Next: Rotorua to Taupo
Rotorua and Taupo are two of the tourist highlights of New Zealand's North Island. The drive from Auckland which takes in both towns is an easy four hour journey (excluding stops) and there are many place of interest along the way.
Auckland and South
Leaving Auckland along the southern motorway, housing gives way to farmland. You will pass over the Bombay Hills, which marks the boundary between the Auckland and Waikato regions. This is an important area for crops such as onions and potatoes, as evidenced by the deep red volcanic soil in the fields adjacent to the road.
Passing through Te Kauwhata, the Waikato River comes into view just before the town of Huntly. Huntly is a coal mining town and the Huntly power station looms large to the right on the other side of the river. The Waikato is New Zealand's longest river (425km) and is within view of the road for much of the trip towards Hamilton.
Most travelers continue on through to Hamilton, but there is an alternative and more scenic route where you can bypass the traffic of Hamilton altogether. Just before Ngaruawahia watch for the sign on the left to Cambridge via Gordonton (Highway 1B). This takes a path through some lovely farmland and bush areas and is a good way to avoid the heavy traffic through Hamilton city. The lush green paddocks of dairy farms abound.
Approaching Cambridge the dairy farms give way to horse studs; this is home to some of the top horse breeders in New Zealand. Cambridge itself is a delightful little town with (as its name suggests) an air of England about it. It makes a good place to stop and stretch the legs with a walk through one of its several pretty parks.
Just south of Cambridge is Lake Karapiro, clearly visible from the road. Although technically part of the Waikato River, this is an artificial lake that was created in 1947 to feed the local power station. It is now host to a variety of water sports and is regarded as the premier rowing venue in New Zealand.
If you're looking for a nice cafe, Tirau is the place. The main road passing through the town is lined with interesting little places to eat and enjoy a coffee. At the start of the shopping strip are two very distinctive buildings which house the Tourist Information Center; in the shape of a dog and a sheep the exteriors are made entirely from corrugated iron.
Next: Rotorua to Taupo