You are looking at a minimum time on the road, with a break for lunch, of about six hours - going down through Taupo. Taupo has the lake, of course, and Huka Falls while Rotorua is about Maori cultural experiences and geothermal activities.
Have you thought about a domestic flight to Napier and hiring a car on a one way hire to explore Taupo and Rotorua on the return? That would be my preference.
I would drive to Napier via Taupo allowing six hours. Depending on time coming back my suggestion would be to Taupo or Rotorua for a night then to Whakatane and round the Bay of Plenty back to Auckland. Just a beautiful part of our country, but very time dependant.
Thank you all, that is very helpful.
Was going to stay around Taupo for 2 days on the way back, to relax and explore.
If you're into hiking, the Tongariro Crossing might appeal while you're stopped at Taupo.
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