Thermal Explorer Highway


Explore central North Island's thermal area

4 Days 454 km


  • Geysers, bubbling mud and hot springs
  • Adventure in Taupō
  • Art Deco Napier

Explore the route

View map below

Discover another world as you journey deep into the heart of the North Island along the Thermal Explorer Highway.

Explore majestic caves filled with glittering glowworms, feel the thrill of a spine tingling jet boat ride or watch in awe as a mighty geyser erupts before your eyes.

Day 1: Auckland to Hamilton via Raglan


Māori culture and surf beaches


  • Surf Raglan's left-hand break
  • Te Winika Exhibition at Waikato Museum
  • Hamilton Zoo's free-flight aviary

Top 10 things to do in Waikato

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Starting from Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland, travel south through suburban scenery towards the laid-back beach town of Whāingaroa/Raglan - home to one of the longest left-hand surf breaks in the world. Spend the day learning to surf or explore the town with its many cafes, surf shops and galleries. Raglan is also home to Wairēinga/Bridal Veil Falls (opens in new window)- a 55-metre-high waterfall which looks like a brides vail. 

Continue onto Hamilton, where a myriad of attractions await. Visit the beautiful Hamilton gardens or get up close to some of New Zealand's native birdlife in the giant free flight aviary at Hamilton Zoo.

For those interested in Māori culture and heritage, Te Whare Taonga o Waikato/Waikato Museum is home to Te Winika exhibition, a 200 year-old carved waka taua (Māori war canoe). Discover the story of Te Winika and view beautiful traditional carvings in Te Whare Waka o Te Winika - Te Winika Gallery, overlooking the mighty Waikato River. 


Day 2: Hamilton to Rotorua


Bubbling mud pools, shooting geysers and hot pools


  • Gondola and luge
  • Erupting geysers and boiling mud
  • Learn the how to perform a perfect haka

Top 10 things to do in Rotorua

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Rotorua sits squarely on the Pacific Ring of Fire and geothermal activity breathes through every part of the region. 

The Rotorua region is home to eighteen lakes, all with historical Māori culture signifigence and frequented by local swimmers, anglers and boats.

This area is also a hub for adrenaline junkies. Get your heart pumping with the lugeOGO and shweeb

Explore the Whakarewarewa Forest via a network of bike trails, then climb into the forest canopy and discover a whole new world with a Redwood Treewalk. At night, specially designed lanterns light your way.

End the day with a soak at the Polynesian Spa and a night of Māori culture, storytelling and traditional hāngi (earth oven) at Tamaki Village

Day 3: Rotorua to Taupō



Teeming with outdoor activities and water sports.


  • Take a thrilling Huka Falls boat ride
  • Kayak to the Mine Bay Māori carvings
  • Skydive from 15,000ft

Top 10 things to do in Taupō

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As you journey towards Taupō, take time to visit the magnificent Orakei Korako Cave & Geothermal Park home to some of the country's most remarkable geothermal features.

The largest freshwater lake in Australasia, Lake Taupō is a great place for a guided boat cruise to giant Ngatoroirangi Mine Bay Māori rock carvings or hire a kayak and discover the lake at your own pace.

At Huka Prawn Park, you can treat yourself to delicious prawns at the restaurants and fun walk around the prawn park.

End the day with a thrilling jet boat ride through the raging waters of the Huka Falls, where the 200 metre wide Waikato River forces itself through a 20 metre gap creating a torrent of stunning blue foam.

Day 4: Taupō to Napier


Hawke's Bay

Wineries, fresh produce and art deco design


  • Cape Kidnappers gannet colony
  • Art Deco heritage architecture
  • Winery tours and renowned golf courses

Top 10 things to do in Hawke's Bay

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The road from Taupō to Napier takes you through fantastic scenery with rugged hills, beautiful valleys, gentle plains and huge vistas. 

Once in the Hawke’s Bay you will discover a fertile wine-growing region that boasts one of the world’s best collections of Art Deco architecture. 

Nearby Cape Kidnappers is home to the world’s largest gannet colony which can be reached on foot, by kayak or on a tractor. The Cape also happens to have one of the country’s best golf courses.

End your journey with a visit to the region's many wineries on a self-drive, chauffeur driven or bicycle tour.

 View the route below

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