Auckland and Rotorua are two of the most popular destinations on New Zealand’s North Island. From bubbling natural hot springs to shopping amidst sparkling skyscrapers and zip lining through the treetops to wine tasting on lush islands, they are full of incredibly diverse and unique holiday experiences. Less than a three hour drive apart, Auckland and Rotorua make for the perfect destination duo! Here’s a taste of what’s on offer.
One of the first things travellers notice about Auckland is how beautiful it is. Set on a harbour and surrounded by impressive volcanic landscapes, it’s a place where skyscrapers meet sparkling blue waters and rolling green hills rise in the distance. The biggest city in New Zealand, Auckland has a magical way of merging big city sophistication with a passion for the outdoors. Despite all the cosmopolitan encounters on offer, you could still find yourself sailing around the harbour in a luxury yacht, hiking to the top of Diamond Head for panoramic views, or relaxing in hot springs on the cusp of the city. You could also retreat to the spectacular white sand beaches nearby or take the quick ferry ride to Waiheke Island for a day of taste-testing around the wineries. Prefer the cosmopolitan city vibe? Head to the Wynyard Quarter, the city’s fancy new waterfront area for a stroll and a bite to eat, or check out the hip galleries, shops and eateries along Ponsonby Road. For some culture, catch the daily Maori cultural performance at the Auckland Museum, see penguins at Kelly Tarlton’s SEA LIFE Aquarium or join a guided Maori heritage walk through the city. Whether you’re more into shopping or adrenalin-pumping adventure activities, Auckland has the variety to deliver.
Despite being one of the most popular tourist destinations in New Zealand, Rotorua is as charming and beautiful as ever. Touted as New Zealand’s ‘adventure playground’, the most fascinating and famous features here are no doubt the geothermal wonders. Natural hot springs, boiling mud pools and incredible spurting geysers are just the start of it. Relax in a world-class geothermal spa, glimpse the world famous Pohutu geyser and explore the stories of Te Wairoa, a village buried by a volcanic eruption in the 1800s. For other adventures, you could join an eco-tour of the lush surrounds, go paddle boarding through glow worm caves or zipline through the treetops like Tarzan. From white water rafting to mountain biking and fishing – you can do just about anything here. But Rotorua is also renowned for its local Maori culture. Join a Maori food trail tour or a guided cultural walk, or simply wander through the local arts and crafts galleries around the city. From heritage landmarks to traditional Maori villages, this is one of the richest places to experience New Zealand’s roots. Other nearby attractions include the Hobbiton village for Lord of the Rings fans, which is an hour’s drive away, and the many gorgeous lakes that surround Rotorua.
Looking for more great New Zealand holiday ideas? Check out our Top 5 Ideas for a Romantic Holiday in Auckland, these Top 5 Stunners of New Zealand's South Island and our North Island vs South Island guide.