Explore Central North Island Touring Routes

Driving is one of the best ways to explore New Zealand. With the magnificent array of scenery enroute, your journey is bound to have an impressive impact, whether you travel to Great Lake Taupo along the Thermal Explorer Highway or the Volcanic Loop.

Thermal Explorer Highway

Ruapehu, Lake Taupo, Rotorua, Hamilton & Waikato.

The Thermal Explorer Highway runs from Hawke’s Bay through the centre of the North Island into the areas of Lake Taupo, Ruapehu, Rotorua, Hamilton and the greater Waikato before continuing up to Auckland. So grab a Taupo map and explore this beautiful region. The Taupo district is abundant with crystal clear lakes and streams, natural spas, ski fields, geothermal activity, Maori culture and wineries. It’s an enticing combination of unusual, captivating landscapes. 

The Thermal Explorer Highway is well signposted along the entire route which allows for safe navigation through some of the most dramatic landscapes of the Central North Island. See a myriad of crystal clear lakes, experience the spiritual home of the Maori of Te Arawa, and experience nature’s awesome earth forces- bubbling mud pools, spouting geysers and natural geothermal mineral pools.

Travellers around Taupo will have the opportunity to experience just about every adrenaline adventure one could ever want on air, land and water. An ancient underground labyrinth of limestone caves and grottos are a must do for those looking for natural wonders and unique adventure experiences. But if it’s the sedate life you are after, the Thermal Explorer Highway is also the perfect place to take it easy, with magical hot springs to relax in and local cafes to enjoy.

Volcanic Loop

The Volcanic Loop is an exciting add on to the Thermal Explorer Highway. This region is abundant with volcanic mountains, emerald lakes, ski fields, and is home to two national parks - Whanganui National Park and Tongariro National Park, which holds dual status as a World Heritage Area.

Heading south, the eastern shores of Lake Taupo offer many opportunities to swim or picnic. Head west at Turangi and follow State Highway 47 to National Park Village. Travel south to Ohakune on State Highway 49 and on to Waiouru. From there head north back to Turangi, completing the loop. Along the way you’ll pass the three mountains of the dual world heritage Tongariro National Park – Mounts Tongariro, Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe.

Explore our language pages