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14 BEST Stops on the Drive from Auckland to Tauranga

14 BEST Stops on the Drive from Auckland to Tauranga

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Road-tripping through New Zealand’s North Island is the absolute best way to experience this side of the country. There are many routes leaving from Auckland, but one of my favorites is the drive to Tauranga.

Not only is Tauranga a destination you’ll want to check out for a few days, but there are so many cool stops in between, that you want at least one day (if not more) to get there!

Each time I take this road trip, I am blown away by its beauty! With some of the best hikes on the North Island, to the cute city of Hamilton, and of course an afternoon at Hobbiton, there is a lot to explore.

Keep reading to find out the 14 best stops from Auckland to Tauranga so you can fill your road trip itinerary to the brim!

Need wheels? For rental cars, I always book with Discover Cars since the website is so easy to use with great prices. For motorhomes and campervans, I really like JUCY/Star RV because of their huge selection and multiple depot locations that make pick-up and drop-off a breeze. Plus, if you use my exclusive discount code DTRAVEL24, you’ll save 5%! This discount is only valid for bookings made before June 30, 2024, with travel dates before Dec 21, 2204. You can browse JUCY and Star RV’s availability here and apply the discount code at check-out.

About the Drive from Auckland to Tauranga

The highway between Auckland and Hamilton, New Zealand
The highway between Auckland and Hamilton, New Zealand

The road trip from Auckland to Tauranga is 225 kilometers (140 miles) and will take you about 2 hours and 40 minutes if you drive directly there. But this is a road trip, so enjoy the journey and stop at a few of these unique locations along the way! With stops, this drive should take a full day, and you can even stay the night in Matamata if you want to hit all of the locations in this blog. 

Renting a car in Auckland is the first step before you can hit the road! I recommend using Discover Cars, they are so easy to work with.

While there are a few routes you can take to get to Tauranga, driving down SH 1 to SH 29 is the quickest option. You can drive along SH 27, but the road is a bit windier and will take about 20-30 minutes longer. I also think there are more things to explore along the first route, so that’s my go-to!

The best part about taking a North Island road trip is that you have better weather year-round. A lot of New Zealand gets snow and ice, but the North Island is mostly rainy in the winter, which doesn’t have to slow down a day of adventure! 

The road between Auckland and Tauranga is drivable all year round. The summer will bring gorgeous sunny days and stay around 20°C (68°F), whereas the winter will be mild and wet and a nice 10°C (50°F). Be cautious during heavy rainfall, as there are still hazards along the road, and slips (landslides) happen frequently in New Zealand. 

Auckland to Tauranga FAQs

Best Stops Between Auckland and Tauranga

1. Auckland

Bailey looks out at Auckland at the top of the Auckland Sky Tower, NZ
Can’t quite see Queenstown!
Bailey walks the cute streets of Ponsonby, Auckland on a beautiful summers day
The cute streets of Ponsonby, Auckland on a beautiful summer day

You’re probably planning this road trip with the intention of spending a few days in Auckland to explore to start with! As the largest city in New Zealand, there are plenty of things to do in Auckland. Whether you want to get outside, check out some cool bars, or dive into its culture through a museum, you’ll need at least two full days here if not three!

Auckland is known as the “city of sails” because it sits along the Hauraki Gulf and is the major hub for boats coming into the harbor. You can get out on the water for yourself by taking this yacht cruise, which makes for a great afternoon on a sunny day! You’ll see iconic landmarks, such as the Auckland Bridge, Westhaven Marina, and Devonport while sipping on some coffee and taking photos the whole way. It’s definitely one of the best tours in Auckland!

If you’re looking for an epic day trip from Auckland, you can explore Waiheke Island! Taking the Sea Link Ferry is the easiest way to get to Waiheke Island. You can even take your car on the ferry so you can really get around and explore all Waiheke Island has to offer, from its stunning beaches or maybe even hitting a wine tour!

Bailey and her friends hang out at Mt Eden in Auckland, NZ
Mount Eden with friends!

A classic Auckland activity is going up the Sky Tower! The Auckland Sky Tower is the tallest building in the city and offers the absolute best views. Here, you can enjoy a meal at the swanky restaurant at the top or get your adrenaline pumping and bungey jump off the building. With some incredible bungee jumping locations in New Zealand, this one is at the top!

Finally, my favorite thing to do is climb up Mount Eden to see the beautiful city below! Mount Eden is a dormant volcano in the suburbs of central Auckland. While it’s not quite a hike, more of a hill climb, it will take you about 30 minutes to reach the top. I love bringing a picnic or catching a sunset view, it is definitely my favorite free actvity in Auckland.

This is just the beginning of the many things to do here. If you decide to stay in Auckland for a few days, you can really get a feel for the North Island’s culture before heading on your road trip to Tauranga!

2. Adrenalin Forest Auckland

Obstacle course at Adrenalin Forest Auckland, New Zealand
Photo credit: Adrenalin Forest NZ

Located about 30 minutes south of the city is the Adrenalin Forest Auckland. This is for adventure-seeking travelers and it’s a great way to kick off your road trip! The Adrenalin Forest is a series of obstacle courses and ziplines, ranging in difficulty. It tests your physical and mental strength and honestly, I kind of felt like Indiana Jones (especially on the Indiana Jump obstacle!).

This tour books your spot at the Adrenalin Forest and provides all the safety equipment and instruction needed to be safe and have a good time. What I love about this tour is that it’s self-paced, so you can take on the obstacles on your timeline. This is great if you’re a little scared of heights and need to hype yourself up before each challenge– you got it!

Some of these obstacles are 30 meters (100 feet) high, so they really push your limits! If you’re a thrill-seeker, you won’t be disappointed with this stop. The tour gives you three hours in the park, which is plenty of time to take on all the challenges. It really feels like an adult playground! 

It’s best if you reserve your spot ahead of time, which is great if you’re planning your road trip itinerary now! This tour is $51 NZD for adults and $35 NZD for children. It is certainly a memorable road trip stop!

Related Read: After your time in Tauranga, take another road trip to Rotorua! There is so much to explore in Rotorua like it’s world-famous geothermal mud baths or some epic zipline tours!

3. Mercer Cheese

A cheese-related stop might seem a little weird, but it is an essential New Zealand stop! New Zealand is famous for its cheese production, and Mercer Cheese is one of the best in the country. They won a bronze at the World Cheese Awards (who knew that was even a thing?) for their Vintage Waikato in 2018. People travel from all over the world to sample Mercer Cheese at their facility, so since it’s on the route from Auckland to Tauranga, it’s worth a stop!

From the outside, the cheese shop is unassuming. But once you step in and are greeted by the incredibly friendly staff, you’ll understand the charm of this place. The Cumin Garlic Gouda blew me away, so I had to buy a little bit for a road trip snack. As you continue driving, you’ll see rolling farmland all around, and now you’ll know that it’s all part of New Zealand’s large cheese industry!

4. Hakarimata Summit Hiking Track

Bailey walks past a waterfall on the Hakarimata Summit Hiking Track in Hamilton, New Zealand
The trail is stunning!
Bailey at the top of the Hakarimata Summit Hiking Track 
It’s a great workout with a view at the end!

Lucky for you, one of the best hikes on the North Island can also be found on the drive from Auckland to Tauranga! The Hakarimata Summit Hiking Track is a great way to stretch your legs.

I’m not kidding about the “stretch your legs” part, there are quite a few stairs (around 1,000!), so be prepared for a steep climb up to the summit. I’d set aside at least two hours for the 4-kilometer (2.5-mile) hike, so you don’t feel rushed and have time to rest at the top.

You’ll be walking amongst beautiful native ferns, protected Kauri trees, and scented daphne to reach the top. Once you’re at the summit, the views of the Waikato Basin, the coast, and Ruapehu are beautiful on a clear day.

This is a popular walking track, so the best time to do it is in the morning while the locals are at work. The Hakarimata Summit Track trailhead is accessed from the Waterworks Walk, which can be entered from Brownlee Avenue in Ngāruawāhia

5. Hamilton

Manicured hedge at the Hamilton Gardens in Hamilton, New Zealand
Hamilton Gardens!
Bailey walks the Riverside Walkway in Hamilton, New Zealand
The river valley!

Hamilton is definitely worth a stop on your drive from Auckland to Tauranga. This charming city often gets passed up by travelers and locals, but I think it’s unlike any other place in New Zealand. It gives you a look at authentic Kiwi life, and has some hidden gems here as well! 

One of the best things to do in Hamilton is explore the Hamilton Gardens. These award-winning gardens are a treat for all of your senses and have a unique intricate design. Each section tells a story of significant philosophical ideas of ancient civilizations. While the designs are beautiful, yes, they are also fascinating to read and learn about. You can spend a few hours here really leaning into the culture, or simply make it a good break on your road trip! 

For an extra special experience, book this tour at the Hamilton Gardens. With your expert guide, you’ll be sure to see all of the best parts of the gardens and learn about the flora and fauna along the way. It’s also pretty affordable at only $25 NZD for the 75-minute tour.

If you can time your stop in Hamilton right, catching a rugby match is an essential stop! Hamilton is home to the FMG Stadium, which is the premier rugby stadium on the North Island. If you’ve spent any time in New Zealand, you’ll understand that rugby is life and seeing a match is one of the most Kiwi things you can do!

Visiting Hamilton really deserves a full day or more so you can enjoy all that it has to offer. There are some nice hotels in Hamilton, as well as amazing restaurants in the downtown area to check out! Gothenburg serves tasty tapas that are perfect for sharing, but I really loved their chocolate mousse paired with a Pinot Noir. I was glad I took an extra day to hang around Hamilton before getting back on my road trip!

6. Punnet Eatery

Bailey enjoys brunch at Punnet Eatery
The quality of the food is what makes this place so great!
brunch at Punnet Eatery in Hamilton, New Zealand
So good!

Having brunch on a strawberry farm sounds almost too wholesome to be real, but I can assure you that it is! If you hit the road early, you can enjoy brunch at the Punnet Eatery which is worth the drive alone!

The Strawberry Farm here is a gorgeous, family-run farm where you can pick your own strawberries during the summer, and there’s also a playground for kids, so this place is perfect for families. However, for me, the highlight of the farm is the Punnet Eatery, which serves up amazing brunch favorites like chocolate and caramel waffles, homemade stuffed portobello burgers, English breakfast muffins, and so much more. I’m seriously getting hungry just thinking about it.

This place is just so cute and I love that they specialize in breakfasts! The kitchen is open from 8 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. from Monday to Thursday or 3 p.m. on weekends. You don’t necessarily need to reserve a table but word is spreading fast about this place so I’d suggest booking one online if you don’t want to wait.

Related Read: If you want an unforgettable road trip experience, consider renting a campervan in Auckland! This way you can get off the beaten path and camp in some gorgeous areas. You can also rent a motorhome in Auckland for a more luxurious camping experience!

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7. Hobbiton

Bailey walks up to the door of a Hobbit Hole at Hobbiton in New Zealand
So cute!
Bailey sits in the door of a red Hobbit home at Hobbiton, NZ
The detail is incredible!

People come to New Zealand solely to visit Hobbiton, and it just so happens to be on the way from Auckland to Tauranga! You might know Hobbiton as “The Shire” from the Lord of the Rings movies. 

This is a fun stop on your road trip not only because of the significance this movie franchise has had on the film industry, but it’s also so fascinating to learn about creating this quirky and vibrant set! You’ll get to explore the Hobbit Holes, the Mill, and have a pint at the Green Dragon Inn almost as if you’re a Hobbit yourself. Hobbiton looks upon the Kaimai Range, so the views are stunning here too.

I think this experience is great for anyone, whether you’re a LOTR fanatic or not! It’s still cool to see the actual movie set where these films were made. It’s a quick detour off the main highway, and about 45 minutes from Hamilton or 30 minutes if you’re following the itinerary and coming from Punnett Eatery!

You will need to book a movie set tour to visit Hobbiton, unfortunately, you can’t just wander around on your own! But the tours are great because you get to learn so much more than you would by exploring by yourself.

If your whole goal of coming to the North Island is to see Hobbiton, you can visit from Auckland easily! This full-day tour includes transportation from Auckland in addition to the movie set tour. Or if you’re visiting Rotorua and want to make a trip to Hobbiton, you can take this day tour. This one includes transportation, the movie set tour, and lunch at the Green Dragon Inn! Otherwise, wait until you get to Tauranga and take one of the Hobbiton tours from there.

You can’t miss out on visiting Hobbiton, it is easily one of the best things to do in New Zealand! It is truly a unique place that has become part of the country’s culture.

8. Matamata

bailey enjoys a coffee at The Coffee Gallery in Matamata, New Zealand
The Coffee Gallery
Racehorse statue in Matamata, New Zealand
You know you’re in Matamata when…

Matamata is a town that is widely known for being the home of Hobbiton, but there is actually much more to do in this quaint town. There are some great hiking options, such as the Rapurapu Kauri Track or the Te Panui Scenic Reserve. You can also visit the Morrinsville Art Gallery, which is perfect for a rainy day.

You also can’t miss Matamata’s connection to horse racing – it’s known as the Racing Capital of New Zealand! This town is famous for its thoroughbreds and there are stables all around. Horse racing actually dates back to the 19th century when both Maori and European workers competed on stock horses. Nowadays the Matamata Racing Club is famous for producing champions! So if you’re lucky enough to be in town on a race day, don’t miss it!

If you’re looking to spend more than just one day on this road trip, I recommend staying the night in Matamata. This way, you can hit all the stops I’ve listed prior, and have the following day to knock out the rest! Matamata is about two hours from Auckland and only 40 minutes from Tauranga but is a good launch point for some great hikes and activities before you reach Tauranga. 

If you do stay the night, you have to visit The Coffee Gallery for breakfast the next morning! Not only does their coffee hit the spot, but they also have a fantastic selection for breakfast. It’s owned and operated by locals, which I always love to find when I’m in a new town.

9. Wairere Falls

Wairere Falls Lower viewpoint
Wairere Falls Lower viewpoint
Bailey stands at the Wairere Falls lower viewpoint
The lower viewpoint!

I love taking the drive from Auckland to Tauranga slowly because there are just so many things to see right along the way. Wairere Falls is the highest waterfall on the North Island, and honestly one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country, and it’s right on your route!

Wairere Falls is an impressive 153 meters (500 feet) high and cascades down the rocky cliff in a beautiful pattern. It is worth the effort to catch a glimpse– and let me tell you, it’s a bit of an effort! 

There are two viewpoints, the upper and the lower. It is a 2.5-kilometer (1.5-mile) hike to reach the lower viewpoint, which doesn’t sound very long, but it’s all stairs. You can expect this hike to take 3 hours round-trip, including time to stand and gawk at the waterfall! While the hike is challenging, it is scenic the entire way and the payoff is worth it at the end. 

If you’re feeling really ambitious, you can climb to the upper viewpoint, which I actually haven’t done. It will take you another 1.5 hours just to get to the upper viewpoint as the trail is even more challenging. It is full of loose rocks, roots, and a very steep incline. Hiking poles would be a great choice if you decide to take on this part of the hike!  

Wairere Falls is only 16 kilometers (10 miles) from Matamata and will take you about 15 minutes to drive there. From the parking lot, you’ll follow the Wairere Falls Track to reach the falls. The parking lot is large and has toilets, so I recommend using those before you hit the trail because it will take you at least three hours to complete the hike. Possibly even double that time if you go to the upper viewpoint! Bring plenty of water and snacks, and stay safe on the trail.

Related Read: You can make your way to the east coast of the North Island and check out one of my favorite cities, Napier! While here, you have to take a wine tour out of Napier, they are some of the best in New Zealand!

10. Blue Springs

Bailey at the Blue Springs (Te Waihou) near Hamilton, New Zealand
The water is so clear that you can see the grass below perfectly!
Blue Springs (Te Waihou) in New Zealand
So cool!

If you’re looking for an easier hiking option, a stop at Te Waihou (Blue Springs) is the perfect excuse to stretch your legs and explore nature for a while. The water is so pure that it’s actually used for about 60% of New Zealand’s bottled water!

These springs are located about two hours from Auckland or only 50 minutes from Tauranga. There are two choices for visiting the springs. You can drive straight from Auckland or Hamilton to the Leslie Road car park and then walk about 10 minutes to the springs. 

But if you want a longer walk, you can park in the Whites Road car park instead and stroll along the Blue Spring – Te Waihou Walkway. It’s a really easy walk that’s 4.7 kilometers (2.9 miles) each way, so it takes around 2.5-3 hours to complete, with some time to soak in the views. 

Although it’s a really nice walk along the entire springs, I was happy to just go and see one end of them from the Leslie Road car park. They look pretty much the same the whole way, so although they are beautiful, you don’t need to do the whole walk to fully appreciate them. With that being said, it is a lovely stroll if you’ve got the time. 

11. Kaimai Mamaku Lookout

Bailey at Kaimai Mamaku Lookout in New Zealand
Bailey at Kaimai Mamaku Lookout in New Zealand

Kaimai Mamaku Lookout is a really quick stop with some amazing views! As you get closer to Tauranga, you’ll pass through Kaimai Mamaku Forest Park, which is a lush conservation area that stretches for 37,000 hectares (91,000 acres).

The Kaimai Mamaku Lookout is just off State Highway 29 and overlooks the sprawling valley below. It is 32 kilometers (20 miles) from Tauranga, about a 25-minute drive before you hit the city. You don’t need a super long time here, but you will definitely want to stop to snap a photo and gaze over the landscape. On a clear day, you can see Mt. Raupehy, Tongariro, and Ngaruhoe in the distance, it’s quite stunning!

The lookout has a good-sized parking lot with enough room for a few cars. If you time it right and visit here at sunset, it is one of the most beautiful things you’ll ever see!

12. McLaren Falls Park

A waterfall at the entrance to McLaren Falls Park near tauranga, New Zealand
It was a little dry on my last visit!
Bailey at McLaren falls inside McLaren Falls Park, Tauranga, New Zealand
What a peaceful place!

New Zealand has no shortage of amazing outdoor exploration, and McLaren Falls Park is a great example of that! This 190-hectare (470 acres) park has the best botanical tree collections in the entire country, as well as some impressive waterfalls (as you can guess from the name!). 

McLaren Falls Park is conveniently located just 10 minutes outside of Tauranga. While there is so much ground to cover in the park, none of the hikes are too strenuous, making for a lovely afternoon exploring Tauranga’s biodiversity. The McLaren Falls Loop Track will take you along Lake McLaren and to McLaren Falls, an incredibly serene area! There are facilities like restrooms, BBQs, and picnic tables all around the park so you could easily spend an entire afternoon here.

If you get the chance to visit McLaren Falls Park at night time, you’ll experience the glow worms! Experiencing glow worms in New Zealand is one of the top things to do in the country, and simply unique! Glow worms like to hang out in cold, damp places (like near a waterfall) and light up in a bioluminescent blue/green color. It looks like naturally made Christmas lights or a starry night sky. The best place to see these little critters is the Nikau Track, which meets up with the Waterfall Track. 

One of the best things to do in Tauranga is actually to book a campsite and stay the night at McLaren Falls Park! It is an easy way to see the glow worms and have a memorable adventure while in Tauranga. Campsites are only $23 NZD per person and if you rent a campervan in Auckland, this is the perfect place to camp for the night!

13. Fernland Spa

hot pool at Fernland Spa in New Zealand
Photo credit: Fernland Spa

There is nothing quite as wonderful as a relaxing spa day, especially if you’ve spent a day or two sitting in a car! The Fernland Spa is just a 5-minute drive outside of Tauranga and my favorite way to unwind after a road trip or a day of hiking. 

The best part of the spa is the hot pools filled with non-chlorinated mineral water, so it feels great on your skin. There are three different types of pools, the main pool is large and surrounded by lush jungle and birdlife. There are also private indoor pools or private bubbly pools, which is ideal if you are planning a little romantic getaway while in New Zealand

What’s fun about Fernland Spa is that you can actually book a hotel room there, or camp! It is a unique stay in Tauranga and a seriously relaxing destination. Besides the pools, they offer massages and exercise classes and are right next to the Tauranga walkway/cycleway for a beautiful fern-filled walk after your spa day. 

This place is relaxing, and super fun with a group of friends. It is definitely a must-do activity while in Tauranga

14. Tauranga

Bailey walks along Matapihi Footbridge in Tauranga, NZ
Matapihi Footbridge in Tauranga, NZ

Tauranga is the perfect travel destination if you are looking for some adventure and a fun city life. It is the largest city in the Bay of Plenty region, which means it’s a hub for water activities like surfing, sailing, or even swimming with dolphins! Tauranga’s laid-back beach vibe will suck you in and you’ll lose track of time in this city, at least that’s what happened to me!

Only 10 minutes from Tauranga, hiking Mount Maunganui is a must-do activity. This is one of the best hikes in all of New Zealand because of the incredible views of the Bay of Plenty from the top. The hike will take you about 40 minutes to get to the top, and it’s a decently challenging climb, but totally doable. Bring some water and snacks, maybe even a beer for the top, and enjoy the views for a while! 

Tauranga’s position along the Bay of Plenty makes it the ideal spot to swim with dolphins, something you can’t do just anywhere! You can take this 5-hour tour and cruise around the Bay of Plenty (a fun activity in itself!) and get in the water to snorkel and swim with the dolphins. The dolphins are in their natural habitat, which makes this experience even more unique and memorable. This tour is $150 NZD, and totally worth every penny!

This region of New Zealand is known as the Thermal Explorer Highway, as there is a ton of geothermal activity creating natural hot springs for you to explore! The best stretch of this highway is from Tauranga to Rotorua where you’ll find the largest mud pool in New Zealand, a giant geyser, or some free hot springs. However, the easiest option is this full-day guided tour, as you can see the best hot springs, learn about Maori culture, and have transportation taken care of for you all for $190 NZD. 

Bailey at the Rotorua Maori experience.
Get amongst the Maori culture!

While you’re in Tauranga, you’ll have to check out some of my favorite restaurants. The Med Cafe is my favorite spot for some homely feel and yummy cooking. It is a breakfast place and is only open until 3 p.m., but it’s worth getting up early for some eggs benedict! The Hop House is a brewery in town that serves classic pub fare (pizzas and burgers) and some amazing in-house brewed beer. It is the perfect stop after a day of hiking or on the beach!

There is so much to do in Tauranga, that it’s the perfect stop point for a few days and a great end to your road trip from Auckland. You can explore the city by walking the Strand, seeing all the cute shops and local eateries, and enjoying the sunny weather. I could keep going on and on about Tauranga, but you’ll just have to experience it for yourself!

Related Read: If you’re an outdoor enthusiast like me, you’ll love New Zealand’s national parks! Check out my guide to the 13 National Parks in New Zealand to add on to your itinerary!

Where to Stay in Tauranga, NZ

Penthouse apartment with a seaside view at Trinity Wharf Tauranga, New Zealand
Photo credit: Trinity Wharf Tauranga

Now that you’ve made it to Tauranga, you’re going to need a place to stay! Whether you’re a backpacker making your way across the North Island or looking for more upscale accommodations for a night or two, Tauranga has you covered.

These are my top picks that fit a variety of budgets.

Wanderlust NZ – $

This waterfront hostel has million-dollar views of the harbor but without breaking the bank! Wanderlust NZ has a huge balcony overlooking the harbor and the historic building has been recently renovated. There are two shared kitchens to cook in, a lounge area, and a wide variety of rooms.

You can opt for the typical bunk bed in a shared room for around $40 NZD or upgrade to a private room for $130 NZD. The location is perfect and fills up fast, so book your room on Booking.com or HostelWorld.com quickly!

ASURE Harbour View Motel – $$

Have the beach and water views right out your front door at ASURE Harbour View Motel. The property is beautiful with a cobbled courtyard and a BBQ area to enjoy. You’re close to the harbor and center of Tauranga.

The rooms here are elegantly decorated and more like mini-apartments with a full kitchen or kitchenette, flat-screen TV, and free Wi-Fi. The motel also offers free kayak rentals! Rooms here are $230 NZD a night, which is a great deal for the amount of space you get.

You can check availability and book ASURE Harbour View Motel online here.

Trinity Wharf Tauranga – $$$

Treat yourself to a luxurious getaway with a room at the Trinity Wharf Tauranga. The panoramic views over the harbor and convenient location close to the center of Tauranga, mean you’re in a great spot to explore. The infinity-edge swimming pool is spectacular and the rooms have fluffy robes and comfy beds to relax in after a busy day. Rooms here are on the higher end, starting at about $300 NZD per night.

You can check rooms, prices, and book Trinity Wharf Tauranga online here!

Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand

Bailey stands in front of a right green JUCY campervan
JUCY is one of my favorite campervan rental companies (read below for a discount code!)
Bailey stands behind her Mad Campers campervan cooking in the kitchen at Piha Beach
I also really like Mad Campers!

Let’s face it, you’re going to need wheels to get around New Zealand. Although a small country, buses between destinations are infrequent and expensive. Plus, some of the best experiences you can have in NZ are on road trips!

You have three options when it comes to getting wheels in New Zealand; a car, a campervan, or a motorhome. Here’s what you need to know about each and where to get them:

  • Car – A normal car is the cheapest rental vehicle you can get in New Zealand. It’ll get you around to all of the best destinations with ease. The only downside to a car is that you will need to stay in hotels or Airbnbs during your travels (no camping.) The easiest place to rent a car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare cars, companies, prices, features, and more very easily.
  • Campervan – A Campervan is a large van that has a bed and a small kitchen in the back. It’s what most budget travelers use for traveling around New Zealand since it allows you to camp comfortably and for free (most) nights. Campervans are best for couples or solo travelers who are happy to live in a small space. You should also love the outdoors and camping…and be prepared for an adventure of a lifetime! My favorite campervan rental company is JUCY because they have a huge selection of campervans to choose from, plus multiple pick-up/drop-off locations. You can browse JUCY’s campervan selection online here. Alternatively, you can easily compare all campervans available in NZ on Motorhome Republic here.

EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT CODE: I’ve managed to snag a discount code for 5% off for my readers if you book your JUCY or Star RV campervan or motorhome before the end of June 2024! Simply click here to select your JUCY campervan, or click here to select your Star RV motorhome, and then use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off – it’s that easy! One thing to note is that this code is only valid for travel before Dec 21, 2024.

Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand

Bailey stands in front of a right green JUCY campervan
JUCY is one of my favorite campervan rental companies (read below for a discount code!)
Bailey stands behind her Mad Campers campervan cooking in the kitchen at Piha Beach
I also really like Mad Campers!

Let’s face it, you’re going to need wheels to get around New Zealand. Although a small country, buses between destinations are infrequent and expensive. Plus, some of the best experiences you can have in NZ are on road trips!

You have three options when it comes to getting wheels in New Zealand; a car, a campervan, or a motorhome. Here’s what you need to know about each and where to get them:

  • Car – A normal car is the cheapest rental vehicle you can get in New Zealand. It’ll get you around to all of the best destinations with ease. The only downside to a car is that you will need to stay in hotels or Airbnbs during your travels (no camping.) The easiest place to rent a car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare cars, companies, prices, features, and more very easily.
  • Campervan – A Campervan is a large van that has a bed and a small kitchen in the back. It’s what most budget travelers use for traveling around New Zealand since it allows you to camp comfortably and for free (most) nights. Campervans are best for couples or solo travelers who are happy to live in a small space. You should also love the outdoors and camping…and be prepared for an adventure of a lifetime! My favorite campervan rental company is JUCY because they have a huge selection of campervans to choose from, plus multiple pick-up/drop-off locations. You can browse JUCY’s campervan selection online here. Alternatively, you can easily compare all campervans available in NZ on Motorhome Republic here.

EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT CODE: I’ve managed to snag a discount code for 5% off for my readers if you book your JUCY or Star RV campervan or motorhome before the end of June 2024! Simply click here to select your JUCY campervan, or click here to select your Star RV motorhome, and then use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off – it’s that easy! One thing to note is that this code is only valid for travel before Dec 21, 2024.

Thanks for reading!

Bailey walks the Tauranga foreshore
Thanks for reading!

There is so much to explore on a road trip from Auckland to Tauranga, it is easily one of my favorite parts of New Zealand! While it’s a quick drive, you’d really be missing out on so much by driving straight through. And as the saying goes, “It’s about the journey, not the destination”, right? So take your time and make at least a few of these stops so you can see all that the North Island has to offer.

I hope you found this blog helpful as you plan your time on the North Island, specifically from Auckland to Tauranga! If you need more travel inspiration, I have taken many other amazing road trips through New Zealand that you will love! Plus, you can check out my other guides on the North Island, as there really is so much to explore!

12 Things to Know BEFORE Visiting Wētā Workshop Unleashed, Auckland

9 BEST Wine Regions in New Zealand (that you just have to visit!)

10 EPIC South Island Road Trips You’ll Love in New Zealand

ONE Day Auckland Itinerary: How to Spend the Day in Auckland