This route explores the central North Island, following two signposted touring routes; the Pacific Coast Highway and the Thermal Explorer Highway.
The Pacific Coast Highway covers the drive from Auckland, through the Coromandel and Whakatane, to Napier. The Thermal Explorer Highway covers the drive from Napier, through Taupo and Rotorua, to Auckland.
This Great New Zealand Touring Route includes some of New Zealand’s best beaches. Auckland kicks things off with island and coastal experiences, then you’ll move on to the forest and seaside environment of the Thames coast. On the Whitianga side of the Coromandel Peninsula, a procession of surf beaches runs all the way to Opotiki. Follow the relaxing East Cape road past historic sites to Gisborne, for equal quantities of surf and chardonnay. Discover the vineyards of Napier before Taupo and Rotorua entertain you with geysers, mud pools and hot springs. On your way back to Auckland, try a riverboat cruise in Hamilton.
Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, is situated between two enormous harbours and dotted with 48 extinct volcanic cones. It’s a place to enjoy marine adventures, wine trails, forest walks and urban sophistication.
There are two routes to Thames. The fast way whisks you along the motorway and over the Bombay Hills, then across the serene, green Hauraki Plains to Waitakaruru. The slower, scenic route winds through farmland to the village of Clevedon before leading you around the edge of the Firth of Thames. Kawakawa Bay, Orere Point and Kaiaua are beachside settlements to visit.
Both routes make it possible to visit Miranda’s hot springs and bird sanctuary. The historic township of Thames was founded during the Coromandel gold rush. It’s a great place for walks – around the town, through the bush and on the mangrove board walk. Visit the museum and discover an interesting range of shops.
In Thames you can learn about New Zealand’s gold mining past. The mining museum has a fascinating mineralogical collection and there are gold mining relics to discover on many of the bush walks. You can also take the boardwalk through the mangroves to watch seabirds in the Thames Firth.
The beach town of Whitianga is home to a fishing fleet - expect to eat some excellent seafood while you’re here. Best things to do include surfing, surf casting and beach walks. Catch the ferry to the south side of the harbour – a short taxi ride will take you to Cooks Beach.
Start in Auckland Central
This is the heart of Auckland, with a relaxed Pacific vibe by day and a night-time energy shared by the inner-city suburbs that surround it.
End in Whitianga
From Whitianga you can enjoy the beaches, water sports and boat excursions of Mercury Bay. Expect great seafood and enjoy a forest walk or two.