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5 day thermal explorer | back to itineraries index

Day 1: Auckland - Rotorua
Distance 234km, approximate drive time 3 hours 35 minutes

RotoruaFollow the Thermal Explorer Highway from Auckland to Rotorua along State Highway 1, passing through Hamilton and Cambridge in the Waikato region. Hamilton city is the main centre in the Waikato region. An activity option is to view the mighty Waikato River from the deck of the paddle steamer, the MV Waipa Delta, departing from Hamilton city. Arrive in Rotorua late afternoon and check into accommodation for two nights. From the moment people arrive in Rotorua they know they're somewhere quite different. At nearby geothermal hotspots there are geysers spouting, mud pools bubbling and belching and warm geothermal springs and ponds that create a kaleidoscope of colour. In the evening, entertainment could include a Maori cultural performance or a swim in a hot mineral pool to relax and unwind after a busy day. (Suggested Rotorua accommodation)

Day 2: Rotorua
Spend the day exploring the Rotorua area. Please refer to our regional information and tours & activities section for some great attractions and tours to do whilst in Rotorua.

Day 3: Rotorua - Taupo
Distance 80km, approximate drive time 1 hour 20 minutes
Depart Rotorua for a short journey through to the Lake Taupo region on State Highway 5. If time allows, stop at Orakei Korako thermal area. Access to Orakei Korako is by boat and the average sightseeing time is about one hour. Taupo is the main centre in the region and Lake Taupo is also one of the North Island's most popular holiday destinations, both in summer and in winter. Arrive in Taupo by midday to allow plenty of time to see the many attractions in this area. Overnight in Taupo. (Suggested Taupo accommodation)

Waitomo CavesDay 4: Taupo - Waitomo Caves
Distance 163km, approximate drive time 2 hours 35 minutes
Depart Taupo for the journey to the Waitomo Caves. Watch for the turn off to Mangakino and follow State Highway 30 through farmland to Te Kuiti. Join State Highway 3 and travel north for approximately 10 to 15 minutes and then turn off to the Waitomo Caves. On arrival at Waitomo, there are plenty of activities for visitors to choose from. Start at the Museum of Caves to view excellent exhibits on how caves are formed, the flora and fauna that live in them, the history of the caves and cave exploration Spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the Waitomo area. (Suggested Waitomo accommodation)

Day 5: Waitomo - Auckland
Distance 200km, approximate driving time 3 hours 10 minutes
Spend the morning enjoying the activities in the Waitomo area before driving north to Auckland on State Highway 3. Visit the Kiwi House in Otorohanga, a kiwi breeding sanctuary providing a unique opportunity to see New Zealand's national bird. Rejoin State Highway 1 at Hamilton to arrive in Auckland late afternoon. (Suggested Auckland accommodation)

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