NZ ports Tauranga and Auckland - can i fit this all in? self drive

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#1
Kauai
163 Posts
Joined Apr 2004
Will be on the Sun Princess in March - There are so many things I would like to do in Tauranga, and am trying to figure out if I can put some together in one day.

Looking to rent a car at the port in Tauranga and see both Hobiton and do the rafting trip in Rotorua. We are in port from 6:30am to 5;30pm. I think it looks ok on paper but wondering if anyone has experience to share?

I could do the 9am Kaituna raft trip and Hobiton at 1:10, or Hobiton at 9:10 and raft trip at 12:30. With an hour plus between them I think its ok? This will be on a Monday.

Also, I really want to do blackwater rafting, and there isn't enough time to go while in Tauranga port and still see Hobiton. I was considering renting a car in Auckland and driving to the black water rafting/waitomo area. We are in Auckland from 8am to 9pm. I really wanted to do the 5 hour tour, but they shortened our stay an hour on each end, so thinking the 3 hour would be safer. I know this is looking at at least 5-6 hours of driving, but the black water rafting would be my first choice activity for all the ports we are stopping at.

Am I generally ok with budgeting 3-4 hours drive time both side of the tour which would be around 12 or 12:30? Is there any points of interest you would recommend on the drive route from Auckland to Waitomo? Have you done the black water rafting and do you think it would be worth the 5-6 hour drive?

Thank you for you input! I am having a hard time deciding without some real life input. Thank you!
#3
Kauai
163 Posts
Joined Apr 2004
I was considering that but I got mixed information about whether the Princess would allow this, and I asked the travel agency I booked through ( bargain site) and they said it is not allowed. I took that as they weren't interested in finding out or helping me with it. So decided to try and figure it out this way. I read that sometimes even with previous clearance people have been treated as "missing" and had issues getting reinstated.
#4
779 Posts
Joined Oct 2015
Originally posted by gkeep
I was considering that but I got mixed information about whether the Princess would allow this, and I asked the travel agency I booked through ( bargain site) and they said it is not allowed.
Yes, it is allowed.
It is called a Route Deviation Request.

If approved, Princess will send you an approval letter.
You show this to Guest Services onboard and make sure they have you recorded as off the ship that night.
#5
Sydney, Australia
8,744 Posts
Joined Jan 2014
I can see some issues with your Hobbiton/Kaituna concept:
- Firstly you need to get off the ship and pick up your rental car. How early does the rental car agency open?
- You should allow at least 75 minutes to get from the rental car agency to Hobbiton as you are travelling on unfamiliar roads. I would actually allow more and I am reasonably familiar with those roads. Also you need to be at Hobbiton 30 minutes before your tour commences.
- Where is the meeting point for the Kaituna Rafting Trip? If it's in Rotorua itself then allow at least 75 minutes from either Tauranga or Hobbiton. Again, you may have to arrive there earlier than the actual start time of the trip. If it's somewhere on the river then it will be closer to Tauranga but further from Hobbiton.
- The Hobbiton tour takes two hours. If you did this first, assuming you could get there by 8:40am, you would be cutting it fine to get to the Kaituna meeting place for 12:30pm, especially if the meeting place is somewhere on the river.
- I imagine the rafting trip will also take a couple of hours or more so, again, the timing would be very tight to get to Hobbiton if you did the rafting first.
- You also need to factor in time for comfort stops and lunch.

Even doing it as a two day trip with an overnight stop could be tricky as it would all depend on how early you could get the rental car. It would be best to do the rafting first, if possible, then a mid-afternoon tour of Hobbiton. Stay the night in Matamata or somewhere on the way to Waitomo, but don't try to do the full drive to Waitomo on the first day, you will probably be very tired by then and although the NZ roads are good, they aren't freeways in that part of the country. Of course, your planned arrival time in Auckland will have to fit in with the latest time you can drop off the rental car.

I have done black water rafting, many years ago, and it is a lot of fun.
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#6
Kauai
163 Posts
Joined Apr 2004
Thank you for both of your inputs! I have re-visited staying overnight as it seems I will have a much better chance of seeing 2-3 things in the Tauranga/Rotorua/Waitomo area if I do this. I called Princess and they said it was possible to stay over and to just call and put in a request when I am ready.

I looked into rental car to Auckland, and the charge is high for one way drop off, the one i looked at was a $400 charge ( not sure if there are cheaper ones). So I came up with the plan to do the rental car from Tauranga, and take a flight from Tauranga to Auckland. There are multiple flights for $53 a person one way in 35 mins. Cheaper than the rental car about the same price as the bus which takes 4 hours.. Our ship does not leave Auckland until 9pm so we will have a good amount of time to be flexible with.

Will keep planning and hopefully get it all worked out. Thank you!
#7
Sydney, Australia
8,744 Posts
Joined Jan 2014
To me adding in the flight option just adds one extra level of complexity where something could go wrong although it looks like your cruise also goes to the Bay of Islands before heading back to Sydney.

If you do decide to take the flight option I would suggest going to Waitomo first, then Hobbiton or rafting whichever fits best.
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#8
Auckland, New Zealand
507 Posts
Joined Nov 2011
Be aware that Tauranga is a tiny provisional airport that shuts down in bad weather where a bigger airport would stay open. In times of bad weather it's not uncommon to end up on a bus instead of the plane. At the time of year you're visiting the weather should be good but all the same I'd book a flight giving enough time to drive to Auckland if needed.
#9
Kauai
163 Posts
Joined Apr 2004
Thank you again for you input ! I was approved to stay off the ship for the night, and will be renting a car and driving to Auckland the second day. The rental agency that I originally looked at was by far the highest one way fee ( but the cheaper local rental fee). I was able to find most between $75 -$150 for the drop fee. So it sounds better than dealing with the airport and driving back to Tauranga.

I will be going to Rotorua first and doing the rafting or jet boating, and fitting in some geothermal sights before or after, then heading to Hobbiton in the afternoon for the last tour at 4:40pm which should be a little less crowded than during the day ( too late for cruise ship visitors). We have a motel booked in Matamata that evening, and will head to Waitomo in the morning to do the black water rafting. We should be done with that and on our way to Auckland by 1 or 2 pm. The boat is in port until 9 pm but I want to make sure and leave plenty of time to get there.

Are there any suggestions for short stops or side trips along the way from Waitomo to Auckland? Thanks again for your help!
#10
New Zealand
459 Posts
Joined Jan 2011
Just some things worth noting, the roads around Auckland are chaotic between 3 and 7. Thankfully you will be heading into the city rather than out of it, but to play it safe, do give yourself more time (at least an hour) than what google says you will need.

The road from Waitomo to Auckland is not one of NZ’s most exciting, so if it was me, I would head straight to Auckland, drop off the car, and then enjoy the waterfront.

I’m pleased you have the overnight as your original plans sounded ambitious. Just make sure you give yourself plenty of time in Rotorua to stop and enjoy the sights. So much to do there and it seems a shame to sail through just for rafting. Have you ever done a ride like the ‘Luge’ before. So much fun!

Also, Hobbiton is amazing. Love it!
#11
234 Posts
Joined Jul 2005
check to see if Hobbiton is doing the night banquet tour when you're there. in my opinion worth the extra cost as you get a very big meal in the Green Dragon and then a tour of Hobbiton for the second time at night.

From Waitomo to Auckland, if you're into ice cream stop in Pokeno for a cone. You can literally get as many scoops in the cone as you want (up to 32 if you're brave or crazy). make sure at least one scoop is hokey pokey.
#12
Sydney, Australia
8,744 Posts
Joined Jan 2014
Originally posted by gkeep
Thank you again for you input ! I was approved to stay off the ship for the night, and will be renting a car and driving to Auckland the second day. The rental agency that I originally looked at was by far the highest one way fee ( but the cheaper local rental fee). I was able to find most between $75 -$150 for the drop fee. So it sounds better than dealing with the airport and driving back to Tauranga.

I will be going to Rotorua first and doing the rafting or jet boating, and fitting in some geothermal sights before or after, then heading to Hobbiton in the afternoon for the last tour at 4:40pm which should be a little less crowded than during the day ( too late for cruise ship visitors). We have a motel booked in Matamata that evening, and will head to Waitomo in the morning to do the black water rafting. We should be done with that and on our way to Auckland by 1 or 2 pm. The boat is in port until 9 pm but I want to make sure and leave plenty of time to get there.

Are there any suggestions for short stops or side trips along the way from Waitomo to Auckland? Thanks again for your help!
That sounds perfect, and I agree with oskarNZ about heading straight up to Auckland to enjoy some of the city - perhaps you could fit in a quick trip across to Devonport on the ferry.
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#13
Kauai
163 Posts
Joined Apr 2004
Originally posted by dszrew
check to see if Hobbiton is doing the night banquet tour when you're there. in my opinion worth the extra cost as you get a very big meal in the Green Dragon and then a tour of Hobbiton for the second time at night.

From Waitomo to Auckland, if you're into ice cream stop in Pokeno for a cone. You can literally get as many scoops in the cone as you want (up to 32 if you're brave or crazy). make sure at least one scoop is hokey pokey.
The banquet tour is all booked up, one of the first things I checked! Will totally check out the cones! Thanks!
#14
Sydney, Australia
8,744 Posts
Joined Jan 2014
There was a nice ice cream stall at the Hobbiton meeting area. They have good hokey pokey ice cream.
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Dec 2014 - Sun Princess - South Pacific
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