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Central North Island Geothermal explorer

Explore off the beaten track to visit places where the large tour buses are not yet going. The Central Plateau, North Island is awash with glorious hidden lakes, geothermal pools and fishing spots where you are the only person. Discover North Island’s top attractions adding the magic ingredient to your holiday. Sink into the warmth of natural hot springs. Soak in a spa under the stars and you have discovered magic on the geothermal highway.

9 days
10 nights with plenty of detours

Trip Overview

Highlights on the geothermal explorer – North Island, NZ

  • Take the side roads to Waitomo Caves with stunning Te Awamutu gardens as a welcome coffee break
  • Observe geothermal activity, fountains of boiling water and bubbling mud pools
  • Immerse yourself in Rotorua’s hot pools
  • Explore forests and Putaruru cold water springs on the volcanic plateau
  • Experience catching your first trout on the Tongariro River
  • Indulge in a picnic at Rotopounamu Lake, nestled in a primal forest
  • Explore alpine walks in Tongariro National Park
  • Reset and relax in Taupo sampling tourist hot spot attractions
  • Extend your journey with time in Napier, an art deco gem
Start Auckland / Hamilton / Tauranga / Rotorua
Finish Auckland / Hamilton / Tauranga / Rotorua

Join the geothermal explorer journey at Rotorua, Taupo or Napier. Towns, brimming with rose gardens (Te Awamutu) or quiet wildlife sanctuaries (Sanctuary Mountain) will tempt you to stay several days. Travel is less ordinary in the slow lane.


  • Shorten the trip by excluding Tokaanu and Tongariro National Park – 7 nights, 6 days

Lengthen the trip with extended stays in Taupo, Rotorua and Napier.

Best time to visit

The geothermal highway is a superb year round attraction. Scenery unfolds with the season. Summer bright blue lakes, green foliage contrast with autumn golds and winter’s snow capped peaks. Beautiful photo moments throughout the year.

  • Summer: Taupo beaches, swimming, picnics & fish early morning
  • Spring & Autumn: Walk in the brisk cool autumn, foliage colour, fishing around dusk
  • Winter: Walks, indoor cafe experiences & soak in geothermal hot pools
Start Auckland / Hamilton / Tauranga / Rotorua
Finish Auckland / Hamilton / Tauranga / Rotorua

Route map

Auckland, Te Awamutu, Waitomo Caves Tirau, Putaruru Blue Springs, Rotorua, Rotorua to Taupo (Orakei Korako reserve), Taupo Craters of Moon, Taupo Huka Falls, Tokaanu, Lake Rotopounamu, Taupo to Napier.


Rotorua has an excellent domestic airport connecting to towns such as Wellington (capital city) and Christchurch, a gateway city to the glorious South Island. Keep going south and find out more about New Zealand.



Auckland is a popular visitor departure point for the geothermal highway.


Check out Auckland getting around, useful travel facts – Best Bits.

Your destination is the central North Island volcanic plateau where the earth’s crust is split open to expose the molten core of boiling water and bubbling mud pools.

Te Awamutu Rose Garden water feature opposite main entrance on Gorst Avenue, Waikato, NZ
Te Awamutu Rose Garden water feature opposite main entrance on Gorst Avenue, Waikato, NZ


Te Awamutu

Your journey starts on State Highway one with a coffee break in Te Awamutu.

Most visitors whizz through Te Awamutu. Te Awamutu can be overlooked as visitors whisk through town on state highway three to the New Zealand acclaimed Waitomo Caves. Slow down and savour the small rural town with its stunning public gardens, cafe scene and picture postcard views of rolling Waikato farmland.


One of New Zealand’s unsung heroes is Lake Rotopiko, a surviving Jurassic wetland. A place of quiet beauty documenting the natural world before humans arrived in Aotearoa NZ over 900 years ago.

Te Awamutu is a mere ½ hour drive from Hamilton making for a great spot for a leisurely exploration of the Waikato.

… READ MORE Te Awamutu 11 unmissable things to do in the Waikato.




Waitomo Caves

Adrenaline fuelled underwater adventure or a leisurely cruise on an underground river Waitomo offers choices on how to experience the massive underground geological wonder. Waitomo nearby offers visitors epic short walks, waterfalls found at the end of mossy fern gullies and extraordinary examples of ingenious ideas from tunnels to access a beach to a town celebrating all things kiwana. Find out what makes the place one of New Zealand’s internationally renowned tourist attractions. Captivating Waitomo is not just a subterranean cave, rather it’s a lush, natural world weaving holiday magic for over 150 years and counting … READ MORE Waitomo Caves highlights what to see and do.



Waitomo Glowworm Caves, Waikato, New Zealand
Waitomo Glowworm Caves, Waikato, NZ





Waikato river trail, near Mighty River Domain, Waikato, New Zealand
Waikato river trail, near Mighty River Domain, Waikato, NZ

Explore Waikato trails passing the historic Arapuni Dam, Sanctuary Mountain turnoff (one of NZ’s top attractions offering visitors a chance to immerse themselves in a predator free world where flightless birds and rare native flora and fauna flourish) to Rotorua. Rotorua is your destination for day two.


Arapuni Dam

Imagine building this massive concrete structure in the 1930’s. A feat of engineering that continues to supply power to the national grid. Arapuni Dam is now part of the WAIKATO RIVER TRAIL. Made up of five trails that follow the Waikato River there are five lakes, four hydro dams and three suspension bridges and boardwalks over regenerating wetlands.

The trail length is 100 km and follows the river from Lake Karapiro to Atiamuri. To complete all five sections between 2 – 5 days depending on stops and cycling speed. For cycling grades check Waikato Rivers trails for up to date information. Tour operators can manage drop-offs, pick-ups and accommodation. The Waikato River Trails are managed by the Waikato River Trails Charitable Trust.



Waikato river trail, Arapuni swing bridge, Waikato, New Zealand
Waikato river trail, Arapuni swing bridge, Waikato, NZ

Stop for a snack or light meal at the Rhubarb Cafe, Arapuni.

Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari signage, Waikato, New Zealand
Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari signage, Waikato, NZ


Sanctuary Mountain

Imagine a world where humans are optional. A world where the forest reigns supreme and prolific wildlife flourishes without fear of introducing exotic predators. Welcome to Sanctuary Mountain in the Waikato; one of New Zealand’s top conservation stories. Maungatautari Sanctuary Mountain is a must-go destination.


  • Lush green forest paths snaking up and down the mountain
  • Forest sounds with bird song trilling haunting notes
  • Extraordinary contrast between the rolling farmland dotted with cows and sheep and sanctuary

The world’s largest predator proof fence, 47 km, protects 3400 hectares of forest from introduced predators such as rats, feral cats, possums and ferrets.

The mountain’s distinctive pointed peaks and rich dark green forest coat creates a striking landmark against the pastoral landscape. Ancient native trees, rimu and, rata soar over native bush.

… READ MORE Maungatautari Sanctuary Mountain attractions, things to do – Best Bits.



Sanctuary Mountain, Waikato, NZ forested trail, Waikato, New Zealand
Sanctuary Mountain forested trail, Waikato, NZ


Putaruru Blue Springs

Then it’s on the road to one of New Zealand’s hidden gems, a memorising fresh water Putaruru spring that gushes stupendous amounts of crystal deep blue water in a natural bush setting.

Putaruru Blue Springs & Te Waihou walkway.

Where is it? Approximately 15 minutes drive from Tirau. Signposted from State Highway one.

Mesmerizing, water welling up forming blue ribbons with tendrils of green swirling freshwater plants. Photo opportunities galore against the blue / green water, hillsides and regenerating bush. The springs flow at a rate of 42 cubic metres per minute. The Blue Spring could fill a six lane, 25 metre swimming pool in just over 12 minutes. It maintains a constant 11°C year round and supplies approximately 60% of New Zealand’s bottled water. The springs origin is the Mamaku Plateau where water percolates through porous rocks taking up to 100 years to produce clear deep blue swelling springs. Look closely at the upwelling water and you will see trout nibbling on the delicious plant life, with open mouths snacking on water insects. The springs are a hotbed of aquatic activity. By the way no fishing is allowed.

Blue Spring Te Waihou Walkway has two major entrances. The longer walk, through farmland and regenerating bush is 4.7 km. The shorter walk is accessed from the Leslie Road car park and it is a 20 minute flat stroll to the springs. The Leslie Road access is wheelchair accessible.

Putaruru river light, New Zealand
Putaruru river light, NZ
Putaruru view, New Zealand
Putaruru view, NZ

Putaruru Blue Springs ban swimming due to concerns about water pollution. While the Springs are child friendly and most of the area is fenced, children must be supervised at all times as the boardwalk is not fenced. Cycling to Springs could be hazardous as it would involve travel on State Highway where there are no dedicated cycle lanes. Care is needed at all times. There is no public transport to the Blue Springs. No admission fees, Public toilet facilities.




Tirau – quirky corrugated sculptures


Grab a quick takeaway paper coffee cup for the road. Look up, look around the corner at what the Tirau locals have managed to sculpt out of corrugated iron.

Tirau is a town on State Highway one:

Corrugated iron pukeko sculpture in Tirau, New Zealand
Corrugated iron pukeko sculpture in Tirau, NZ
Jay why are standing in front of a public toilet (Tirau)
Jay why are standing in front of a public toilet (Tirau), NZ

Being at a major junction with links to Rotorua and Auckland the town’s creative spirits have built an identity around corrugated sculpture. Corrugated iron is an acknowledgement of a rural service town’s links to the humble corrugated shed. ‘The Dog’ in Tirau in 1998 was the first of thousands of Corrugated Creations now spread around the world. Each is made with the same processes and materials as a corrugated iron roof – and is expected to last just as long.

The town’s identity is now large corrugated iron sculptures depicting main street businesses. The public toilets are located in large corrugated sheep together with a visitor  information desk. Another set of public toilets, off the main road are worth a photo stop together with the pukeko signage on the shops opposite. Tirau is quirky with eclectic shopping outlets, galleries and great cafes.



Your journey finishes in Rotorua.



ROTORUA is one of New Zealand’s must-go destinations. Discover a wealth of things to do in Rotorua. The earth’s energy is on full display. Lakes and forests invite you to zipline through forests and luge down mountain summits. Rotorua has adventure nailed. Rotorua attractions are showcased by extraordinary lunar landscapes where volcanic activity offers visitors a chance to experience nature at its most raw, to indulge in a mineralised mud bath or soak in the geothermal hot springs that abound in Rotorua. The ultimate holiday destination offers visitors a choice of accommodation from budget camping to luxury hotels pampering to your every want. Year round the temperate climate ensures Rotorua will not disappoint. Rotorua is living the dream, world class in every way… read more Things to do in Rotorua. Activities, Attractions & Places to Visit.

Sunset on Lake Rotorua with a black swan and a kayaker, New Zealand
Sunset on Lake Rotorua, NZ
Rotorua Rafting Kaituna Cascades , Rotorua, New Zealand
Rotorua Rafting Kaituna Cascades, Rotorua, NZ




  • Maori crafted by locals expressing tightly held values and sharing their stories at Te Puia
  • Heritage Rotorua with over a century of experience welcoming visitors
  • Original geothermal landscapes offering an array of sensory attractions from massage, spa treatments or simply relaxing in warm natural mineral water
  • Adventure beckons with Kaituna Cascades taking you rafting over a 3 metre waterfall. Awesome.


Te Puia

Temptation, beautiful jewelled objects would make a perfect holiday memento. And then there is the sheer power of a geyser blowing its top. Te Puia, part of the Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley, Te Puia is home to the New Zealand Māori Arts & Crafts Institute and is the place to view up close the well known Pōhutu Geyser Offering both day and evening experiences that can be purchased as a combo package. This is one of the only places in Rotorua where you can witness master carvers bringing their work to life.

Te Puia plumbs of super heated water from geysers, Rotorua, NZ
Te Puia plumbs of super heated water from geysers, Rotorua, NZ

Lunch or dinner at Te Puia restaurant, Superb value for money overlooking the geothermal park. What a view and the food is excellent.

Kiwis know how to party, just ask our national icon, the flightless bird, named kiwi Kiwis know how to party, just ask our national icon, the flightless bird, named kiwi
Ceremonial entrance ancestral carved figures, Te Puia, Rotorua, NZ Ceremonial entrance ancestral carved figures, Te Puia, Rotorua, NZ
The Tudor-style spa bath house in the Government Gardens in Rotorua, New Zealand
Government gardens in spring, Rotorua, NZ


Rotorua Government Gardens & Sulphur Bay Boardwalk

Discover where tourism started in the 19th century. Government Gardens and Sulphur Bay Boardwalk provide fascinating insights into Rotorua’s enduring charm as a top visitor destination.

Discover a quiet boardwalk tucked behind the well known Government Buildings. It’s a free walk and a gem. A perfect short walk for kids introducing them to the joys of sulphur and the geothermal energy of Rotorua. Rotorua is one of NZ’s earliest spa towns with Sulphur Bay playing a key role in the development of modern tourism. The Bay is barren, streaked with mineral water stains, stunted vegetation and fascinating with its lunar-like landscape. And the birds love it.


Redwoods, Whakarewarewa Forest

From zip lining through a redwood forest with Tours Redwoods Altitude to a leisurely stroll through the redwood forest. Rotorua challenges visitors to stretch their wings and give it a go. Designed mountain bike trails and walking tracks encourage visitors to get out and explore the area on foot.

Giant ferns in Whakarewarewa redwood forest, Rotorua, New Zealand
Giant ferns in Whakarewarewa redwood forest, Rotorua, NZ

A twilight tour on the redwood forest elevated boardwalk complete with twinkling lanterns is a must-do for the romantic at heart.

Fern undergrowth Redwood forest Rotorua, New Zealand Fern undergrowth Redwood forest, Rotorua, NZ
Redwoods Rotorua, New Zealand Redwoods, Rotorua, NZ
A Redwood tree top walk in Rotorua, New Zealand. A Redwood tree top walk in Rotorua, NZ
The Rotorua redwood trees in New Zealand The Rotorua redwood trees, NZ
Buried village exacavted whare (Maori dwelling house), Rotorua, New Zealand
Buried village exacavted whare (Maori dwelling house), Rotorua, NZ


Rotorua Buried Village

A working archaeological village is New Zealand’s Pompeii, a village buried under the ash and pyroclastic flow of the 1886 Mt Tarawera volcanic eruption. Te Wairoa buried village is now a heritage site narrating the stories of the inhabitants and the vanished wonder of the pink and white terraces.

The story of the archaeological discoveries is aptly captured in the award winning museum. Together with a walk through the archeological excavations, recreated village buildings and a waterfall trail the Buried Village is a great place for all ages to hear the tale of how nineteenth century New Zealand tourism faced the consequences of a volcanic eruption.

… READ MORE Rotorua Buried Village the story of the Tarawera Eruption


Rotorua top 6 geothermal hot pools & springs

Immerse yourself in the joy of soaking in warm mineral water or take in the sight of nature’s power as you witness boiling streams scalding rocks orange, red and yellow. Rotorua is one of the few places in the world where visitors can explore volcanic activity up close. It is memorising. Rotorua is a geothermal attraction that never goes out of style.

… read more why you will probably want to stay longer in Rotorua Rotorua hot water pools & thermal waters, where to go – Best Bits.

Kakahi Falls, Hells Gate geothermal park, Rotorua, North island of New Zealand
Kakahi Falls, Hells Gate geothermal park, Rotorua, NZ


Huka Falls, Taupo, New Zealand
Huka Falls, Taupo, NZ

A road journey from Rotorua to Taupo is travel less ordinary. Unearth and explore natural attractions on the geothermal explorer, state highway (SH) five between Rotorua and Taupo. The journey is picturesque with rolling hills and farmland interspersed with several major visitor destinations on the route. The thermal explorer the rock stars are the steaming, bubbling and spurting geysers, mud pools and boiling water. From either Rotorua or Taupo what to do nearby must include a cruisey drive along SH5 checking out the action and adventure. The 80 km stretch of road is well travelled with considerable traffic between the two tourist destinations. There are eight great places to pull over and enjoy.

Rotorua to Taupo: Geothermal Scenic Highway – Best Bits.


Rotorua Orakei Korako Thermal Park

Today is about exploring hidden gems and geothermal valleys of the central plateau. Situated between Taupo and Rotorua Orakei Korako Thermal Area is a highlight. Silica formations, boiling water, and thermal activity are naturally carved out of the forest against the backdrop of a lake that steams on the edges. The visual impact of geothermal activity reminds the visitor the world can be very hot.

Hot Springs Algae, and Emerald Terrace, Orakei Korako, Rotorua, New Zealand
Hot Springs Algae, and Emerald Terrace, Orakei Korako, Rotorua, NZ

Soak your weary feet in warm water of Orakei Korako Lake, just be careful as the water can be very hot. It is difficult to leave a natural massage.

Orakei Korako lake, New Zealand
Orakei Korako lake, NZ

Orakei Korako Thermal Area exploration starts with a short boat trip across Ohakuri (Cloak of the Dog) Dam completed 1961.

Up to 23 active natural geysers play freely through the area, which is constantly changing. The chemical composition of the geothermal water is vividly on display with the colours of the rainbow coating the hillsides and valley surfaces with orange, reds, yellows and green shades together with white undercoats. The walk is through regenerating bush on wide even boardwalks, there are a few steps in places (clearly signposted) and the walk is suitable for all fitness levels.  The walk itself is not suitable for buggies or wheelchairs. The area welcomes dogs on a lease.

Orakei Korako has been an important settlement site of Ngati Tahu for many generations. The settlement of Orakei Korako consisted of a fortified pa on the left bank above the river and a living area on the flats beside the river amidst the geysers and hot pools.

Open every day 8.30am – 3.30pm


VISIT DURATION 3 hours (including cafe and lake waters massage)

Optional Jet Boat ride to Orakei Korako


You’ve got numerous jet boat operators throughout New Zealand to choose from, there is a combination of jet boat thrills to a geothermal treasure. Visitors jet boat down the Waikato River through the spectacular Tutukau Gorge. The scenery is pine forests, regenerating bush, farmland, steaming volcanic river banks and trout feeding areas on your way down to Orakei Korako; one of New Zealand’s most popular geothermal attractions.


New Zealand RiverJet is not just about a quick spin and a swirl against large river boulders. While there is definitely speed involved, its a jet boat after all, there is time to absorb the scenery you are passing. The jet boat is a great transport option, leave the car at Taupo DeBretts and enjoy the day with someelse organising getting to and from Orakei Korako. River Jet offers a pick up and drop off service. This is only available when you book our Ultimate Squeeze or Ultimate Thermal Safari. The Ultimate part is essentially just a shuttle service to and from our base with a couple of added bonus stops!




Taupo Craters of the Moon

Craters of the Moon is an outdoor steam bath for vegetation complete with gushing water. The vegetation is unique to the area due the geothermal activity. Descriptive signs explain the plants adaptation to a climate where roots have warm feet and live in a natural spa. While walking around on a brisk spring day it’s pleasantly warm with damp heated mist swirling around. The thermal activity consists of steaming vents, boiling water and mud. Boardwalks make for a relaxed pace. The paths are in excellent condition and well signposted. The walks are self-guided and there are seats to rest at regular intervals. The hilltop views are worth the effort. Contrasting with the crowds at Huka Falls there is plenty of space to savour the atmosphere of nature’s display of its inner workings.

One of the few thermal attractions that is wheelchair accessible. Easy gravel / boardwalks for children. Public toilets at the site. Activity child friendly. A well stocked gift shop to tempt the visitor to spend their tourist dollars. Reasonable prices and most items are good quality.

Craters of the moon groundcover, New Zealand
Craters of the moon groundcover, NZ
Craters of the Moon, alpine plants, NZ Craters of the Moon, alpine plants, NZ
Tokaanu steaming vent, NZ Tokaanu steaming vent, NZ
Craters of the Moon, boiling mud, Mud pool in Whakarewarewa Thermal village, Sulphur Bay, Rotorua, New Zealand
Craters of the Moon, Rotorua, NZ

Admission fees website explanation, “From 2002 the Trust was required to pay site land rental fees to the government for the Craters area and from that time entry fees have been charged. While the entry fees primarily cover the site rental and costs to operate and maintain the site facilities – which include the 2 kilometre access road – these funds are also used to support community organisations and environmental work in the Taupo area and to provide scholarships for local high school students who wish to further their studies at Tertiary Institutions.”


DURATION 1 hour – 1 ½ hours


Explore Huka Falls

Driving by car  Craters of the Moon to Huka Falls  15 minutes.

Huka Falls is a tourist hotspot with crowds bustling for a place on the viewing platform. The place is very busy,  I observed two car parking wardens supervising a stream of cars and people. Unlike Craters of the Moon there are a number of designated parking spaces for large mass transit tour buses. The majority of visitors are crowded onto a relatively narrow bridge to view the Huka Falls where the sheer volume of water churns its way through a rock gorge. Yet it does not detract from the swirling churn of water, rocks and sky.

Huka Falls waterfall in Wairakei near Lake Taupo in New Zealand
Huka Falls waterfall in Wairakei near Lake Taupo, NZ

Visitors are in groups or singly focused on the endless flow of water and surges of water energy pushing against the rock faces. Simply standing still, resting against the satisfactorily robust railing, the crowd will melt away. The enormity of pent up energy captures visitor attention. The Waikato river upstream has a width of 100 metres, the gorge is15 metres wide. The river battle to escape the gorge is transfixing, you are spellbound by the endless sight of raging white capped foaming water hellbent on releasing energy.

The sheer volume of water power makes the visit worthwhile. Although you might have to queue for your photo moment. There are walking tracks along both sides of the falls, so you can figure out the best place for your selfie. The crowds could make supervision of children a challenge. There are toilet facilities next to the gift shop.

Walks to Huka Falls

Huka Falls website describes walks, ‘From the Spa Thermal Park car park, follow the signs towards the Waikato River. Near the start of the track a bridge crosses a natural hot stream, Otumuheke Stream, where you can enjoy a free hot soak. From here the well-defined track winds along the riverbank, offering lovely views along the way. The walk finishes at the spectacular Huka Falls. From Huka Falls you can continue on to Aratiatia Rapids. The walking track continues along the river to the Aratiatia hydro dam and rapids. This is an additional 4 hour return walk.’ (see Day for Aratiatia experience).

No admission fees.



Aratiatia Dam sluice gates opened, New Zealand
Aratiatia Dam sluice gates opened, NZ
Tourist adventure in Huka Falls with Huka falls river cruise in Taupo, New Zealand
Tourist adventure in Huka Falls with Huka falls river cruise in Taupo, NZ


Huka Falls cruise

Adrenaline inducing rides, a favourite of New Zealand’s international visitors,a thrilling ride surrounded by the surging currents of the Waikato River Huka Jet Boat.


All day Taupo (or several days)


Find out what makes this place special. Visitors are beguiled by a volcanic zone stretching across the Central Plateau of the North Island. Nature has created a bubbling cauldron of mineral waters and deep immense crater lakes. The inky blue bodies of water are fringed by lush native bush. The glorious scenery has a stunning backdrop of the three snow-tipped peaks of Tongariro National Park. It is the stuff of holiday dreams with the picturesque landscape encouraging water sports, adventures from jet boating, rafting and kayaking or walking tours soaking up the views.

The sheer variety of what nature has to offer is exhilarating.

Visitors can dip their toes into warm water seeping from lakeside streams and walk among mineralised landscapes where scalding water paints the world a vivid orange. Adventure beckons on the lake from kayaking to water parasailing.

Mount Ngauruhoe, Tongariro National Park, New Zealand
Mount Ngauruhoe, Tongariro National Park, NZ
Dusk at Lake Taupo, New Zealand
Dusk at Lake Taupo, NZ
  • Huka falls, enormous torrents of water forcing its way through a rocky gorge is memorising and definitely unmissable
  • Lake cruise, got to get out on the water, it’s Lake Taupo after all. Catch a good look at the Maori rock carvings as they rise magnificently out of the water.
  • Craters of the Moon lunar landscape is extraordinary, an otherworldly experience
  • ORAKEI KORAKO steaming vents, boiling mud, a geothermal wonderland
  • Taupo adventures beckon, go bungee jumping or go paraskiing on the lake
  • Indulge in a leisurely cafe brunch at Lava Glass
  • Take a selfie against Taupo’s graffiti street art trail

… READ MORE Things to do in Taupo – The Ultimate List of Activities – Best Bits.


Explore the central volcanic plateau lesser visited areas such as Tokaanu. Consider spending time walking trails in the Tongariro National Park or the heady heights of the Tongariro Crossing. Find a quiet thermally heated pool to soak away the cares of the world, sink into warm waters, soak and look at the stars as twilight emerges.


TOKAANU is the size of a postage stamp and off the beaten track. Why choose Tokaanu?  It is in an ideal location for visits to mountains, lakes and the fly fishing mecca of Tongariro River and it has natural geothermal pools. In Tokaanu there is not a lot of choice as the place is small, even by New Zealand standards.

National Trout Centre is a practical name for a mesmerising encounter. The State Highway One sign is functional. Children will not be bored and adults get a chance to view, at very close quarters lots and lots of swimming trout.

Tokaanu wharf at sunset, New Zealand
Tokaanu wharf at sunset, NZ
Couple on wooden brown jetty on calm relaxing Lake Taupo, North Island, New Zealand, NZ
Lake Taupo, NZ


  • A leisurely picnic lunch as a reward for the walk to the edge of Lake Rotopounamu
  • Spend the afternoon exploring Tokaanu village. There is a faded by the elements wharf for atmospheric photos of Lake Taupo, perhaps a selfie.
  • For fishing enthusiasts you will likely be found in waders on the Tongariro River, remember to post a photo of the catch. Active holiday fans have great cycling trails to explore. Find time to relish the warm water of the Tokaanu hot pools.


Explore Lake Rotopounamu & picnic nestled in a primal forest

Bird song and virgin forest  greet visitors as they walk through a slice of primal New Zealand. You are surrounded by filtered light and the sense of bird life fluttering past. Lunch at the lakeside is recommended. Remember to pack your picnic sandwiches and water bottle. Rotopounamu is a crater lake located on  western side of Mount Pihanga. It is nine metres deep and covers one square kilometre.

There is a walking track around the lake. At the junction of Five Minute Beach and Ten Minute Beach turn right towards Ten Minute Beach. Ten Minute Beach has picnic tables and a toilet. The track traverses the northern edge of the lake where the lake’s tributary streams enter. It appears the lake’s water levels are spring fed as visible tributaries cannot be seen unless the water level is low. As you are walking into a crater lake there are track areas that descend or ascend steadily.

The track is gravelled and well maintained. Although young children might find sections a little steep it is worth the effort of discovering Twenty Minute Beach. You will appreciate the name as it probably took you an hour or so to get to the picnic table. For younger children the steep ascent could be a challenge. Promises of lunch and a swim in the lake should work without parents having to lug the children over the steeper parts of the walk.

Rotopounamu Lake, New Zealand
Rotopounamu Lake, NZ
  • Lake Rotopounamu
  • Walks 5 km loop track, easy / medium
  • Ten Minute Beach
  • Twenty Minute Beach
  • Suggested walk duration 2 hours

Shorter track option. From the road, take the track up to the junction and turn left. This short 20 minute walk will bring you to Ten Minute Beach. Safety: Take care crossing the road to the walk entrance as the car park is on the opposite side of the entrance. You are crossing a road with a speed limit of 100km.


DURATION 2 – 6 hours


Scenic lookout

On your return to Tokaanu there is a scenic lookout with views of Lake Taupo. Not a great view of the lake however it is an official layby for visitors. You will not miss anything if you simply keep on driving.



Lake Taupo Sunset, New Zealand
Lake Taupo Sunset, NZ
Tokaanu thermal hot pools, Turangi, New Zealand
Tokaanu thermal hot pools, Turangi, NZ


Tokaanu Hot Pools & village exploration

Lake Rotopounamu sounds exquisite yet the thought of tramping through the bush doesn’t appeal. Tokaanu offers geothermal bliss with a chance to meet the locals while soaking in the local natural hot water pools. You can take a wander down to the Tokaanu old wharf. Tokaanu was a transport hub; now the wharf is a decaying relic of early 20th century transport links. For jetty and wharf fans, with aging timbers gracefully rotting in the elements this wharf has got it all. Plus it reaches into the infinity of Lake Taupo giving a perspective to a photo moment.

Tokaanu geothermal pools, although in need of a spruce up, a family friendly greeting makes you feel welcome. There is a sense of connection with the thermal activity in the vicinity. Ice cream and snacks are available at the onsite cafe. Remember to bring your own towels and swimming gear.


Look up at the nearby cliffs and you will see Hipaua steaming cliffs. The cliff face is part of the Tokaanu-Waihi-Hipaa thermal area. The cliffs are not safe to climb. A great cliff viewing spot is the old wharf or the bridge to the thermal pools. Do not forget to peer over the Tokaanu geothermal pools bridge to observe trout in the warm stream waters.

Safety notice

Take heed of notices about not immersing your head in the geothermal water and no fishing from the bridge.


Fishing, lakes and rivers

Fishing options summary (with license)

  • Fish from Tokaanu wharf
  • Fishing charter (either private or group) Lake Taupo
  • On shore flying Lake Taupo
  • Fly fishing Tongariro River

All day fishing on Lake Taupo is bliss for some visitors or perhaps fly fishing Tongariro River is a highlight. Tongariro River is a stone’s throw away with the challenges of fly fishing. Then again, perhaps a full day on the Lake doesn’t appeal yet the idea of fresh water fishing sounds good. There is the option of trying your hand at fishing from Tokaanu old wharf. For fishing charters and guides, visitors based in either Tokaanu or Turangi have a quick 25 minute drive to the numerous charter options in Taupo. You can join a group of first time holiday makers for a Taupo fishing cruise.

Fly fishing Tongariro River, Turangi, New Zealand
Fly fishing Tongariro River, Turangi, NZ

Fishing licenses are compulsory. For visitors without a fishing license or gear to fish this will need to be a pre-booked activity. Fishing gear can be rented for the day, and if you have booked a guide they will manage transport or a meeting point.


Visitors with a current license, check with your accommodation provider for tips on the best spots locally to fish.

Lake Taupo & Turangi Fishing Guides. When you check out the professional fishing guides you will be entranced by their wide, I’ve got this fish grin.


For fly fishing waders will need to be hired as well. More pesky details to get excited about. Life Jackets.


Remember to wear lifejackets while on the water and supervise children around water.

And we look forward to the selfie with the catch of the day.


Evening dinner

Lakeland House Restaurant Braxmere Tokaanu. On the southern side of the lake, approximately 10 minutes drive from Tokaanu / Turangi  is the location of your treat for the day. Perhaps it is dinner by the lakeside after a vigorous walk to Lake Rotopounamu or time to unwind after learning the intricacies of fly fishing. Check the menu beforehand and savour the moment. Your accommodation could arrange child minders for your evening out if discussed beforehand.


Discuss child minding when you book your accommodation.



Tongariro National Park

The majestic mountain Mt Ngauruhoe is a striking landmark, a highlight of the famous multi-day tramp, the Tongariro Crossing. Summer in the mountains is glorious with the temperatures between 18c to 25c making walking comfortable. While the sun is not scorching you will need sun protection as well as a layer for the occasional brisk nip in the air. Winter white snow with tints of ivory are magical to look at. Remember to follow winter safety advice for the great outdoors. There are a number of short walks in the vicinity of Chateau Tongariro giving visitors a chance to work up an appetite for afternoon tea ensconced in the depths of the Chateau Tongariro armchairs.

Tongariro crossing in winter, mount Ngauruhoe, the great walk, New Zealand, Tonagriro National park
Tongariro crossing in winter, mount Ngauruhoe, the great walk, NZ

Active holiday enthusiasts have an alternative all day cycling adventure exploring the Ohakune Old Coach Road. For members of a group where there is no general enthusiasm for an all day bike ride a meeting point could be Ohakune. Explore the shops and vibrant village rendezvous location is agreed to.


Whakapapa Village Visitor Centre is your first stop. The visitor centre is a dynamic meeting place for trampers undertaking the Tongariro Crossing. A gigantic screen outlining the crossing stops, hazards and spectacular scenery greets visitors entering the premises. If you have younger members of your party this is a great place to introduce them to the National Park’s breathtaking landscape, the flora and fauna that call the place home. Year round the visitor centre caters for summer visitors tramping the mountains and winter skiers.

There is a large gift and clothing shop for individuals who need warm clothing, a T-shirt or simply indulge in some window shopping. Naturally you have browsed the brochures, the guidebooks which are complementary and part of the New Zealand travel experience.


Tongariro Crossing is on the bucket list for great hiking trips and can be accomplished in a day. Tongariro Alpine Crossing check the site for details and perhaps the tramp is your must do list.


Waterfalls, walks and a gondola ride up a mountains

All of the walks are on State Highway 48, in the vicinity of Whakapapa Village. The walks offer a variety of scenery, from waterfalls, high altitude vegetation to avalanche debris. They are well signposted, with information panels and easy to moderate gradients. A gem of water, sky, rocks in an alpine setting.

Whakapapa Nature Walk

The first walk is closest to the Visitor Centre, Whakapapa Nature Walk introduces the walker to the flora and fauna with on site information panels. This walk can be completed by all fitness levels. Wheelchair accessible on a sealed loop track.

  • Length: 300 metres
  • Duration: 15 minutes
Mount Ngauruhoe near Whakapapa skifield at Hotel Chateau, Tongariro National Park, New Zealand
Mount Ngauruhoe near Whakapapa skifield at Hotel Chateau, Tongariro National Park, NZ

The Mounds Walk

The Mounds walk is a short easy walk for children with a history of human occupation and volcanic activity. Detailed information panels engage the walker to reassess the landscape for telltale signs of avalanche debris. There is a great photo moment of Mount Ngauruhoe at the commencement of this walk. The best position for a photo is at the top of the steps as you are elevated with soaring mountains backdropping the tundra. Not wheelchair accessible.

Tawhai Falls, New Zealand
Tawhai Falls, NZ

Tawhai Falls Walk

Tawhai Falls walk packs a punch with mountain toatoa, beech forest, bird song and then a pretty waterfall at the end of the walk. To access the waterfalls there is a short climb over rocks slippery when wet. There are steps to the Tawhai Falls with handrails. It is a favourite spot for instagrammers due to the Gollom scene in the film Lord of the Rings.

  • Length 800 metres
  • Duration 25 minutes
  • Grade medium (steps)

Ridge Track Walk

Ridge Track starts with the dappled light of beech forest then the horizon widens to alpine shrubs and the reward of a panoramic view of  Mt Ngauruhoe. As the walk is aptly described you have climbed a ridge with a truly great moment to soak into the view of the mountain poised against the sky. If it is cloudy, as happens, return for another day in the mountains.

  • Length 1.2 km
  • Duration 45 minutes
  • Grade easy / medium


NATIONAL TROUT CENTRE is fascinating. Don’t let the unassuming signage put you off. The Centre’s narrative is the story of fishing in New Zealand, various fish species and the importance of trout fishing. Outside the museum centre are numerous trout swimming in the Centre’s pools and streams. You can purchase bread to encourage trout to rise to the surface for your photo opportunity.

Entrance walkway, Tongariro National Trout Centre, New Zealand
Entrance walkway, Tongariro National Trout Centre, NZ

Pink bellied, gleaming, swimming, shafts of silvered trout circle around the bridge entrance. The entrance is an easy stroll past a swift moving stream with darts of silvered colour as trout swiftly assess whether you are the bearer of fish food. Enjoy the bush and forest. The trees are helpfully tagged with the name and description of the tree’s life cycle. As you approach the National Trout Centre you are greeted by outdoor seating, a cafe with essentials such as coffee, drinks and ice-cream and helpful front line assistants. The centre is very close to Turangi and is situated in the North Island, Central Plateau district.

Tongariro River walks, New Zealand
Tongariro River walks, NZ


Your afternoon is an exploration of the Tongariro River Walk. The River Walk is an excellent choice for all fitness levels, it is relatively flat, there is a wide firm path, there is opportunity to vigorously cycle. The walk meanders on both sides of the Tongariro River past people’s backyards, rolling farmland and through native bush. The River is always present with glimpses and vistas opening up to people fly fishing or swimming in sheltered areas. The Tongariro National Trout Centre is on the route and a great place to break your journey.

The 15 km loop track is undulating and has numerous well signposted exit and entrance points giving visitors the choice of how far and where to go. The track allows dogs on a lease and is suitable for families with children in a buggy.

Turangi River Walk swing bridge, New Zealand Turangi River Walk swing bridge, NZ
Picturesque Tongariro River, North Island, New Zealand Tongariro River, NZ

Tongariro River Trail.

Check out New Zealand country notes for bike hire options.




Art Deco street light, Napier, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand
Art Deco street light, Napier, NZ


Take in the contrast between the central North Island plateau and Lake Taupo with art deco coastal Napier. The route traverses the highest North Island hill pass. This route can be reversed from Napier to Taupo.

  • Find Trelinnoe Park and relax among mature trees and rhododendrons.
  • Take time to walk to a waterfall. Ponder about the narrative of Opepe Reserve, NZ Land Wars, sawmilling and lonely graves.
  • The sweeping road was a construction feat giving Napier a vital link to the central North Island. The road follows, in part, traditional Maori walking tracks.

… read more Napier to Taupo road trip – Best Bits

Opepe Reserve

Opepe Reserve is an original and regenerating native bush reserve embracing the original Taupo to Napier road. The original road followed the traditional Maori tracks over the ranges and into the Lake Taupo region. The bush reserve has the remains of the logging industry with a pit saw, partly cut Totara trees and plaques describing the nineteenth century logging industry and its impact on the environment. It is a special moment when you are retracing the footsteps of people on the overgrown highway, imaging all of those who went before. There is public car parking on both sides of the road. The reserve is surprisingly quiet, as it abuts a major highway. Within a few paces of entering the reserve the sight and sound of a highway disappears into bird sound and forest whispers.

Opepe abandoned logs, New Zealand Opepe abandoned logs, NZ
Opepe Reserve information plaque, New Zealand Opepe Reserve information plaque, NZ

The walk is relatively flat although in wet weather it could be slippery with the vegetation. Public toilets: has a compostable toilet on site

Old Coach Rd, now Opepe Reserve walking track, New Zealand Old Coach Rd, now Opepe Reserve walking track, NZ
Opepe Reserve walking track, New Zealand Opepe Reserve walking track, NZ

Safety: The reserve is split in two by a major highway which you need to cross over to explore both sides of the reserve. The highway has a speed limit of 100km. Exercise caution with children crossing the road.

For more information about the reserve click here for Opepe walks.


VISIT DURATION   1 – 1 ½ hours

Napier Parade viewping platform, New Zealand
Napier Parade viewping platform, NZ


What an exciting end to the geothermal adventure. Napier is a vintage art deco beauty. Napier is ‘Food and Wine country’s’ showpiece. The attractive city is framed by the sea, cliffs and a dazzling waterfront. Norfolk pines march along a marine parade with brightly painted houses heralding the arrival into town. Victorian facades are rare in a town where devastating fires, the result of a major earthquake, destroyed much of the town’s buildings.

Art deco Napier emerged out of the burnt remains of the earthquake, complete with soft pastel colouring. Napier is home to several significant museums, art galleries, established parks and gardens. The busy Napier port remains a key transport highway for a premier food bowl economy. Town and country merge creating fertile ground for a fusion cuisine. The joy of edgy menus in innovative cafes and restaurants truly supports the ‘food and wine country’ motto.

… read more about Things to do in Napier Attractions, Activities & Places to Visit.

Your journey finishes in Napier …

Suggestions where to go next from Napier, North Island

Aerial view of Napier, New Zealand
Napier, NZ

Travel Pack Information


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