Going through Thrifty Car Rentals I found one of their car relocation rentals to drive from Wellington to Auckland. It gave me two days to drive, see part of the North Island, and experience what I could. I had only done a minimal amount of research before I left Wellington and my friend helped some too.
I found car relocation to be a great option for driving in New Zealand. There aren’t a lot of public transportation options for travelling around the country so tourists are constantly renting cars to drive from one place to another. The car companies then need those cars returned to them. If no one rents it to make the return drive, you can rent it as a relocation car. There are different deals depending on the company and the rental but generally you don’t have to pay for the car rental, just the insurance and the petrol. There could also be camper vans available.
I wasn’t sure two days would leave me a lot of time to make many stops driving from Wellington to Auckland, but I spent the night in Rotorua so I could enjoy a mud bath and I continued my Lord of the Rings/Hobbit NZ experience by visiting Hobbiton. Two experiences I was very happy I visited.
Even with these stops, it was quite a relaxing two days’ drive from Wellington to Auckland. It wasn’t too long of a trip. Wellington to Rotorua was the longest and a full day’s drive but that was partly because of the amount of traffic. Rotorua to Auckland was a lot shorter though. There were a few spots where the roads became a bit narrow and the corners were a bit tighter but mostly the drive and the roads were quite easy.
Taupo is a town on the northeastern side of Lake Taupo. It has beautiful scenery with a relaxed atmosphere, and it is quite touristy. The waterfront area was filled with shops, restaurants, a range of hotels, and a bunch of people walking around. The view of the lake is stunning even if you are just driving through the city like I did. Okay, I stopped for a quick meal of noodles and vegetables.
The lake and the area around Taupo offer several different outdoor sport adventures.
I got stuck in traffic leaving Wellington so I took much longer getting to Taupo than I expected. It took me approx. seven hours.
I wasn’t able to spend a lot of time in Rotorua, which is unfortunate because it is quite a nice place with a few things I would have enjoyed. And it is only about a one hour drive from Taupo. But I got to fully enjoy myself with a mud bath at Hells Gate Geothermal Reserve & Mud Spa (website). It was a wonderful, relaxing way to spend a morning before I headed back out on the road.
Hells Gate Geothermal Reserve is a thermal park with a walkway through part of it for you to trek along. It apparently takes about 45 minutes to one hour with several interactive experiences to help you learn and enjoy. I didn’t take part in this tour but it looked great.
I will not lie, the place smells. But it should smell, it’s geothermal volcanic mud and sulphur waters. What part of that doesn’t smell? As a bonus to taking advantage of the Hells Gate Mud Spa, you smell for the rest of the day. Your skin’s pores will exude sulphur for up to like 24 hours after the spa visit. Your clothes will smell and if you wear your jewellery, it could tarnish. I rented a swimsuit from them for $5 and used their towels so that helped with my personal clothes.
The Mud Bath, The Sulphur Pool, and The Amenities
The mud bath was amazing though. You sit in what is basically a cement hole/mini pool filled with a thin mud. It is outside and you are in your own enclosed area. You layer the mud on your body then sit and relax for 20 minutes. During that time an employee will come back and use your camera or phone to take your picture. It felt amazing, and the experience was so relaxing. I even spent some of my time in there meditating.
The sulphur water pool was another pleasure. The water was quite hot, maybe even hotter than a hot tub but it felt glorious. It might have also helped that I was the only person there but it was an extra relaxing experience.
There are change rooms with showers, a lounge room, and several massage rooms as well as the pool area and individual mud baths. Word of advice, that mud takes forever to get off your body. You shower thinking you got it all, then you dry yourself off with one of the supplied white towels and you see that nope, there was still mud on your body. Thankfully you are given a crate to store and carry your belongings so you don’t get mud on everything.
Honestly, this was one of my favourite experiences in New Zealand. I am so happy I did it and I can’t recommend it enough.
Hobbiton Movie Set on the Drive from Wellington to Auckland
I booked my tour time on-line a few days in advance and I am glad I did. This place is quite busy. I went at the end of the day though which wasn’t as bad as the stories I heard about the beginning of the day.
Hobbiton (website) is the hobbit town movie set, created on a farm in New Zealand for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movie series’. They took the original set for the Lord of the Rings down after the filming was complete but they recreated it for the Hobbit movies. They left it in place after those to allow visitors who kept coming to the farm, the chance to tour around.
I’ve visited other movie sets before and while I find them exciting, Hobbiton was my favourite. Probably because they created an entire make-believe town for the movies and we then got to visit. There is a decent amount of easy walking involved with a few small hills to walk up and down, on this tour out in the field.
A bus picks everyone up at the main area and takes each group out to the set. The main area is where you park your car and check in for your tour. There is also a restaurant, a shop, an ice cream kiosk, and washrooms.
To reach the hobbit village, the tour has you walking along the same path as the characters did in the movie. Then you walk around the houses, stand in a few doorways for pictures, walk around the lake, enjoy the beauty of the flowers and gardens, and finish up having food or a drink in the Green Dragon Inn.
It was a great experience and easy to stop off on my way to Auckland from Rotorua. It also wasn’t too far of a drive from either city.
I didn’t stop here nor did I drive close but it was visible from the highway and it makes an awesome sight. A giant mountain in the middle of flat scenery. Ruapehu is a stratovolcano near Taupo in the middle of the North Island of New Zealand. It is approx. a four-hour drive to both Auckland in the north or Wellington in the south.
It can be hiked in the summer or skied in the winter. In the summer you can ride the chairlift and walk to find yourself at the crater lake. In the winter you can ski at one of the two ski fields, the two largest in New Zealand. The mountain provides several outdoor sports.
As with any mountain weather, you must be prepared before you go up. Weather changes throughout the day and you could easily find yourself in the middle of an unexpected snowstorm. Always plan ahead and let someone know your plans before you leave.
I did the drive from Wellington to Auckland in two days and still experienced a bunch of what the north island of New Zealand offers. You could easily stretch it out though to take your time and experience even more. I happily took less time to drive because I was visiting friends in both Wellington and Auckland and this way I could spend more time with them all. It just depends on what you would like to do.