Seven day hot spring adventure | Auckland — Coromandel — Tauranga — Waitomo Caves
A journey intertwined with the essence of life
Your one week motorhome adventure needs a well-planned itinerary to get the most out of your holiday. Our Auckland to Waitomo Caves hot spring adventure is full of surprises — and naturally, opportunities to soak in hot water.
From geothermal springs to heated salt water, and natural mineral springs to mud baths, there are many unique locations for soaking those aching muscles.
And if cooler water is your thing, river watering holes, underground cave streams and water slides are also in the mix.
Starting your campervan rental in Auckland, you’ll circumnavigate the Coromandel Peninsula then visit the vibrant cities of Tauranga and Rotorua before exploring the natural wonders of the Waitomo Caves — before returning to Auckland.
Keen to cover less distance while still taking in New Zealand’s incredible natural beauty? Then keep reading and start planning!
And if a motorhome journey from Auckland to Waitomo Caves sounds like you, don't hesitate to get in touch with us.
Explore where the locals go
Take the scenic route out of Auckland towards Kawakawa Bay and Ōrere Point that eventually reaches the East Coast Road by the Firth of Thames.
Enjoy the cruise out of the city and along the coast while you get used to driving your motorhome. As you get closer to the southern part of the Firth, you’ll have an opportunity to visit the Pūkorokoro Miranda Shorebird Centre.
Flocks of shorebirds swirl over this beautiful coast all year round. The highest numbers are present between January and March — with the best times to visit within two hours either side of high tide.
You’ll likely see migratory birds like godwits, wrybills and South Island pied oystercatchers. Pied stilts, New Zealand dotterels and variable oystercatchers are resident breeders at Pūkorokoro.
As you travel further towards The Coromandel you’ll encounter the Historic Kopu Bridge — the last operational swing span bridge in New Zealand. Thames is just around the corner with access to the bushland setting of the Kauaeranga Valley.
Find out more about experiencing The Coromandel.
Travel time: 2hr 10min
Stay: At one of the many campsites up the valley
Directions: Make your way over to Kawakawa Bay then follow the East Coast Road down to State Highway 25 (SH25) which will lead you to Thames. As you reach the town, turn onto Banks Road to the nearby Kauaeranga Valley.
Resources: Kauaeranga Valley recreation brochure
Hug the coastline and admire the Pohutukawa trees
As you head back out of the Kauaeranga Valley to Thames take your time to enjoy the historic town. If you’re passing through on a Saturday, the local produce market is worth a look.
It’s a relatively short drive further to Coromandel Town. If lunchtime is closing in, consider pulling into Minos Mussel Kitchen for a tasty pot of mussels or the Coromandel Oyster Company for some fresh oysters.
Also be sure to keep an eye on any up and coming Coromandel events as you’ll be spending the next few days on the peninsula. The Coromandel section of our comprehensive best campervan park up spots guide offers more advice.
Travel time: 1hr 19min
Directions: Return back to SH25 and pass through the Gateway to the Coromandel (Thames) before continuing northward to Coromandel Town.
Resources: Coromandel Town
Take the high road
Another fairly short driving day begins by reconnecting with SH25 — also labelled the Pacific Coast Highway.
You’ll begin to climb over the Coromandel Range. Be ready to pull over and take a break at the scenic lookout highpoint as you reach the top of the hill. A very short walk will lead you to the viewing spot.
The drive will take you past turnoffs to the charming beaches of Whangapoua and Matarangi. It’s well worth visiting one of these beaches — or even walking the short trail to famous New Chums Beach. You’ll find it easiest to walk within two hours either side of low tide.
Travel time: 49min
Directions: Rejoin SH25 travelling east over the Whangapoua Hill following the highway via Kūaotunu to Whitianga.
Resources: Discover Whitianga
Head to the coast with the most
As you say farewell to wonderful Whitianga, there’ll probably be three words top-of-mind — Hot Water Beach. Look out for Hot Water Beach Road and follow it to the end of the line.
Importantly, you’ll need to time your run to this popular hangout spot. Aim to be there within two hours either side of low tide.
What better way to begin your day than digging your own natural hot pool in the sand, right next to the mighty Pacific Ocean. Be sure to bring a spade or hire one from nearby Hotties Eatery.
Not far from Hot Water Beach is the small town of HaHei. From the town, you can walk along a mainly paved path to magical Cathedral Cove — a great option if you didn’t visit by boat from Whitianga. Plan to spend some time here admiring the grandiose rock formations.
Backtrack to SH25 and continue driving south where you’ll pass relaxing Pauanui and the surf town of Whangamatā. Eventually, you’ll hit SH2 where it’s a further one hour drive south to Tauranga.
See the Tauranga section of our best campervan park up spots guide.
Travel time: 2hr 43min
Stay: Below The Mount at Mount Maunganui Beachside Holiday Park
Directions: Continue south on SH25 via Tairua and Whangamatā then change to SH2 at Waihi and keep travelling south all the way to Tauranga.
Resources: Discover Tauranga
The road to geothermal wonder
A relatively short day’s travel awaits you today as you depart south to the magical geothermal wonderland of Rotorua.
Unless you plan to detour to nearby Hobbiton, your best course of action is to make a beeline for Rotorua. Get there early and give yourself plenty of time to enjoy all it has to offer.
While planning your time in Roto-vegas (as the locals call it) check out our Rotorua holiday destination blog. Then take a browse at the Rotorua write-up in our guide to New Zealand’s best campervan park up spots.
Travel time: 57min
Stay: A few kilometres south of Rotorua is idyllic Blue Lake Top 10 Holiday Park with swimming and mountain biking trails at its doorstep
Directions: Head out of the city on SH29 and transfer to SH36 which will take you directly to Rotorua.
From overground bubbling mud to underground limestone caves
Your most direct route from Rotorua to Waitomo cuts between main highways through small towns and across Waikato farmland.
It’s another day where the destination is going to be more incredible than the drive so aim to cover the distance before lunchtime. By doing so, you’ll have ample time to explore the Waitomo Caves area and to sign up for a subterranean adventure.
Travel time: 1hr 55min
Directions: Take SH5 (the Thermal Explorer Highway) northwest from Rotorua then switch to SH28 until you get to Putāruru. Continue west on Arapuni Road out of town and all the way to SH3. Turn south on SH3 and follow it to SH37 which will lead you to Waitomo Caves.
The rolling hills of the King Country
Your journey back to Auckland will cut through the rolling hills and lush pastures of the Waikato region — with a Waitomo Caves to Auckland driving time of around two and a half hours.
As you head north, consider detouring slightly east to Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari where native New Zealand podocarp forest and endangered species flourish. The mountain is protected by a pest-proof fence — so that native birds, bats, frogs, reptiles, tuatara and giant weta can thrive.
Further north, Hamilton is a fairly cosmopolitan city worth stopping for a cafe lunch. Be sure to call into the well-regarded Hamilton Gardens — where you can view Indian, Italian, Japanese and many other garden designs.
Alternatively, take a relaxing walk on the banks of New Zealand’s longest river — the mighty Waikato.
If you have an extra night in the City of Sails, you could spend your time taking in the views atop Auckland’s volcano cones — of which there are 53. Check out the Auckland section of our guide to New Zealand’s best campervan park up spots.
Travel time: 2hr 26min
Stay: Takapuna Beach Holiday Park is a chilled place to hangout if you have more time to spend in Auckland
Directions: Return to SH3 and head north through Te Awamutu and Hamilton, connecting with SH1 which will take you all the way to Auckland.