Whether you’re looking to take a long weekend break in a campervan or you’re planning to spend as much time exploring the area between Auckland and New Plymouth as possible, there are plenty of reasons to head out on this popular road trip route.
Not only is the drive along the Auckland to New Plymouth road trip beautifully scenic but there are some amazing places to visit along the way. Here, you’ll find some of our favourites, with something for everyone to enjoy.
What is the Driving Distance from Auckland to New Plymouth?
The driving distance from Auckland to New Plymouth is 366km, which takes around 4 hours and 30 minutes to complete. While this isn’t the longest road trip, there are still plenty of opportunities for you to stop along the way, stretch your legs, and enjoy some of the most exciting and beautiful places in New Zealand.
Where Can You Stop on the Way to New Plymouth from Auckland?
As you make your way from Auckland to New Plymouth, you’ll hit the areas listed below. Each of these has some incredible sightseeing opportunities, from peaceful walks in botanical gardens to getting up close and personal with animals.
366km trip distance
road trip map
Sightseeing #1: Auckland Zoo
Founded in 1922, Auckland Zoo is one of the world’s oldest conservation organisations and is focused on the preservation of many different species of animals. This is a great place to stop on the first leg of your journey, especially if you’re a family of animal lovers!
Not only are there hundreds of exhibits to admire, but you can also take part in special zoo experiences, including a Galapagos Tortoise Experience, Giraffe Experience, and Red Panda Experience. You can book a guided tour of the zoo as well, where you’ll learn more about each species and their importance in both the environment and Maori culture.
Sightseeing #2: Sky Tower
The tallest building in New Zealand, Sky Tower offers 360º panoramic views of Auckland from 186 metres above street level. This is also one of the best places to visit at night as an elevator ride to the top will take you to a revolving restaurant and bar, offering a place to unwind at the end of the day while admiring the most incredible views.
Sightseeing #3: Hamilton Gardens
While most botanical gardens are focused on collecting different species of plants from all over the world, Hamilton Gardens is focused on garden design. You can think of the gardens as an ever-changing museum, with designs and concepts from over the past 4,000 years, as well as showcasing modern, innovative designs and technology being used in gardens today.
Highlights of Hamilton Gardens include a Chinese Scholar’s Garden, a Tudor Garden, a Bussaco Woodland, and a Japanese Garden of Contemplation. There are also ideas and exhibits on sustainable gardening in an ever-changing climate. This is definitely a place to visit if you’re interested in gardening or reducing your carbon footprint.
Sightseeing #4: The Sculpture Park
An excellent place for art lovers to visit in Hamilton, The Sculpture Park is located within Waitakaruru Arboretum and offers a unique mixture of art and nature. Along this 2km walking trail, you’ll find over 100 sculptures created by New Zealand and international artists mixed with over 30,000 native forest trees. This is also a great place for families to spend the day as there is creative play space for children to enjoy, which is also very useful for burning off excess energy!
Sightseeing #5: The Classics Museum
A great sightseeing destination for any classic car enthusiast, The Classics Museum has an exhibition of over 60 classic cars along with a plethora of petrol memorabilia, including petrol pumps, signs, tins, and vintage pinball machines. There really is something for every member for the family to enjoy here, and when you start to get hungry, you can grab a bite to eat in the fabulous 1950s-themed restaurant, “The Jukebox Diner”.
Sightseeing #6: Hobbiton Movie Set Tours
The perfect stop for any Lord of the Rings fan, Hamilton is home to the movie set from the much-loved films, and here you’re able to take a tour of the Shire’s hobbit holes before finishing with a drink at The Green Dragon Inn.
Sightseeing #7: Riverside Walkway at Waikato River
This is a two-way walking and cycling trail between Control Gates Bridge and Spa Thermal Park, and it’s a great place to grab a breath of fresh air, stop for a picnic, or enjoy an hour or two relaxing in nature. You’re also able to gain easy access to the city on foot throughout Riverside Walkway, which is perfect if you need to stop and grab something to eat.
Dogs are welcome at Riverside Walkway too, although they must be kept on a lead at all times.
Sightseeing #8: Mount Taranaki
As you enter the Taranaki Region and head towards the coastal town of New Plymouth, you have to stop and marvel at Mount Taranaki. Standing at 2,518 meters tall, it really is a sight to behold, and depending on the amount of time you have to spare, you can also take the 6.3km walking track to get up close and personal with this iconic New Zealand landmark.
Keep in mind the sheer size of Mount Taranaki when deciding if you want to do the walking trail, however, as getting up and down will take around 9 hours in total. Of course, if you simply want to grab a seat close by and admire the mountain in all of its glory, there’s nothing to stop you from doing so.
Sightseeing #9 Egmont National Park
Egmont National Park has multiple walking trails that offer a great place to stop along the road from Auckland to New Plymouth, including the Dawson Falls track and Curtis Falls track, each of which provides stunning views of waterfalls.
Situated within Egmont National Park, you’ll also find Mount Taranaki. As mentioned above, this is definitely worth visiting, and if you don’t like the idea of climbing the mountain, a walking trail can be found in Egmont National Park that leads you around it instead. This also takes much less time and can be completed in around three hours.
Sightseeing #10: Three Sisters
Close to Tongaporutu, you’ll find two 25-meter rock formations known as “The Three Sisters”. The best time to visit these towering rocks that were carved out by wind and the sea is during low tide, as this offers the opportunity to walk alongside the river and around the base of each rock.
There are also caves close by that you can explore, one of which has a drawing of a six-toed foot! You might be wondering why the Three Sisters has its name, given that there are only two rocks. Well, there used to be three (as well as another rock named “The Elephant”), but unfortunately, these have been eroded away over time.
Sightseeing #11: Tawhiti Museum
The Tawhiti Museum has to be one of the most intriguing and innovative places to visit as you make your way from Auckland to New Plymouth. Here, you’ll find life-sized models exhibited, all of which are created by human hands on the premises. Popular displays include railway carts, farm machinery, and colonial kitchens.
This is a great place to stop if you’re interested in New Zealand’s history or if you want to try and convince your children that not all museums are boring!
Sightseeing #12: Coastal Walkway
Another fantastic place to stretch your legs and grab some fresh air, the Coastal Walkway is an award-winning promenade that runs along the New Plymouth coastline. Spanning 12.7km, you can walk, cycle, or skate this walkway while taking in incredible views of the ocean.
Along the way, you’ll find the Te Rewa Rewa Bridge with its towering, spiralling ribs. Designed by Peter Mulqueen, the bridge is considered one of the finest pieces of architecture in New Plymouth, and it’s definitely worth a visit if you want to see some of the area’s highlights.
Sightseeing #13: Govett-Brewster Art Gallery
This is a must visit for anyone who loves art. The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery has ever-changing exhibitions from some of the best artists in the world, as well as displays of New Zealand’s historic and cultural artwork.
The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery also houses a small cinema that premiers upcoming movies and documentaries from all over the world, many of which are due to be shown at some of the world’s most famous film festivals. There’s a gift shop here too, which is ideal if you want to grab a memento of your trip or pick up a souvenir for your loved ones.
Sightseeing #14: Puke Ariki Museum
Not your usual museum, the Puke Ariki Museum is more of a learning hub with a research centre, library, and museum that doesn’t only educate visitors but encourages you to engage in interactive exhibitions.
There are events and programmes every day as well, including exciting science lessons, a Scrabble club, and writing workshops. This is definitely the place to visit if you want to learn more about, well, anything really! Children will also have an amazing time exploring the exhibits, such as the interactive “Reef Alive!” experience, which showcases the biodiversity of marine life in the Taranaki region.
Sightseeing #15: Taranaki Cathedral, Church of St Mary
Built in 1842, Taranaki Cathedral, Church of St Mary, is an excellent place to visit if you’re a fan of architecture and religious iconography. You can also learn about the building’s history here, as well as more history about the area, including the reasoning behind New Plymouth becoming the choice for New Zealand’s second European colony.
While the journey from Auckland to New Plymouth is relatively short, there is so much to do along the way that it is a good idea to take your time and explore as many things as possible. Hiring a campervan is the best way to do this, and you can speak to Travellers Autobarn about hiring a campervan in Auckland and getting a free online quote.