Google Driving Directions - Would you believe that it was only in 2011 that 'Rotorua' was added to highway destination signs. Go figure. It's only THE premier tourist destination in New Zealand, well, in the North Island anyway.
For example, visitors coming to Rotorua from Auckland have had a lot of trouble over the years with no clear directions on how to get here.
With that minor addition it's certainly going to be a lot easier now, that's for sure.
If you don't have internet access or GPS in your car or on your phone you will need a map. There are plenty of good driving maps available at petrol stations and book stores throughout New Zealand.
Usually I will print off or jot down driving directions from Google before I leave on any journeys I take.
the whole, roads in New Zealand tend to be pretty well signposted so
you shouldn't have too much trouble. Actually, I quite like getting
lost, you never know where you will end up.
On my Google driving directions map you will see that there are six roads converging on Rotorua.
I will explain them as if you are leaving Rotorua, - hope that makes
sense. Working clockwise from the top left-handside of the map:
SH5 is the main route out of Rotorua heading towards and through Tirau (lots of little craft and antique shops), Cambridge, Hamilton, Auckland and on up north. This links up with SH 1 (just before Tirau) which runs the length of New Zealand.
SH36 takes you to Tauranga and Mount Maunganui. This is the back road that a lot of locals use. It passes through gorges so there are some steep, winding parts to it. By winding I mean corners that have 35kmp (21.7mph) signs.
Mount Maunganui is THE beach to go to in the
summer for locals and visitors alike. The little township itself is tiny
so it gets packed.
You would probably want to avoid it on New Years eve as this is one of the hot spots descended on by teenagers from all over.
SH33 takes you to Te Puke (home of Kiwifruit) and from there to Tauranga or Mt Maunganui.
If you make a right-hand turn at Paengaroa (before Te Puke), you will be taken to the beach communities of Maketu (where the Te Arawa people first landed), Pukehina and Matata and on to Whakatane, Ohope and Opotiki.
It's a lovely drive along this coastline. Watch out for the Pohutukawa (New Zealand Christmas) trees, especially when they are flowering.
SH30 will take you past the beautiful lakes of Rotoiti, Rotoehu and Rotoma where there are walks, trout fishing and camping grounds. Great for holidays.
It goes on to Kawerau, Whakatane, Ohope (yay, love that beach) and right out to the eastern coast of New Zealand where a lot of sea fishing and hunting takes place.
SH30 again but heading south. This is the road we head to Wellington on. It joins up with SH1 just before Taupo (trout fishing, volcanic activity).
Huka Falls is a must see on the way to Taupo with sparkling clear water powering through a narrow channel. I always get a sense of how small I am when I visit there.
From Taupo the south spreads out in all its glory. Just on the other side a left turn can be made to go to Napier, Gisborne, Hastings and Wairoa. After that SH1 takes you through the Tongariro National Park where there are three active volcanoes. They are Tongariro (1967m), Ruapehu (2797m) and Ngaruhoe (2291m). If you get a clear day the views of the mountains from the Desert Rd (it is barren and desolate) are absolutely stunning.
The Whakapapa ski field is located on the north-western slopes of Mt
Ruapehu and Turoa's on the south-western slopes. There are lots of walks
around this area as well.
SH30 again but heading south-west out of town will take you to Tokoroa and also in the direction of the Waitomo Caves (blackwater rafting) and Te Kuiti.