Hi all! Two friends and I (late 20s/early 30s) will be spending a few days on the North Island before heading down to the South Island for a week and a half. The two things that jumped out that I really wanted to visit on the North Island were the Rotorua area and Tongariro National Park.
I was trying to figure out what types of public transportation are available between Auckland and those areas, and frequency/cost of buses vs. us getting a rental car. We get in early Monday morning, and we need to get to Nelson Wednesday evening. I know people recommend not driving when you get in, though my experience has been that I don't have an issue with jet lag, often drive after 20+ hours of plane travel/layovers, & between 3 drivers and a few hours' driving time I'm not too concerned. But want to consider the pros & cons.
Since there are three of us, we have to consider the cost for 3 people plus convenience. Also, we'll be headed down to Nelson, so I'm debating getting back to Auckland to fly down there (better flight times available; we want to get into Nelson early evening, not earlier) or do more expensive, not as great times from Taupo or Palmerston (or, heck, drive down to Wellington and hop over?). Is it easy to get around by bus to/from and between Rotorua and Tongariro? Any advice you can offer? Landscape/scenery is biggest draw, seeing something a little different than we'll experience on the South Island (where we'll have more time to do cool adventure-y things). Any experiences that are a can't-miss? I'm not really into the cave stuff as much, but open to ideas.