• Te Pā Tū

    Travelling from Taupō to Rotorua along the Thermal Explorer Highway

November 30, 2022

The Thermal Explorer Highway is one of New Zealand’s iconic drives – from the lakeside township of Taupō through to the geothermal capital of Rotorua. 80 kilometres in distance, you could do the entire trip in an hour, but where’s the fun in that? Here’s some of our fave spots to break up the drive and make it a roadie to remember. 

Race down the river with Rapids Jet 

The Waikato River, New Zealand’s longest awa, flows from Lake Taupō and is worth exploring before you head out of town. Don’t miss Huka Falls, the Honey Hive and Prawn Park, but for the ultimate adventure, the rapids are best seen aboard a jetboat. Rapids Jet’s 35-minute adrenaline blast ticks all the boxes with plenty of spins, squeals, and splashes! Speed down the river and experience the unique sensation of white-water jetboat surfing, before you dry off and continue along the highway.

Rapids Jet

Get your geothermal fix at Orakei Korako 

Gushing geysers, bubbling mud pools, lava flows and more await when you visit Orakei Korako. A short detour off State Highway 5, this geothermal valley is worth the side trip. Wandering across brilliantly coloured silica terraces that will make you feel like you’re in a different planet – you’ll leave with a full camera roll and some incredible memories. 

Orakei Korako

Credit: Barekiwi

Enter a wondrous volcanic wonderland at Waimangu  

Waimangu Volcanic Valley is another geothermal must-do with plenty of star attractions including the bright-blue Inferno Crater, the steaming Cathedral Rocks, and the Frying Pan Lake – the largest hot water spring in the world. Embark on a self-guided walk and see the sights at your own pace, followed by a boat ride around Lake Rotomahana, the original home of the now-buried Pink and White Terraces. 

Waimangu Volcanic Valley

Unwind and re-energise in the Waikite Hot Pools  

Overlooking a beautiful botanical valley, this is your chance to experience the ‘Living Waters’ of the Te Manaroa Spring – the largest single source of 100% pure boiling geothermal water in New Zealand. Six unique pools with temperatures ranging between 35 and 40°C offer different bathing experiences, nestled amongst idyllic native gardens. Visit with the whānau or opt for a private pool for a more romantic escape. 

Waikite Valley Thermal Pools

An evening like no other at Te Pā Tū 

If you’ve been searching for a way to connect with and learn about New Zealand’s indigenous Māori culture, this is it. This four-hour evening experience is an immersive journey into the history, traditions, and future aspirations of the local Māori people, as you’re invited to come together, share stories and feast on kai (food). Highlights include fire ceremonies, outdoor kapa haka performances and torchlit walks through the village. You’ll be well nourished with a menu that pays tribute to seasonal Māori flavours and serves these on a modern plate – it’s a night that will stay with you long after the sun sets. 

Te Pā Tū

Credit: Miles Holden

The Thermal Explorer Highway is one that shouldn’t be rushed. It rewards the curious, the discoverers and those hungry for adventure (and delicious cuisine!). So don’t rush, take the scenic route, and you’ll have an unforgettable time. 

Laugh, scream, and feel alive as we blast through the mighty Waikato River. Get ready for non-stop fun! 💦💥 #RapidsJet #JetBoatingNZ #TaupoThrills #NaturePlayground #AdrenalineRush #ExploreTaupo #RiverAdventure #AotearoaAdventures #PureNewZealand #NZMustDo #ExploreNZ #KiwiAdventures #TravelNZ
“The 1st rapids are exhilarating, the 3rd set were monstrous, what an adrenalin rush. 5 stars out of 5 🌟🤩⭐️🌠🖖” Thanks for this incredible Google Review, Jay! #RapidsJet #JetBoatingNZ #TaupoThrills #NaturePlayground #AdrenalineRush #ExploreTaupo #RiverAdventure #AotearoaAdventures #PureNewZealand #NZMustDo #ExploreNZ #KiwiAdventures #TravelNZ #googlereview
Nau mai haere mai i te ngā wai rere o te awa. We welcome you to come experience the rushing waters of the river. Happy Te Wiki O Te Reo Māori! (Māori Language Week). How will you celebrate? #RapidsJet #JetBoatingNZ #TaupoThrills #NaturePlayground #AdrenalineRush #ExploreTaupo #RiverAdventure #AotearoaAdventures #PureNewZealand #NZMustDo #ExploreNZ #KiwiAdventures #TravelNZ #maorilanguageweek #tewikiotereomaori
Rapids Jet: Defying gravity since ’93 🚤 📷: @Steve Penny #RapidsJet #JetBoatingNZ #TaupoThrills #NaturePlayground #AdrenalineRush #ExploreTaupo #RiverAdventure #AotearoaAdventures #PureNewZealand #NZMustDo #ExploreNZ #KiwiAdventures #TravelNZ
Explore the breathtaking beauty of the Huka Falls area on two wheels. Crisp air, stunning scenery, and plenty of photo ops await – there’s a ride for everyone, no matter your skill level or cycle experience 🚴‍♀‍ Journey along the 14km-return Huka Falls to Aratiatia Dam Trail and you’ll be rewarded with river views, lush native bush and hidden geothermal wonders. Time to strap on your helmet and start pedalling! #rapidsjet #taupo #nzmustdo #jetboat #holiday #getaway
Life is like a river – it's full of twists, turns, and unexpected rapids. Embrace the unknown and ride the waves to exciting new horizons! 🌊 #rapidsjet #nzmustdo #nature #travelgram #taupo #northisland
Caption this! 💦 #jetboat #taupo #nzmustdo #funtimes #adrenalinerush #thrills #purenewzealand
From the heart-racing to the awe-inspiring – our combo with @tepaturotorua is sure to ignite all your senses 🤩 Prepare to be amazed by the power of the Waikato River’s rapids, and captivated by traditional Māori performance and cuisine. Their current Tū Te Ihi winter celebration pays tribute to the time of year when the Matariki cluster of stars sit high and bright in our winter skies, as we reflect on the legacy of our ancestors and acknowledge the year that has been. Book via the link in our bio! ✨ #RapidsJet #Taupo #TePaTu #Rotorua #MaoriCulture #nzmustdo
Looking for a thrill that will leave you breathless? Look no further! Our jetboats are fueled by adrenaline and designed for speed 🚤😍 www.rapidsjet.com
Travelling around Aotearoa to catch all the football action? ⚽🏆 Just two hours from Waikato Stadium, and right by Taupo and Rotorua, our fast-paced jetboat ride is the perfect way to keep up the thrills between games! #nzmustdo #travelgram #mustdonewzealand #rapidsjet #jetboat
The gates of Taupō's Aratiatia Dam are released several times per day, turning a calm and peaceful trickle into the roaring, thunderous Aratiatia Rapids! View this spectacular sight from a series of lookouts, then come play in the rapids with us aboard our bright-yellow jetboats 🚤🌊 #AratiatiaDam #rapidsjet #nzmustdo #ifyouseeknz #spectacle #instatravel