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Central North Island

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Waikato: Hamilton, Waitomo, Taupo & Rotorua

A short, pretty drive from Auckland and packed full of dazzling sights, the North Island’s volcanic heart is a hot spot for campervan holidays.​​​​The clearly signposted Thermal Explorer Highway leads the way from Auckland to the Central North Island, home to many of New Zealand’s most iconic sights and attractions.

This region is underpinned by awesome geological forces, which surface in the bubbling mud pools, steamy vents, geysers and colourful silica terraces around Rotorua – a small city equally famous for its vibrant Maori culture. 

​Further south is New Zealand’s largest lake, Taupo, with a lively resort town on its shores. A magnet for boaties and watersports enthusiasts, it’s also a popular base for adventures on the Central Plateau, cut through by the spectacular Desert Road. The centrepiece of the otherworldly plateau is Tongariro National Park, encompassing three gnarly volcanoes amid landscapes so dramatic they stole epic scenes in The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films. The park’s extensive and varied trail network includes the world-famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing – New Zealand’s most popular one-day hike.​

Highlights

  • ​​fascinating volcanic landscapes 
  • picturesque lakes and rivers 
  • spirited Maori culture 
  • walkways, hiking trails & cycleways galore 
  • therapeutic hot pools
  • winter snow sports 
  • adrenaline activities​
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Central North Island Must Do's

Central North Island Campervan Road Trips

Central North Island Travel Tips & Inspiration

Britz Campervan Branches

Auckland

The drive from Britz Auckland to Hamilton is short. Make your first stop and explore all the epic things to do in Hamilton and the surrounding areas before heading further south to explore the rest of the Central North Island.

Christchurch

The drive the Central North Island to Christchurch offers a few different paths. Follow the Pacific Coast Highway from Auckland, stopping in at highlights of the Coromandel, Bay of Plenty and Taupo before heading to the capital of Wellington and jumping on the Interislander across the Cook Strait to the South Island. Our Christchurch branch is then a 4 and a half hour drive down the east coast. The perfect road trip if you're looking to see as much of New Zealand as you can in one trip.

Queenstown

Queenstown is New Zealand's renowned adventure playground. With so many activities and natural delights to choose from, no New Zealand campervan trip is complete without exploring this hot spot. Although a long drive from the central North Island, take some extra time to discover more of New Zealand than ever before.

Things To Do In Hamilton

Under the rolling hills of Waitomo lies a labyrinth of underground cave systems intertwined with rivers and sinkholes. Explore Waitomo and get up close and personal with the dazzling display of glowworms who live within the caves. A popular spot over summer and school holidays, the Waitomo Caves are an iconic part of New Zealand’s culture and shouldn’t be missed off your Central North island road trip itinerary. Choose to take a boat or walking tour and prepare to be amazed.

West of Hamilton lies Raglan, a beautiful stretch of classic New Zealand rugged west coast. Made up of black sand and an epic swell, Raglan is a haven for both local and visiting surfers. Home to one of the longest and most consistent left-handers in the world, explore Raglan and have a go at catching a wave with the Raglan Surfing School. The school offers private and group lessons for the advanced surfer as well as beginners.

Visit the Hamilton Gardens and explore a 58-hectare world of horticultural skill and imagination. One of the most visited attractions in the Waikato region, Hamilton Gardens explored the relationships between people and plants, and tells stories of the gardens through different civilizations. Home to Te Parapara, the first traditional Maori Garden, as well as another 4 garden collections spread over the land, this destination is an incredible place to connect with culture and history, and it’s something the whole family will love.

Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari is a world-class conservation project located in the Waikato. By removing all mammals from Maungatautari it has provided a safe environment to reintroduce some of New Zealand’s most endangered species back to their natural habitat. Enter the 47 km pest-proof fence and explore the safe haven that homes many of New Zealand's most endangered species, from birds to bats, frogs to reptiles and tuatara to giant weta. Visiting Sanctuary Mountain is a must do during a central North Island road trip.

Want to feel the breeze on your face and the sun on your back whilst you get those legs pumping? Explore one of Waikato’s cycling trails and get even further off the beaten track to explore this incredible area. The Timber TrailWaikato River Trails and Hauraki Rail Trail can all be found in the Waikato region. Explore the Waikato River Trails for an adventurous ride along the mighty Waikato River.

Black Water Rafting is a bucket list must-do and guaranteed to your adrenaline pumping. Head 80 metres below ground, raft in tubes through underground rapids, jump off waterfalls and float beneath a sky of glowworms, all whilst ticking exploring one of New Zealand’s most diverse cave systems off your bucket list.

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Things To Do In Rotorua

Explore Ōhinemutu Village and connect with the culture, people, landscape and history that have contributed to making Rotorua the special place it is today. Visitors are welcome to explore this village free of charge and discover the steaming vents, geothermal hot pools of this spiritual place. Explore the traditional Māori meeting house decorated with paua shells and detailed carvings as you soak up the incredible history.

It’s important to allocate some time during your campervan holiday in New Zealand to relax! We recommend spending some time unwinding at Hell’s Gate Mud Bath and Spa. Home to the most active geothermal reserve in Rotorua, a visit to Hell’s Gate is a bucket list item. Get down and dirty in a mud bath or soak in a sulphur spa whilst you admire sweeping views of a stunning geothermal landscape. This spot offers the ultimate indulgence all year round, but it’s particularly perfect for a winter escape when the temperatures begin to get a bit cooler.

Waimangu Volcanic Valley is a must-see on any road trip through Rotorua. Experience the youngest geothermal system in the world as you wander through volcanic craters, giant hot water springs, spectacular geothermal features, rare plant life and an epic range of birds. Admire views of Inferno Crater, sinter terraces and Frying Pan Lake, one of the largest hot water springs in the world.

Only 10 minutes out of the city centre, the Whakarewarewa Forest aka “the Redwoods Forest” is a popular destination for locals and visitors alike. Home to wide, meandering trails through giant California redwoods, New Zealand’s iconic silver fern and native bush undergrowth. Known for its network of incredible mountain biking and walking tracks, spend your time wandering or cycling under the towering species as you take in the fresh forest air.

Travelling with a group of thrill-seekers? Strap on a helmet and get your adrenaline fixed as you speed down a steep track in your own luge. Head to Skyline Rotorua for an adventure filled day. Start off easy on the beginners track that winds through the Redwoods/Whakarewarewa Forest and work your way up to the more challenging rides. The chairlift to the top will take you through scenic sweeping views of the forest and Rotorua.

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Things To Do In Taupō

A holiday in Taupō wouldn’t be complete without ticking off a hot springs experience off your list. Explore the world-famous natural hot springs at Otumuheke Stream for a day of indulgence. Where naturally heated geothermal waters flow into the Waikato river at Spa Thermal Park, this experience is truly luxurious and the perfect place to relax after a long day of driving.

The iconic Huka Falls are the most visited natural tourist attraction in New Zealand. With up to 220,000 litres of water gushing through the gorge every second, this natural wonder is not one to miss off your New Zealand campervan itinerary. There are plenty of ways to experience the falls, whether you’re keen on a scenic trail or an adventure packed jet boat ride to cater to the more adventurous traveller.

The giant Ngatoroirangi Mine Bay Rock Carvings on Lake Taupō have been attributed as one of the most extraordinary contemporary artworks in New Zealand. Accessible only by boat, we recommend booking a scenic cruise, kayak or boat tour from the Taupō Boat Harbour to get up close and personal with this monument. The carvings were created in the 1970s by artist Matahi Brightwell and tower 14 metres above the waters of Lake Taupō.

Experience adventure in the heart of New Zealand’s spectacular geothermal region. Get your adrenaline-fix on the Taupō Bungy & Swing. Experience the exhilarating feeling as you soar through the air over the Waikato River at speeds of up to 70 km per hour.

Got your bikes on board? If you’re looking to explore the shores of Lake Taupō, check out the Great Lake Trail. Winding around the northwestern part of the lake, this intermediate cycling trail will take you through an epic landscape made up of lush forests, waterfalls, beaches, wetlands and a volcanic gorge. The trail is split into four sections so you can either experience the full trail on a three day adventure or opt for a half day ride.

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Helpful Tips For Visiting Central North Island

Climate and Seasons in the Central North Island

The Central North Island/Waikato district enjoys a temperate climate. In the summer months daily temperatures are around 20-27 degrees celsius, while winters are a little but cooler at around 10-12 degrees celsius.

What to pack

With so many great outdoor activities to enjoy in the Waikato region, you’ll want to make the most of your time with a well packed campervan and backpack ready for all the adventures you may come across.

  • Outdoor gear. Temperatures may become brisk throughout any point in the year, so don’t forget to pack some warm layers and thermals. Taking a waterproof layer is always a good idea in case of the odd shower.
  • Campervan add-ons. If you’re bringing a bike with you to explore the epic cycle trails on offer, the Auckland, Christchurch and Queenstown branches offer bike rack hire, which can be fitted onto a selection of campervans.
  • Sun protection. Be sure to pack a bottle of sunscreen and a sunhat, especially if you’re visiting in summer and planning on embracing the epic tracks and trails on offer.

Nearby Attractions and day trips

Tongariro National Park

Tongariro National Park sports some of the most spectacular trails in the country, including the legendary Tongariro Alpine Crossing - a challenging day hike that will take you past Ngaurahoe and Tongariro volcanoes. Various shorter walks from Whakapapa and Ohakune villages take in more peculiar volcanic sights and striking native forest as well as the odd waterfall.

Orakei Korako

This striking thermal reserve is reached by a short boat ride across a hidden lake, off the beaten track between Rotorua and Taupo. A pretty bush walk skirts striking silica terraces astir with simmering pools and a whirling stream.

Lake Tarawera

A scenic 20 minute drive from Rotorua will take you to the magical Lake Tarawera. On its shores lie the intriguing Buried Village, all but obliterated by a massive 1886 volcanic eruption. There’s also a cafe and popular swimming spots as well as nearby Blue Lake TOP 10 Holiday Park and a DOC campsite at which you can stay overnight.

Where to stay with a campervan

Hamilton

Taupō

Rotorua