Glow Worms, Great Lakes and Geysers | Apollo Campervans NZ
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7 Days of Glow Worms, Great Lakes and Geysers

From the land of the living stars of Waitomo, the great Lakes and volcanoes of the central plateau to the thermal capital of Rotorua, this route is amazing

Of Years in the making

New Zealand is a country made up of many worlds and on this journey, you will experience them all! Travel through the cultural and thermal heartland of the country with this route linking Auckland in the North to Hawkes Bay in the South. You get a fantastic snap shot into Maori and Pacifica culture and even get to spend some time with Frodo and his friends at the Hobbiton movie set all while taking in the thermal capital of Rotorua.

Have you heard of Papatūānuku? You might know her by another name – mother nature! On this trip you will see some of her finest work. From the underground stars of the Waitomo glow worms to one of New Zealand’s best preserved wild life sanctuaries at Mountain Maungatautari. Then of course you have the amazing sites that give this highway its name.

With towering super volcanoes and massive geo-thermal lakes, to geysers exploding, steam vents rising and mud bubbling in every direction. You can literally feel the heat coming out of the ground into your feet!

It’s not over yet! If you want to get the heart racing even more, this is an adrenalin seekers paradise! You can do a sky dive over a super volcano, jetboat tours or you can even raft and drop down the 7 METERS high Tutea waterfall on the kaituna river if you're feeling brave!

To top it off, Hawkes Bay is a foodie destination for the ages, with fresh produce, sea food and world class wines in abundance. Napier itself is home to some of the most unique art deco architecture in the world and is even home to our national aquarium.

Camper life gives you flexibility to holiday how you like. You can do this as a loop route back to Auckland via Waitomo or join on to the Pacific Coast Highway to see the amazing Coromandel Peninsula and much more.


Day 1: Auckland - Hamilton - Lake Arapuni

Travel time: 3hrs

Distance: 200km

Your first day sees you head south towards Hamilton and its wonderous world class gardens before taking some time to explore and meet the locals at Hamilton Zoo or the stunning renaissance gardens. After stretching your legs, why not hit the water with a kayak on the mighty Waikato river?  Spend the afternoon at the amazing sanctuary at Mountain Maungatautari. At 3,400ha, this is one of the world's largest fence protected, pest free areas and contains New Zealand's endemic species living how they did before the introduction of mammals. From bats to birds, reptiles to giant Weta, take a walk back in time in our real-life version of Jurassic park - less the dinosaurs!


Where to stay:  Camp the night at one of the many campsites to be found surrounding the beautiful Lake Arapuni which is a fabulous swimming lake. Arapuni Landing freedom camping area is our favorite.

Apollo hint: If you enjoy a surf or want to learn, make sure to stop off at Raglan on your way south. It is home to New Zealand’s best surf beach and numerous surf schools if you want to learn!


Image: Tourism New Zealand


Day 2: Lake Arapuni – Rotorua

Travel time: 1hr 30mins

Distance: 86km

It’s time to say Kia ora to Frodo and the hobbits at Hobbiton as you venture into the Lord of the Rings Universe in the best way possible.

Next up it’s time you explore the Pacific Ring of Fire! It’s a notorious mix of tectonic plate boundaries and fault lines which has provided the building blocks for both the pacific land masses and its infamous geo-thermal activity. No surprises to find that Rotorua lies right in the thick of it and with its plethora of thermal parks with bubbling hot pools, skyward shooting geysers and natural hot springs, it has earned its moniker as the thermal capital of New Zealand while also being a hub of Maori and Pacifica culture making it one of New Zealand’s top destination towns.

Finish off the afternoon at Te Puia, home to the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute, one of the few places you can watch master carvers breathing life into their amazing works of art. In the evening, enjoy a Maori and Pacifica cultural show at Mitai Village along with a fabulous hungi for dinner. After dinner, do the nightlights tree tops walk at Redwood forest where you can explore between massive redwoods that are over a hundred years old.


Where to stay: Overnight Rotorua Top 10 Holiday Park or nab one of the 3 free spaces on the waterfront at the freedom camping area at the Rotorua yacht club or stay at the larger freedom camping area near the Polynesian spa.

Apollo hint: Check out the government gardens and Rotorua museum, a wonderful garden to explore and a very unique colonial building, plus a great museum to get lost in!


Image: Tourism New Zealand


Day 3: Rotorua - Orakei Koroko - Lake Taupo

Travel time: 1hr 30mins

Distance: 102km

If you’re up for a challenge, white water raft the kaituna river, a grade 5 rafting river where you have the opportunity to do the highest (7 meters!) commercial waterfall raft drop in the world. Immerse yourself in New Zealand on both a natural and cultural level. There are many thermal attractions to choose form, but our favorite is Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. Papatūānuku, the Earth Mother has spent thousands of years sculpting this thermal area, complete with dazzling colors and geysers reaching for the skies. Make sure you relax at the hot and cold stream after your visit to Wai-O-Tapu.

Ever heard of the Golden fleece terrace? Your next stop today is at one of New Zealand's few remaining geothermal hidden gems at Orakei Korako where you will also find geysers, bubbling mud pools and one of only two geothermal caves in the entire world! Camp here, or on the outskirts of Lake Taupo on the mighty Waikato river.


Where to stay: Reids Park Farm freedom camping area is located right next to the Waikato river and makes for an idea place to spend a night or you can pick one of the many scenic camp sites located in and around the center of town.

Apollo hint: If you want to camp short of Taupo, call ahead to Orakei Korako as they allow guests to stay on site. With access to their facilities, a lovely grass picnic area and amazing lake views, it is a very unique place to camp.


Day 4: Explore Lake Taupo

Start your day with a short drive to Huka falls on the mighty Waikato river, where you can watch over 220,000 liters PER SECOND barrel over an 11m high waterfall. Just a few minutes away you will find the Craters of the Moon, a boardwalk through an extraordinary thermal landscape.

Time to head into Lake Taupo, the adventure capital of the north and home to some amazing experiences. For thrill seekers river rafting and jet boating await those looking for a more relaxed experience can enjoy some of the best fishing in the world, river rafting, lake cruises and the many short walks that lead to some amazing vistas. A must see are the massive Maori carvings at Mine Bay, best explored by kayak.


Where to stay: Motutere Bay Top 10 Holiday Park is the only lake side camp site on Lake Taupo. It is an excellent option for those wanting to do some fishing as it lies between Taupo and Turangi while also being just 45 minutes from the ski fields for winter trips.

Apollo hint: While many people visit Huka falls, lots of people miss the amazing walk through “craters of the moon” just a few minutes away while catching the flood gates open at 12pm at Aratiatata Rapids is also a pretty awesome experience!


Day 5: Lake Taupo - Napier

Travel time: 2hrs

Distance: 141km

Start early with a refreshing swim at the steam park before headintg to the skies for the best view of the Lake Taupo super volcano possible - as you plummet towards it! Next you cross the Rangataiki plains and travel through the edge of the Kaingaroa forest, the Waipunga river valley is the beginning of your winding climb towards Hawkes Bay. Make sure you stop off at the impressive Waiupunga falls.

As the scenery changes to rolling meadows and gentle hill country, you will have entered one of New Zealand’s premier wine regions, Hawkes Bay. There is no better welcome than that at Trelinnoe park, on the old Taupo Road. This beautiful park is home to a massive 30-acre garden and café and is one of New Zealand's finest woodland gardens.

Arriving in to Napier, make a visit to Mission Estate Vineyard. Established in 1851, it is New Zealand's oldest winery and a wonderful place to pop in and taste some of the area's unique flavors for dinner or for a harder earned afternoon, climb the scenic Te Mata Peak Walk


Where to stay: Perfume Point Freedom Camping Area is a lovely site to call home for the night with great coastal views and just down the road from Bluff Hill Lookout.

Apollo hint: If you fancy a bit of wild swimming, make a visit to the Otumuheke Stream Spa Park which is free to enter where you can relax in a geothermally heated stream.


Image: Tourism New Zealand


Day 6: Napier – Waitomo or join the Pacific Coast Highway

Travel time: 4hrs

Distance: 290km

Spend the morning exploring Napier, a funky town that is home to the greatest collection of art deco in New Zealand and takes the moniker of Art Deco capital of the world. There was a massive rebuild following a huge earthquake in 1931 making the architecture in Napier unique and helping to create a wonderous town.

There are lots of awesome places to visit in Napier outside of the art deco landscape. Otara Pa, the National Aquarium and the huge gannet colony are all of international significance while the Botanical Gardens are quite stunning.

Here is your chance to pick your own adventure. Overnight in Napier and join the Pacific Coast Highway to extend your holiday and check out more sites and adventures or head towards Waitomo to complete your 7-day loop journey.

Later in the day, get behind the wheel and start to head back North, stopping for dinner at the lovely Te Kuiti. Grab a picture at its massive statue commemorating its place as the sheep shearing capital of New Zealand and say hello to the statue of Sir Colin “Pine Tree” Meads, one of our most famous and influential All Blacks. It just doesn’t get much more kiwi than that! End the day in Waitomo, ready for a fantastic tour in the morning.


Where to stay: Waitomo Top 10 Holiday park provides an ideally placed campsite close to the caves, while there is a lovely free camping spot down the road at Te Anga at a lovely scenic lookout

Apollo hint: If you are in the Hawks Bay on a Sunday, be sure to check the vibrant farmers market in Hastings where you can try and buy some amazing local produce while being treated to some great live music from some local bands.


Day 7: Waitomo – Auckland

Travel time: 4hrs

Distance: 250km

Start your day with a spa at the holiday park before grabbing the first tour of the day at the world famous and equally amazing Waitomo glow worm caves. Let the land of the living stars dazzle as the underground stars wash over you thanks to New Zealand's endemic glow worm species. The grotto offers ambiance and luminescence as you explore first by foot and then by small boat through the cave system.  Depending on your return time, you can also make a trip down the scenic Te Anga road to the Mangapohue natural bridge, a 17m high limestone arch and the amazing falls at Makrokopa often described as the most beautiful in the country. After, jump back on the main road for your trip back to Auckland and your drop off.


Apollo hint: By doing the first tour of the morning at Waitomo, not only will you beat the tour buses, but you will also be the first to see the glow worms before they are disturbed throughout the day.


Ready to explore?



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