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Rotorua to Taupo: Geothermal Scenic Highway

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 between Auckland and Napier highlights this sector where 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 80km stretch of road is well travelled with considerable traffic between the two tourist destinations. There are eight great places to pull over and enjoy.

Route map

From Rotorua to Taupo visitors can explore the following:

Whakarewarewa Living Village


Whakarewarewa Living Village is on the outskirts of Rotorua, State Highway five tempting you to pull over and explore. Check out where the locals live and how their lives have been influenced by living with active volcanic activity. For details check here Rotorua Whakarewarewa: an iconic living Maori village.

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Tamaki Maori Village


Tamaki Village is home to the people who invite visitors to experience a pre-European Maori  daily life, share a hangi (stone oven cooking) and enjoy traditional arts and crafts. While this attraction is primarily focused on the overseas visitor, kiwis can enjoy the sense of the familiar and feel right at home with a delicious hangi. And practice their haka technique. Tamaki Village is rolling out a wellness and bush experience which is keenly anticipated.

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Waimangu Volcanic Valley

Waimangu Volcanic Valley, Rotorua, Bay of Plenty, North Island, New Zealand
Waimangu Volcanic Valley, Rotorua, Bay of Plenty

Waimangu Volcanic Valley is where the 19th century volcanic eruption of Mt Tarawera blew to smithereens the world famous pink and white terraces and obliterated entire villages.  Over a hundred years later the Waimangu Valley has extraordinary landscapes carved out by nature. The world’s largest hot springs, steaming cliffs and regenerating bush. Walk among evidence of a volcanic eruption.

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Waikite Valley


Waikite Valley is a camping ground, hot springs resort together with short bush walks where occasional puffs of steam reminds visitors of geological forces at play. The ‘Living Waters’ of the Te Manaroa Spring – the largest single source of 100% pure boiling geothermal water in New Zealand is a great excuse to soak away office blues. Waikite Valley is part of the geothermal Rotorua experience, check here for more information Rotorua hot water pools & thermal waters.

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Huka Falls

Tourist adventure in Huka Falls with Huka falls river cruise in Taupo, New Zealand
Huka Falls, Taupo

Huka Falls has a well worn path to the stunning power of the Waikato River being forced between granite walls. The blue white foaming depths roar through the confined space dominating the landscape. Sheer awesome power is memorable with many visitors repeating the experience of watching the torrents spin, roll and surge past their feet on the viewing platform. Check here for best things to do in Taupo.

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Wairakei Terraces, New Zealand
Wairakei Terraces

Steam hissing, swirls of mist, the place is fantasy come to life. Wairakei Geothermal Pipes is a great drive through activity where the commercial application of steam conversion into electricity is displayed with a maze of steamy pipes, often wreathed in clouds of billowing steam. An industrial plant is magically transformed into an otherworldly, atmospheric place.

Prawn Farm waterplay park is a great place for kids to indulge in all forms of water sport designed into an innovative water playground.

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Wheelchair accessible

Craters of the moon groundcover, New Zealand
Craters of the moon groundcover

Craters of the Moon is a classic lunar fantasy that comes to life on SH5. The boardwalk is easily navigativable and the slightly warped nature of the timber framing points to the constant  geothermal activity very near the surface. There are excellent plaques describing the stunted vegetation that has adapted to the harsh conditions. The lack of trees or bushes of any height with vents of steam, boiling mud pools and streaks of mineralised coloured rock create a place where imagination is given a boost.

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