3 of the North Island’s most photogenic road trips

If you have some time to get out of the city, these three North Island road tips are sure to provide you with ample photo opportunities.

New Zealand is a country far from lacking in terms of photo opportunities – almost every turn will see both amateur and professional photographers scrambling for their cameras. Whether it's to capture an image of an opportunistic busker in front of a historic building on Auckland's busy Queen Street, or a deserted black sand beach near the coastal town of Raglan, picturesque panoramas are bountiful.

If you have some time to explore, these three road trips are sure to provide you with ample photo opportunities. Hire a car in Auckland, pack your film camera, Polaroid or smartphone and get snapping.

1. Auckland to Matamata

The drive from Auckland to Matamata takes approximately two hours, but if you're an avid photographer, it might take a fair bit longer as there are a plethora of Insta-worthy spots along the way. Head off along State Highway 1 and enjoy the undulating green hills during the 90-minute drive to the riverside city of Hamilton. If you're about ready to enjoy some brunch, head to Scotts Epicurean on Victoria Street and enjoy some photogenic crepes smothered with fresh berries, vanilla mascarpone and maple syrup.

Next, head to the Hamilton Gardens, which offer 54 hectares of photo opportunities. There are over 15 themed gardens to explore – enjoy the vibrant flowers in the Indian Char Bagh garden or take a selfie in the romantic Italian Renaissance garden then head back to the car to continue to Matamata. 

Once just a quiet country town, Matamata is now a favourite destination, and if you're a Lord of the Rings or Hobbit fan, it's not to be missed. Keep your camera at the ready as you discover the Hobbiton movie set complete with cute little hobbit holes featuring brightly painted round doors perfect for posing in front of. Once you're all snapped out, enjoy a refreshing drink at the Green Dragon Inn.

2. Rotorua to Waitomo

It's just a two-hour drive from the geothermal city of Rotorua in the central North Island to Waitomo, home of New Zealand's most impressive glowworm caves. On driving into Rotorua, you may notice a unique scent, but before you blame your companions, be aware that it's 99 per cent likely to be the sulphur-rich air, which is produced by the area's many geysers and natural hot springs. Be careful not to get too close when taking pictures of these striking natural attributes, as water temperatures can reach over 300 degrees Celsius.

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Rotorua is also a great place to learn about Maori history and culture – enjoy a hangi, a traditional meal in which the food is cooked in a pit underground. Visit a tribal marae, take in the traditional wood carvings and paintwork, and enjoy a poi show during which skilled performers twirl one or more poi in unison.

From Rotorua, take State Highway 5 across the Mamaku Ranges and through the tree-lined Fitzgerald Glade. Drive through the small towns of Putaruru and Otorohanga, after which you'll come to the Waitomo turn-off. In Waitomo, you won't want to put your camera down for a minute as you discover stalagmites, stalactites and glowworms galore in New Zealand's most dramatic caves.

3. Whangamata to Mount Maunganui

If the weather is warm and you want to get some snaps of New Zealand's most beautiful beaches, start out in Whangamata and drive south for just over two hours to Mount Maunganui. Located on the southeast coast of the Coromandel Peninsula, Whangamata was recently voted New Zealand's best beach in a survey of New Zealand Herald readers. Capture some images of surfers riding the waves, or kids playing in the golden sands, then begin the drive to Mount Maunganui. After about 15 minutes, you may be tempted to stop off at Whiritoa where New Zealand's laid-back bach culture is on display. This quiet beach town is the perfect place to get some portraits of local characters and native pohutakawa trees.

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Next, drive on along State Highway 25 until you reach Waihi. The main street of this little beach town possesses a lot of character, and now would be an opportune time to enjoy one of the many cafes on offer or to do a spot of shopping in the clothing boutiques and antique stores.

From Waihi, head on to State Highway 2 and enjoy the scenic drive to Mount Maunganui, which boasts a sheltered bay and a white-sand beach. You might want to save some film for the hike to the top of Mauao, Mount Maunganui's 230 m extinct volcano, which offers incredible views of the Pacific Ocean.

The drive from Mount Maunganui back to Auckland takes approximately three hours, and you can drop off your rental car in Auckland anytime between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m..

About the Author

Chester is a foodie and loves to explore the great land of Australia. He is currently blogging for East Coast Car Rentals.

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