1 / 3
Travelling south from Auckland, you head down the highway until you reach the mighty Waikato. Turn off the highway and travel across rolling farmland and through quaint farming villages. You'll see cows and of course sheep, a giant bottle of softdrink and antiques stores. Then leave New Zealand behind as you enter Middle-earth and the Shire. You'll soon know when you're approaching Rotorua as you'll notice steam rising from the ground and the smell of sulphur in the air.
Your next leg is a short journey today that takes you south from Rotorua to Taupo. You will travel through the major geothermal parts of the region, past steaming cliffs, bubbling pools of mud and colourful lakes. Close to Taupo you will notice yet more huge plumes of steam rising from the forests which hide power stations. Stop at the thunderous Huka Falls before arriving in Taupo, situated on the shores of New Zealand's largest lake.
The journey from Taupo to Napier will take you less than two hours along the last section of the Thermal Explorer Highway. The scenery is special with rugged hills, gentle plains and beautiful valleys. Stop at small, undeveloped hot springs and gorgeous waterfalls. As you approach Napier on the other side of the hills, you’ll meet the famous wine growing region of Hawkes Bay. There’s a selection of vineyards to stop at for lunch before arriving in the Art Deco city of Napier.
Backtrack through the vineyards and across the rolling hills towards Taupo. Then skirt the eastern shores of the great Lake Taupo before arriving in Turangi. This is fishing country and home to some of the worlds best trout fishing. A short trip across another hill before you are stunned with the imposing view of three huge volcanoes rising above the plains. Welcome to the Tongariro National Park.
You then leave the harsh rocky landscape of volcanoes behind you and suddenly find yourself in green rolling hills of the King Country and Waikato. Travel through small farming communities before arriving at Waitomo. Have the opportunity to venture underground into the caves filled with magnificent glowworms or take an adventure tour through the pitch black caverns. Continue on north through the city of Hamilton before the lush green farmlands give way to the highways, suburbs and skyscrapers of Auckland City.