“Thermal Explorer”

4 Day Self-Drive Tour

Download and print our full ‘Suggested Packages’ here


Day 1         AUCKLAND – HAMILTON                                                       (L)

0845          Depart Auckland and travel along SH1 south to Hamilton.

ham11045          Arrive at the Hamilton Gardens car park and then make your way to the entrance of the Hamilton Gardens Information Centre to commence your guided tour.

1100          You commence your guided Garden Tour of the Hamilton Gardens Paradise Collection. Following this, there is time to peruse the local souvenir shop or to grab a coffee at the Gardens Café before you continue your journey to Waitomo.

1230          You depart the Hamilton Gardens and continue to drive south on SH3 toward Waitomo.

          You arrive at the Caveworld office in the Waitomo Village, 23 Waitomo Village Road. There is parking outside their office in the Waitomo Village.

After checking in with the Caveworld staff, you will be transferred in their vehicle to Roseland’s Restaurant located on an adjoining farm to Caveworld for a BBQ Buffet Lunch, including a selection of meats freshly cooked to your liking accompanied by salads and bread followed by Tea & Coffee served with Roseland’s ‘world famous’ freshly homemade Carrot Cake and Biscuits.

1445          You are transferred from Roseland’s Restaurant to the Caveworld entrance of the Footwhistle Cave, to commence your guided tour through this privately owned cave system. Before descending into the cave you will take a short bush walk, where you will sample a Kawakawa tea ceremony in a purpose built Ponga Hut in the bush. Upon descending into the cave you will view glow worms up close, which you can take photos of as well. You’ll see the bones of an ancient Moa bird and see the Te Anaroa Cave lit momentarily by a magnesium torch.

cave1500          You are then transferred back down to the Waitomo Village to your vehicle.

1515          You then continue your journey on to Rotorua. You retrace your steps back along SH3 to Kihikihi and turn off towards Putararu, crossing the Arapuni Dam towards SH1, then travel north to connect to SH5 to cross the Mamaku Ranges before arriving in the Thermal City of Rotorua.

1730          On your arrival in Rotorua you make your way to your hotel and accommodation for tonight. The rest of your evening and dinner is at your leisure and expense.

Recommended accommodation: Distinction Rotorua Hotel (B&B basis)


Day 2         ROTORUA SIGHTS                                                                  (B,L,D)

0725          You will be collected from your hotel for your Greatsights Morning Rotorua Sights Tour. Your tour includes a visit to New Zealand’s Maori Cultural Centre at Te Puia, where you will experience Rotorua’s famous geothermal activity, take a guided tour of the Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley and see Te Puia’s woodcarving & weaving school.

0930          From here you are transferred to see our agricultural industry in action at the Agrodome – check it out here, a working organic farm where you can find out about farming life in New Zealand, watch a sheep shearing display and see sheep dog trials where hard-working farm dogs show off their amazing skills.

1030          You are then transferred to Rainbow Springs Nature Park – check it out here to see New Zealand wildlife and natural scenery on display. You will get up close to all kinds of native flora and fauna including the famous kiwi, a flightless native bird.


1200          From here you are transferred to Skyline Skyrides for a spectacular Gondola ride almost to the summit of Mt Ngongotaha to share in the captivating views of Lake Rotorua and the city. While here you will enjoy a sumptuous Buffet meal while taking the views.

1400          After your lunch you are transferred back into the CBD or to your hotel to enjoy the rest of your afternoon at your own leisure.

1550-1600 Tonight, you are collected by your Waka (bus) from your hotel for an unforgettable Maori Cultural Experience at Tamaki Maori Village. On your arrival you will share in the Powhiri, our ancient ceremony of welcome. You will also witness the arrival of Maori warriors paddling a Waka known as Te waka Tamaki Rangatira before entering our pre-European Maori Village nestled within a native Tawa Forest. The village comes alive with sights, sounds & activity of days gone by including haka, poi, tattooing, weaving, carving and arts of warrior training. You will have the opportunity to participate in these activities. Witness the earth being scraped away from the hangi pit to reveal baskets of food cooked beneath the ground on hot stones. Enter the ancestral meeting house and enjoy a powerful cultural performance before dining the traditional hangi buffet feast. You are then transferred back to your hotel by your driver in your Waka (bus).

2030          Arrive back at your hotel for the evening.

Recommended accommodation: Distinction Rotorua Hotel (B&B basis)


Day 3         ROTORUA – TAURANGA                                                         (B,D)

0900           Following breakfast you leave your hotel and travel east of Rotorua on SH33 toward Tauranga to arrive in Paeangaroa and the home of Comvita Honey.

tga10945           Here make a stop at Experience Comvita to take a 40 minute guided tour discovering the world of the honey bee and the wonder of nature’s intelligence. Explore the healing power of nature through New Zealand’s native plants, including Manuka. See the world through the eyes of the magnificent honeybee and learn how they share the gifts of nature with us. In the beehive, immerse yourself in their world. Following this there is time to venture in the retail world of Manuka Honey, UMF Honey and Propolis and Health & Beauty products to take home or to ship home instead.

1100           You depart Comvita continuing on SH33 to Tauranga and the beautiful Mt Maunganui beach.

1145           The remainder of your day is at your leisure. Take a stroll along Mt Maunganui Beach, visit the Saltwater Geothermally Heated Hot Pools or you could take an optional guided walk to the summit of Mauo (Mt Maunganui) with commentary from your guide, which will take approx 3 hours return. The trip to the summit is well worth it and the views are spectacular.

Recommended accommodation: Trinity Wharf Hotel (B&B basis)

1930-2030 (S) During Summer hours……..

1600-1700 (W) During Winter hours, you are collected from your hotel for your Dinner in the Park experience with Guided Footprints at McLarens Falls Park.

1630-2100 On your arrival a short walk is taken in native bush on groomed pathways to view a waterfall. Upon your return dinner is served, a Kiwi BBQ dinner including an assortment of marinated meats and salad complimented with dessert!  If required warm blankets will be provided to wrap around to keep you warm while you enjoy the cuisine.


At the completion of your dinner you are transferred back to your accommodation for the night.


Day 4         TAURANGA- AUCKLAND                                                        (B)

0830          Following breakfast you leave your hotel and travel north on SH2 toward Waihi.

akl0930          0n your arrival in Waihi you arrive at the Waihi Gold Discovery centre for a self-guided tour of this award winning interactive Gold Discovery Centre – voted the ‘Best NZ Museum Visitor Experience’ in May 2015. This is found at the top end of Seddon Street, the main street in Waihi.

1030          You then depart from the Discovery Centre for your escorted Waihi Gold mine Tour of the Martha Mine, an actual working gold mine.

1200          You then make your way back to Auckland SH2 through the Karangahake Gorge to Paeroa. We would recommend lunch in the Karangahake Gorge at the Bistro at Falls Retreat. (at your own expense).

You then continue your drive in to Paeroa where we suggest you make a stop to take a photo at the iconic L&P bottle which is a world famous New Zealand soft drink originally made famous by extracting the spring water from Paeroa to make up this iconic soft drink. Why not try sampling some while you are in New Zealand!!

Continuing north, you will later connect onto SH1 heading toward Auckland to then cross the Bombay Hills and make your way down the Southern Motorway.

1700          Arrive back in Auckland or dependent on whether a stop is made for lunch or not, you may choose to drive straight back to Auckland, a 2 hour drive from Paeroa with the remainder of your day and evening at your leisure. Alternatively you could drive directly to Auckland International Airport to connect to your homeward bound flight.

Note: Should you have interest in any of the itineraries, TRNZ encourage you to contact your local New Zealand based Land Operator or DMC to obtain rates and validity.