Thermal Explorer Highway

4 Days


Auckland Central to Napier


  • Geysers and mudpools
  • Natural hot springs
  • Art Deco Napier

Best time of year

All year

Journey through the centre of the North Island on the Thermal Explorer Highway.  This drive begins in New Zealand’s largest city, where marine adventures are a specialty. A riverside drive takes you to Hamilton, a city known for its gardens, riverboat cruising and free flight aviary.

The antique town of Tirau is an interesting stop on your way to Rotorua, where you can explore geothermal attractions and discover the unique culture of New Zealand’s Maori people. An hour further south is the trout fishing mecca of Taupo, which sits on the edge of New Zealand’s largest lake. Your final destination is Napier, a place to enjoy Art Deco architecture and fine wine.


Cycling on Te Mata Peak in the Hawkes Bay

Photo by Hawke's Bay Tourism

Day 4 / 4

Taupo - Napier

1 hr

44 mins

142 km

89 mi

Lake Taupo

The major entertainment on the road from Taupo to Napier is the fantastic scenery. There’s a bit of everything - rugged hills, beautiful valleys, gentle plains and huge vistas. At Tarawera you can walk to the hot springs, which are above the Waipunga River. You might also want to stop at the Waiarua Falls lookout, to view the twin waterfalls.

After a massive earthquake in 1931, Napier was rebuilt in pure Art Deco style. Its beautiful buildings, tree-lined streets and interesting shops make for a great day out. More than 40 vineyards are clustered in the area, and many have fine restaurants on-site. 

There are scenic cycle trails and an amazing gannet colony nearby. But at the end of your Thermal Explorer adventure, you may just like to sit back and enjoy a glass of excellent Syrah.

The township of Taupo makes the perfect base for exploring New Zealand's largest lake

Start in Taupo

The town of Taupo sits at the edge of Australasia's largest lake. Local attractions include trout fishing, skiing, and geothermal parks.

Napier is home to beautifully preserved 1930s architecture

End in Napier

Beautifully preserved 1930s architecture is Napier's special point of difference.

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