AUCKLAND – ROTORUA (via Hamilton, Cambridge and Tirau)

Driver Information
New Zealand ItinerariesTravel Distance is approximately 237kms (148 miles).
Allow at least 3 hours and 35 minutes drive time (not including stops).
Part of the Thermal Explorer Highway.

After a whirlwind stopover in ‘the City of Sails’ it’s time to enjoy a scenic self-drive tour through the heart of the North Island via the Thermal Explorer Highway and the Waikato region. The Thermal Explorer Highway is a popular tourist driving route due to the range of things to see and do along your journey, including Maori culture, exciting outdoor pursuits, geothermal attractions and breath-taking landscapes.

The Thermal Explorer Highway is part of the Great New Zealand Touring Route and starts from New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, and takes you on a fabulous journey through the Waikato region before arriving in the popular tourist geothermal area of Rotorua.

Some notable stops along the route to Rotorua include:

Nestled in the heart of the Waikato region, Hamilton enjoys lush countryside incorporating bush and farmland, which is why it’s a wonderful place to base yourself for a Central North Island holiday. Highly recommended Hamilton tourist attractions include…

Waikato River Cruise – Enjoy a paddle steamer cruise on the mighty Waikato River aboard the M V Waipa Delta.

New Zealand ItinerariesHamilton Zoo – Check out over 450 exotic and endangered animals and birds from around the world and the largest walk in aviary in the Southern Hemisphere!

Hamilton Gardens – With over a million visitors a year this has to be the most popular tourist destination in the Waikato! Hamilton Gardens offers an unique opportunity to experience gardens from around the globe.

This is New Zealand’s thoroughbred and equestrian capital of New Zealand and is also known as the Town of Trees and Champions. The picture perfect tree-lined entrance into the township is fabulous and visitors to Cambridge should make the time to view the Equine Stars Walk of Fame in the CBD.

Tirau is famous for ‘over-the-top’ icons, including the largest the largest corrugated iron sheep and sheepdog in the world! This is a great place to stretch your legs and enjoy a coffee before the final stint into Rotorua.

ROTORUA (2 Night Stop-over)
Rotorua not only boasts 16 lakes within the District but is also the heart of New Zealand’s Maori culture and the popular geothermal attractions.

New Zealand ItinerariesWhen you first arrive in Rotorua you will be welcomed with a truly unique Sulphur smell, which is generated from geothermal activity, including springs, ponds, mud pools and geysers.

Highly recommended Rotorua tourist attractions include…

Buried Village – Visit the Museum of Te Wairoa and take a special journey as the fascinating story of the village of Te Wairoa unfolds, including the voyages to the Pink and White Terraces and the eruption of Mt Tarawera.

Hells Gate Thermal Reserve – Rotorua’s most active thermal park and New Zealand’s only mud bath complex with geothermal mud and therapeutic water.

Agrodome Sheep Show & Farm Tour – Enjoy an hour long live show of working New Zealand sheep and dairy farming in an interactive and truly enjoyable display.

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland – Located a 20 minute drive out of Rotorua, this is one of areas most visited geothermal areas. From the world famous Champagne Pool to bubbling mud, large volcanic craters, steaming ground and the daily eruption of Lady Knox Geyser, this is a ‘must see’ on your Rotorua itinerary.

Rotorua offers a plethora of cultural experiences, including genuine Hangi and Maori performances, geothermal marvels and for nature lovers, lakes and forests galore for fishing, mountain biking, hiking, rafting, tours and much more!
New Zealand Itineraries: North Island Suggested Itineraries

Our modern self-drive travel Itineraries have routes specifically for the North Island as well as the South Island, ranging from 5 to 11 days, plus there are some travel routes that take in both the North and South Island’s. Our range of travel itineraries include information regarding travel distances and time to ensure that you can make the best of your time in New Zealand, no longer how short your visit!

  • 5 Day Itinerary: Auckland – Rotorua, Rotorua – Taupo, Taupo – Waitomo Caves and Waitomo Caves – Auckland
  • 6 Day Itinerary: Auckland – Coromandel, Coromandel – Whitianga, Whitianga – Tauranga, Tauranga – Rotorua and Rotorua – Auckland
  • 6 Day Itinerary (route 2): Auckland – Dargaville, Dargaville – Kaitaia, Kaitaia – Paihia, Paihia – Whangarei and Whangarei – Auckland
  • 7 Day Itinerary: Auckland – Whitianga, Whitianga – Tauranga, Tauranga – Rotorua, Rotorua – Taupo, Taupo – Napier and Napier – Wellington
  • 8 Day Itinerary: Wellington, Wellington – Masterton, Masterton – Wellington, Wellington – Nelson, Nelson – Blenheim and Blenheim – Christchurch
  • 9 Day Itinerary: Auckland – Coromandel, Coromandel – Whitianga, Whitianga – Tauranga, Tauranga – Gisborne, Gisborne – Napier, Napier – Taupo, Taupo – Rotorua, Rotorua – Waitomo Caves and Waitomo Caves – Auckland
  • 9 Day Itinerary (route 2): Auckland – Whangarei, Whangarei – Paihia, Paihia – Hokianga, Hokianga – Auckland, Auckland – Rotorua, Rotorua – Taupo, Taupo – Waitomo Caves and Waitomo Caves – Auckland
  • 11 Day Itinerary: Auckland – Whitianga, Whitianga – Tauranga, Tauranga – Rotorua, Rotorua – Gisborne, Gisborne – Napier, Napier Taupo Napier, Napier – Wellington, Wellington – New Plymouth, New Plymouth – Waitomo and Waitomo Caves – Auckland