Arriving Aukland airport at 1pm. Will hire a car at airport. Want to travel south from the airport rather than go into Aukland. Don't want to drive too far as will be tired but want to head down the road perhaps to Hamilton so that we can rest there and go to Rotorua the next day. Any suggestions for where would be a good place to stop and stay either en route or in Hamilton itself. Thanks.?
Auckland to Hamilton is less than two hours driving, especially from the airport, as that's way at the south side of Auckland. Not much to see en route either (erm, a themepark and shopping malls in Manukau city, and then pretty much emptiness until Hamilton, as I recall it).
What I might suggest - if you're a LotR fan - is to drive two hours to Matamata instead (east of Hamilton), and do the Hobbiton tour from there (the only option for you that day leaves at 15:45 from the visitor information center, or at 16:05 from right near the entrance.
There's some nice homestays in Matamata, or otherwise it's then a further hour to drive from Matamata to Hamilton (no convenient highways there; it's only 60km otherwise), so it's not exactly ideal. (Maybe better to do it the next day, en route to Rotorua.)
The most worthwhile place that's really en route then is actually Hamilton itself. It's not a city which is known for drawing the tourist crowds, but they have some nice gardens (especially since it's effectively spring), and it's pleasant enough to just wander around the city center.
[ Edit: Edited on Sep 5, 2008, at 10:29 AM by Sander ]
Agree with what Sander said.
Personally, if I was you I would motor on to Roturua on the same day. It's only another couple of hours driving from Hamilton and you can relax in the hot springs when you get there!
Hamilton is a bit dead (no offence to any Hamiltonioans here on TP ) It has one main street with not much to see there. If you are just bedding down for the night there though, I suppose it would be fine.
My friend and I stayed in a hostel there which was pretty close to the centre of the town. It was very clean and family run. If you are interested in the name, let me know and I'll go and find it.
The Kiwi Paka (YHA) hostel in Roturua is clean, comfortable and has very good facilities.
Hope that helps!