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Best Auckland driving routes

Road trips from Auckland

Auckland is famous for it’s beautiful harbour and surrounding islands, and many visitors choose to explore the sights by sea. However, there is another way to discover the City of Sails, and that’s by car. At VroomVroomVroom, we 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’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to adventure.

The Bay of Islands & Cape Reinga

The beautiful Cape Reinga lighthouse.
The beautiful Cape Reinga lighthouse.

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

Travel time from Auckland: 5h 40m

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, like a Toyota Rav4, Hyundai Tucson, or Nissan Xtrail. These vehicles can transport up to five people in comfort and have plenty of room for luggage.

The Coromandel

Cathedral Cove is one of the many photogenic spots worth visiting from Auckland.
Cathedral Cove is one of the many photogenic spots worth visiting from Auckland.

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

Travel time from Auckland: 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 five people.


A sunset stroll along Piha Beach is the perfect way to finish a day.
A sunset stroll along Piha Beach is the perfect way to finish a day.

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 from Auckland: 50m

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 a more than adequate rental car to enjoy the drive.

Tauranga and Karangahake Gorge

Enjoy the outlook from Mount Maunganui.
Enjoy the outlook from Mount Maunganui.

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 from Auckland: 2h 50m

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.

Rotorua and Matamata

You haven’t seen thermal springs if you haven’t been to Rotorua.
You haven’t seen thermal springs if you haven’t been to Rotorua.

Following the interesting Thermal Explorer Highway will uncover some of New Zealand’s volatile, volcanic landscapes. You can also visit a Hollywood film sets from Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit hidden away in the countryside. 

Travel time from Auckland: 3h 10m

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.

Best Auckland driving routes map

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.

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