just outside of Rotorua, and get a new perspective from boardwalks through the treetops. You can also opt to take this walk at night time.
  • Waiotapu: New Zealand's volcanic activity is evident at the Waiotapu Geothermal Park. See geyser's, mud pools and colourful water through a cloud of sulphur at the park.

Map of Road Trips from Auckland

Do you know that you can download this map directly to your phone? Press the box symbol located on the top-right corner of this map to open in your Google Maps app. Now you can easily access this map on your next road trip adventure in Auckland. 


Other popular road trip destinations in New Zealand: 

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