Heading from Auckland to Tauranga? Don’t rush! Travellers Autobarn invites you to explore some hidden gems along the way. From Waihi’s gleaming gold mines to Katikati’s vibrant murals and the tranquillity of Ōmokoroa, we’ve got five great stops lined up for you. So, let’s turn a simple drive into an unforgettable journey across New Zealand’s captivating landscapes.

Ready? Let’s hit the road less travelled!

What is the Auckland to Tauranga drive distance?

Driving from Auckland to Tauranga is a relatively quick journey. Via State Highway 2, the driving distance spans 240 km and will typically take you around 3 hours. So, you can easily reach Tauranga within half a day, but what’s the fun in that? Instead, we recommend taking a slower pace to truly appreciate all the sights and experiences along the way.

Here are five places to make the most of your Auckland to Tauranga drive.

What are some places to visit between Auckland and Tauranga?

  1. Pokeno
  2. Ngatea
  3. Waikino
  4. Katikati
  5. Ōmokoroa
Quick stats

240km trip distance

day roadtrip

Campervan recommended

road trip map

Stop #1: Pokeno

Panoramic view on river valley with lush green and river flowing through the shot during sunny day with blue sky and some clouds. On the picture is Waikato, longest river in New Zealand.

As for our first suggestion, we’re pointing you towards Pokeno. This charming little town tucked away in New Zealand’s Waikato region is a treasure trove of delights. Now, why would you want to swing by? Two words: bacon and ice cream. Trust us, the smell alone is worth the detour.

Every Sunday, the place buzzes with the lively Franklin Markets, boasting over 70 stalls of drool-worthy food, drinks, and one-of-a-kind arts and crafts. Got some kiddos in tow? They’ll have a blast at the array of playgrounds, all connected by picturesque walking tracks.

Sightseeing #1: Mt William Walkway

Ready to take your New Zealand adventure up a notch? Head to the Mt William Walkway. This scenic trail takes you through open farmland and native bush in the Mount William Scenic Reserve. Peaks like Mt William and Puketutu offer panoramic views of Waikato, Franklin, and some parts of Auckland. Perfect for that next Instagram post! Just remember, it may be closed during lambing season. Time it right for a true Kiwi countryside experience.

Sightseeing #2: Pokeno Waterfall

Hidden in Pokeno Village is the quiet yet captivating Pokeno Waterfall, also known as Leathams Stream Waterfall. Amidst lush greenery, this peaceful place offers a gentle waterfall track over rocks. It’s not towering, but its soothing mist makes it perfect for relaxation and snapping photos. A short stroll from the car park will get you there. This well-kept spot is a must-visit, offering a serene escape in the heart of Waikato.

Stop #2: Ngatea


Continuing on State Highway 2, you’ll hit Ngatea, a charming little town set in the Hauraki Plains. This isn’t your average rest stop; it’s loaded with neat shops, lip-smacking food joints, and cosy places for the night.

Feel like stretching your legs? The eccentric water gardens are worth a look. Need to unwind? Pioneer Park is your go-to. Travelling with youngsters? They’ll go wild for the playground and skatepark. Plus, with its roots deep in Maori culture and European settlement, Ngatea lets you get a real feel of New Zealand.

Sightseeing #1: Ngatea Water Gardens

Once you land in Ngatea, you just can’t miss the enchanting Ngatea Water Gardens. This natural beauty is like stepping into a fairy tale, each pathway leading to a new delightful surprise. Stroll past bridges, lily ponds, and waterfalls, and say ‘hi’ to the friendly locals – fish, ducks, and even New Zealand’s oldest turtles! With its quirky signs, gift shop, can museum, and picnic spots, it’s a fun-filled escape that’s wheelchair-friendly too!

Sightseeing #2: Miranda Hot Springs

Now, how about a dip in the largest thermal swimming pool in the southern hemisphere? That’s right, at Miranda Hot Springs, just an hour’s drive from Auckland, you can soak up the warmth and let your worries float away. There’s an adults-only sauna pool for some peace, and the kids get their own pool and playground. Plus, there are coin-operated barbecues, a cafe, and beautiful surroundings. It’s not just a hot spring—it’s a rejuvenating retreat with deep roots in Maori heritage.

Stop #3: Waihi


Next up, Waihi, New Zealand’s gold mining hotspot. Here, history meets adventure. Visit the Gold Discovery Centre, check out the mine pit, or ride the Goldfields vintage railway.

But there’s more to Waihi – it’s your entry point to the famous Hauraki Rail Trail and the scenic Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway. Add to that charming old buildings, lovely cafes, and close access to the glorious 9km Waihi Beach. Waihi truly is New Zealand’s ‘Heart of Gold’. So, why not add some sparkle to your travel with a stop at Waihi?

Sightseeing #1: Waihi Beach

Once you’re in Waihi Beach, you’ll feel your routine slip away. This 9km stretch of pristine sand isn’t just one of New Zealand’s safest surf spots but also a bustling hub for fish and chips shops and delicious food joints. Head over to Bowentown and Anzac Bay for some fishing, kayaking, or surfing. For the hikers, Orokawa Bay and William Wright Falls are must-visits. With stunning views, great food, and loads to do, it’s the perfect coastal getaway.

Sightseeing #2: Goldfields Vintage Railway

Take a ride on the Goldfields Vintage Railway for a trip down memory lane. . This nostalgic journey meanders through the lush landscapes between Waihi and Waikino, offering glimpses into Southern Coromandel’s gold-mining history. Stop at Waikino Station for a scone or explore the Karangahake Gorge and its historical sites. Whether you’re a history nut or a nature lover, this trip promises to be a memorable adventure.

Stop #4: Katikati


Now, if you really want to just chill out and appreciate some art on your journey, swing by Katikati, New Zealand’s vibrant ‘Mural Town’. Nestled between Waihī Beach and Tauranga, this sunny town is a living art gallery with over 60 murals narrating its rich past.

And hey, it’s not just about the art—Katikati boasts lush kiwifruit and avocado plantations, thanks to its fertile volcanic soil. Poetry lover? The Haiku Pathway has the most extensive collection of Haikus outside Japan. With its mix of art, history, and nature, Katikati is one stop you’ll surely love.

Sightseeing #1: The Arts Junction

Hang out at the Arts Junction in Katikati, and you’ll find it’s more than just a visit—it’s a whole experience. Let your inner artist shine in ‘New Zealand’s Mural Town’, where over 76 art pieces narrate their past. Take a relaxed walk along the Haiku Pathway, with poems etched on boulders, and connect with the Bird Walk for some bird spotting. Don’t forget to explore the cycleways and walkways for some epic harbour views and taste the best avocados in town!

Sightseeing #2: Katikati Bird Gardens

Get ready for a chill day at Katikati Bird Gardens, a place of year-round tranquillity. Wander through gardens dotted with water-lily ponds, mature trees, and vibrant flower beds. Keep an eye out for various bird species, either wandering freely or housed in aviaries. Follow the sealed paths through clusters of colourful camellias, magnolias, azaleas, and lilies.

Stop #5: Ōmokoroa


Craving some tranquillity before hitting Tauranga? Ōmokoroa, a tucked-away treasure in the Bay of Plenty, has got you covered. Known as ‘Our Seaside Paradise’, this coastal retreat is ideal for slowing down.

Here, you can take easy strolls on picturesque trails, get your adrenaline pumping with bike rides on cool cycle paths, or just bask in the peaceful vibe. With its breathtaking sea views, warm community, and pristine gardens, it’s easy to see why locals dub it paradise! So, how about a detour to Ōmokoroa? It’s the perfect remedy to city life’s constant rush.

Sightseeing #1: Ōmokoroa Domain

Head over to Ōmokoroa Domain, one of the popular attractions near Tauranga alongside Mount Maunganui, where the calm harbour and peaceful beach are just waiting for you. Pack a picnic, bring your swim gear or kayak, and make a day of it. Kids? They’ll love the playground. If breathtaking vistas are your thing, follow the paths to Gerald Crapp Reserve. Oh, and if you’ve got a SUP or kayak, Motuhoa Island is ripe for exploration.

Sightseeing #2: Ōmokoroa Golf Club

It’s time to tee off at Ōmokoroa Golf Club, one of New Zealand’s prettiest courses. Casual player or seasoned golfer, it doesn’t matter – the scenic 18 holes will win you over. And let’s not forget the Kiwi hospitality and mouth-watering food from their kitchen. With its rich history and gorgeous location, this is a great spot to unwind and enjoy the game.

Have a few ideas in mind already?

Kick-start your North Island adventure with us! Our Auckland branch is conveniently located near the airport, making it easy for you to go north or south! So don’t forget to check out our deals on campervan hire in Auckland.

Looking for other amazing travel ideas on New Zealand’s North Island? Check out our North Island Road Trips, packed full of itineraries and tips.

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