1. Visitors
  2. Plan your trip
  3. Getting around
  4. Heart of the Central North Island

Heart of the Central North Island

The Waikato Region's proximity to other destinations makes it the perfect base for exploring the central north island. From Rotorua's thermal attractions and trout fishing at Taupo or skiing on Mt Ruapehu, to the white sand beaches of the Coromandel and Bay of Plenty and the many charms of Auckland, Hamilton city provides the gateway to some of New Zealand’s top tourist locations.

With Hamilton as your base, you're never far from top holiday attractions. It is right at the centre of an array of region's great drawcards including the fabulous Waitomo Caves, the Hobbiton Movie Set, the surfing mecca of Raglan, and Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari . And only slightly further afield but still within an easy drive are other tourist hotspots like Auckland, Rotorua, Lake Taupo and the Bay of Plenty. There's no limit to the activities that can be enjoyed from Hamilton. Even better, all of these places are within day-tripping distance.

Running through the heart of the central north island, the Thermal Explorer Highway provides an ideal route for those wishing to take in the best of what the area has to offer but only have a short timeframe to do so. Starting from Auckland or Hawkes Bay, following the Thermal Explorer Highway will enable you to experience Hamilton’s laidback urban vibe and the stunning Waikato River and the world-famous Waitomo Caves for black water rafting, abseiling or glowworm viewing. The Thermal Explorer Highway also takes in Rotorua, the birthplace of New Zealand tourism, for some geothermal action and Taupo for water sports and outdoor adventure thrills.

View the Thermal Explorer Highway Itinerary or visit the Explore Central North Island website for more information.


Auckland is about a 90-minute drive north of Hamilton, with glimpses of the Waikato River along the way. The City of Sails draws boaties from all over to its harbours and the nearby gulf, while it has also been named by Lonely Planet as one of the world's 10 top party cities. Its beaches are popular and as New Zealand's biggest city it offers something for everyone - whether by way of galleries, shops or having a drink and doing some people-watching at the Viaduct Basin.

Coromandel Peninsula & Bay Of Plenty

Coromandel Peninsula and Bay of Plenty offer the country's premier white sand beaches, just over an hour's drive from Hamilton. Some seem to stretch forever, others are bays nestled between dramatic rocky headlands. They are perfect for lazing on or swimming in. Their warm, clear water allow visitors to indulge in water sports including boating, fishing, diving, surfing and dolphin encounters -- while the really adventurous can go kite surfing or parasailing.


Also, only an hour from Hamilton is Rotorua, a thermal icon where nature is on spectacular display with bubbling mudpools and spouting geysers and where a relaxing soak in a hot pool is a perfect end to a visit. It is also an ideal place to experience Maori heritage and culture.

Lake Taupo

Further south, and about two and a half hours' drive from Hamilton along State Highway 1, Lake Taupo and its tributaries offers some of the best trout fishing in the world - along with stunning views, adventure activities, the impressive Huka Falls on the Waikato River, and access to the skifields of Mount Ruapehu and one of New Zealand's best walks, the Tongariro Crossing.