You will be spoilt for choice - this region is bursting with natural features including crystal clear lakes and streams, natural spas, skifields, geothermal activity, Maori culture and wineries. The Thermal Explorer Highway touring route starts in Auckland, continuing onto Hawke's Bay (wine country), then through the centre of the North Island into Lake Taupo (New Zealand's largest lake), Ruapehu (breathtaking mountain scenery), Rotorua (geothermal wonderland) and Waikato (Waitomo Caves).
To follow this campervan driving itinerary, pick up and return your vehicle at our Auckland branch. Visit maui campervan hire Auckland for more details.
Auckland to Auckland
Best Time of the Year
October - March
- Hawkes Bay
- Lake Taupo
Auckland to Hawkes Bay
Distance 448km - Driving Time 5.45 hours
Once you’ve picked up your camper in Auckland don’t be too quick to drive directly out of town and head south. Be sure to check out the waterfront drivealong Mission Bay, stop for a stroll, grab a coffee or ice-cream or run your feet through the sand to prove you’ve made it. Once that's off your chest make your way to Hawkes Bay to explore the wine country!
If you love food & wine you won’t want to leave the Hawkes Bay – many award winning wines are produced in this region. Indulge in a lazy summer alfresco lunch, a long walk on a beach in the golden light of autumn, a glass of merlot beside a toasty winter’s fire or the dazzling view from Te Mata Peak on a crisp spring morning. Fruit is also plentiful in the Hawkes Bay so stock up your fridge! Other gourmet delights such as olives are also not to be missed. Also make sure you get to see the world-famous Art Deco and Spanish Mission architecture, beaches that stretch for miles, and Gannet birds that come home to nest.
Stay overnight at one of our maui winery havens - Linden Estate and wake up with the vines, as well as enjoying local produce and wines straight from the source!
Hawkes Bay to Lake Taupo
Distance 177km - Driving Time 2.5 hours
Lake Taupo was created by the largest known eruption of the past 5,000 years - so big the sun went hazy in China. Today, what remains is a lake the size of Singapore and the largest fresh water lake in Australasia. Just about everywhere you look you'll see a volcano. Geothermal steam has its benefits with hot mineral springs to soak and relax in. Lake Taupo is home to just about every adrenalin adventure you could want on air, land and water. But if it's the sedate life you are after, then Lake Taupo is also the perfect place to take it easy, with magical hot springs to relax in and local cafes to enjoy.
Lake Taupo to Ruapehu
Distance 110km - Driving Time 1.5 hours
Circle Tongariro National Park to view the impressive Mt Ruapehu and stop to explore some of the many walks in the area. The Tongariro Crossing is a popular day trip but check weather conditions as it can be like experiencing four seasons in one day. There are some great cycling trails in and around the area as well. If timing your visit for the winter, the village comes alive.
Ruapehu to Rotorua
Distance 198km - Driving Time 2.5 hours
Known as New Zealand’s tourism icon, Rotorua is spiritual home to the Maori of Te Arawa, and is set amidst a myriad of crystal clear crater lakes. Here you will experience nature’s earth forces, bubbling mudpools, spouting geysers and hot water beaches. Why not wind down and spoil yourself by relaxing in a natural geothermal mineral pool at the Polynesian Spa. Pure bliss.
Rotorua to Waitomo
Distance 148km - Driving Time 2 hours
Depart Rotorua and head across Waitomo, home of the world famous Waitomo Caves, an ancient underground labyrinth of limestone caves and grottos. Once you have had your fill of underground wonders, enjoy the above ground wonders of the Waikato- the centre of New Zealand’s antique, farm stay and thoroughbred industries.
Remember, when travelling with maui motorhomes - drivers go free to Waitomo, Aranui and Ruakuri Caves.
Waitomo to Auckland
Distance 180km - Driving Time 2 hours
Don’t cut short your time in Waitomo – there is much to take in… with a wealth of protected park land and volcanic ranges, the region also offers a wide range of walking and biking trails showcasing diverse scenery and has three of New Zealand Cycle Trails ‘Great Rides’ situated throughout. Head back on the road in time to meet the Auckland closing branch time by 3.30pm.