Thermal Explorer Highway - Auckland to Auckland

  • Thermal Explorer Highway - Auckland to Auckland

Thermal Explorer Highway - camper driving routes New Zealand

You will be spoilt for choice - this region is bursting with natural features including crystal clear lakes and streams, natural spas, skifields, geothermal activity, Maori culture and wineries. Some of the key highlights include:

Waitomo is a district with many natural wonders. More than 30 million years after Waitomo first rose from the ocean floor, it's unique underground limestone formations stand as one of New Zealand's most inspiring natural wonders and a must-see destination. A trip to Waitomo is not complete without visiting Ruakuri Cave, Aranui Cave and the world famous Waitomo Glowworm Caves. For more information about this must see, please see

Lake Taupo:
The Lake Taupo district stretches from Rotorua to the southern boundary of the Tongariro National Park. The landscape contrasts to anything else you will see on your travels around New Zealand. Interestingly, Lake Taupo itself was created by the largest known eruption of the past 5,000 years - so big the sun went hazy in China. Today, what remains is a lake the size of Singapore and the largest fresh water lake in Australasia. Just about everywhere you look you’ll see a volcano. Geothermal steam has its benefits with hot mineral springs to soak and relax in. 
This is also the region that the Oxfam Trailwalker event takes place in – a great way to get to see the stunning Taupo area whilst making a difference to world poverty.

Known as New Zealand’s tourism icon, Rotorua is spiritual home to the Maori of Te Arawa, and is set amidst a myriad of crystal clear crater lakes. Here you will experience nature’s earth forces, bubbling mudpools, spouting geysers and hot water beaches. At the end of the day, why not wind down and unwind in a natural geothermal mineral pool. Pure bliss.

Hawkes Bay:
If you love food & wine you won’t want to leave the Hawkes Bay – many award winning wines are produced in this region.  Indulge in a lazy summer alfresco lunch, a long walk on a beach in the golden light of autumn, a glass of merlot beside a toasty winter’s fire or the dazzling view from Te Mata Peak on a crisp spring morning. Fruit is also plentiful in the Hawkes Bay so stock up your fridge! Other gourmet delights such as olives are also not to be missed. Also make sure you get to see the world-famous Art Deco and Spanish Mission architecture, beaches that stretch for miles, and Gannet birds that come home to nest. For further information, please see

The Thermal Explorer Highway touring route starts in Auckland, continuing onto Hawke's Bay (wine country), then through the centre of the North Island into Lake Taupo (New Zealand’s largest lake), Ruapehu (breathtaking mountain scenery), Rotorua (geothermal wonderland) and Waikato (Waitomo Caves).

To follow this campervan driving itinerary, pick up and return your vehicle at our Auckland branch. Visit maui campervan hire Auckland for more details.

driving routeoverviewyour drivingitinerary

Start: Auckland
Finish: Auckland
Duration: 6 days

  • All around Taupo and Rotorua see crater lakes, volcanic cones and areas of seething geothermal activity - geysers, simmering cauldrons and boiling mud pools.
  • Rotorua has been a focus for Maori culture.
  • Waitomo in the Waikato region - caves and tomo (holes) are promient natural features in this area.
  • Visit Hawke's Bay; More than 40 vineyards are clustered around the river plains behind Hastings, and most have a café or restaurant.

Day One - Auckland to Rotorua - 3 hours, 237kms

On arrival in Auckland head down the Thermal Explorer Highway to Rotorua. Set amidst a myriad of crystal clear lakes and spiritual home of the Maori of Te Arawa, it is here you will experience nature’s awesome earth forces- bubbling mud pools, spouting geysers and natural geothermal mineral pools alongside the life and pastimes of the Maori. Overnight Rotorua.

Day Two - Rotorua

Spend today in and around Rotorua. Overnight Rotorua.

Day Three - Rotorua to Ruapehu - 2.5 hours

Continue to Taupo and take the Volcanic Loop, an extension of the Thermal Explorer Highway. Circle Tongariro National Park to view the impressive Mt Ruapehu and stop to explore some of the many walks in the area. Overnight Ruapehu.

Day Four - Ruapehu to Waitomo - 1 hours

Retrace your steps to Lake Taupo where there is just about every adrenalin adventure you could want on air, land and water. But if it’s the sedate life you are after, then Lake Taupo is also the perfect place to take it easy, with magical hot springs to relax in and local cafes to enjoy.

Day Five - Waitomo

Depart Taupo and head across to Te Kuiti and on to Waitomo Caves, an ancient underground labyrinth of limestone caves and grottos. Once you have had your fill of underground wonders, enjoy the above ground wonders of the Waikato- the centre of New Zealand’s antique, farm stay and thoroughbred industries. Overnight Waitomo.

Day Six - Waitomo to Auckland - 2.5 hours

This morning you have a further opportunity to enjoy the Waikato’s wealth of activities and stunning scenery before heading up the Thermal Explorer Highway to Auckland.