How to Travel From Taupo to Wellington by Plane, Bus, and Car

Lake Taupo
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Lake Taupo is the largest lake in New Zealand located in the center of North Island, 230 miles (372 kilometers) away from the capital city of Wellington. The lake is actually the water-filled caldera of the Taupo Volcano, which has been inactive for about 1,800 years, and the city of Taupo sits on the northeastern corner of the lake in Acacia Bay.

A major recreation area, many people visit Lake Taupo for hiking, water sports, and adrenaline-inducing activities like sky diving and bungee jumping, before continuing onto Wellington, which is located at the southernmost tip of the North Island. If you're in a hurry, it's possible to fly between Taupo and Wellington, but many people prefer to travel by bus or car, either to save money or to see more of New Zealand's famously green and scenic landscapes along the way.

  Time Cost Best For
Flight 1 hour from $170 The most direct route
Bus 6 hours from $16 Budget travel
Car 5 hours 232 miles (374 kilometers) A scenic road trip

What Is the Cheapest Way to Get From Taupo to Wellington?

On Intercity, you can find the bus tickets from Taupo to Wellington for as cheap as $16. Five or six buses run daily and there are even night buses that leave Taupo just after midnight and arrive in Wellington between 6 and 7 a.m. You will still pass through many scenic areas along this route, but you will not have the freedom to stop for a detour. The bus, which will take at least 6 hours, will drop you off at Wellington Central, which is located on Waterloo Quay between the Beehive, a distinct-looking government building, and the Bluebridge Ferry, which you can take to reach the South Island.

What Is the Fastest Way to Get From Taupo to Wellington?

The quickest way to get from Taupo to Wellington is to take a plane, but your flight options will be somewhat limited. The only way to fly direct to Wellington is by booking a seat on Sounds Air, a low-cost airline that operates a small fleet of five single-engine aircraft. The flight takes just one hour, but there are only two flights scheduled per day.

Despite being the country's largest airline, Air New Zealand does not offer any direct flights between Taupo and Wellington. However, they do offer the cheapest tickets, which can sometimes be found for as low as $56, but these routes require transferring in Auckland, which will add a few hours to your total transit time.

How Long Does It Take to Drive?

If you drive without stopping, it should only take you about 5 hours to complete this 232-mile (374-kilometer) route. Be aware that the early part of the journey can be hazardous in the winter, especially from south of Turangi to Waiouru, where the main highway is often closed due to snow. Check the weather and road conditions via the official government website before you leave.

When Is the Best Time to Travel to Wellington?

The weather in Wellington is notoriously always windy, but to avoid the worst of the gusts and gales, you'll want to visit in the summer or fall—which in this southern hemisphere city means between the months of December and May. Although temperatures don't vary much year-round, February tends to be the warmest month, while July is usually the rainiest month. If the weather doesn't make much of a difference to you, consider planning your trip around some of the city's key cultural events like the Festival of the Arts and Fringe Comedy Festival, which both take place in February and March, or September's World of Wearable Art, an art and fashion competition that attracts designers from around the world.

What's the Most Scenic Route to Wellington?

The straight route to Wellington is easy enough to do in one day, but if you have the time to spare, you'd be remiss to miss out on the North Island's other natural attractions. For example, Tongariro, New Zealand's oldest national park and a UNESCO heritage site, is right at the base of Lake Taupo. Here, you can complete one of the most popular hikes in all of New Zealand—a 12-mile (19-kilometer) alpine crossing through a landscape filled with craters and fluorescent thermal lakes. Near the city of Taihape, which you'll pass a third of the way into the hike, you'll see steep and unusual hill formations, and at the Mangaweka Gorge, where the main highway meets the Rangitikei River, there are several lookout points on the road which give a great view.

If you don't mind going far out of the way and adding a few hours to your trip, you might consider turning west to visit Mount Taranaki, an active volcano that is strikingly similar in appearance to Japan's Mount Fuji. Visiting Taranaki will add about 4 hours of driving time to your trip, but you'll be able to see the North Island's west coast, which has some great beaches like Tongaporutu—famous for its elephant-shaped rock formation.

Can I Use Public Transportation to Travel From the Airport?

The Wellington International Airport (WLG) is just 4 miles (7 kilometers) from the city center. It's a short cab ride, but you could also take advantage of the Airport Flyer Bus, which offers transfers to the Wellington Railway and Lower Hutt, one of the city's outer neighborhoods. On weekends, it runs every 10 minutes from 6:30 to 9 a.m. and 2 to 7 p.m. and at all other times during the week, it runs every 20 minutes. One-way tickets begin at $7. If you'd rather save some money and take public transportation, you can take the Number 2 bus from the airport into town.

What Is There to Do in Wellington?

New Zealand's political capital, Wellington is also often described as the cultural capital of the country. With a magnificent harbor, great cafes and nightlife, and many cultural and artistic events happening, it's a truly international city. The Weta Cave Workshop, the world's top special effects studio, is a must-visit for fantasy film fans. The Te Papa Museum offers a comprehensive overview of New Zealand's history, from the origins of the indigenous Maori culture to the science of the islands' rare ecology. For the best views of Wellington, you can ride the cable car up to the botanical gardens or hike up to Mount Victoria Lookout.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What is the drive time from Lake Taupo to Wellington?

    If you drive without stopping, it will take about 5 hours. Hazardous conditions in winter can extend that time further or force you to take a different route.

  • What are the best things to do between Lake Taupo and Wellington?

    Along the way, you can explore Tongariro, New Zealand's oldest national park. Or farther out of the way is Mount Taranaki, an active volcano similar in appearance to Japan's Mount Fuji.

  • How far away is Wellington from Lake Taupo?

    Lake Taupo, located in the center of North Island, is 230 miles (372 kilometers) away from the capital city of Wellington.