Get ready for a roadtrip through the wild, volcanic heart of New Zealand's North Island, a journey from the big city vibe of Auckland to a relaxed oceanfront destination of fine wine, food and world-famous architecture. Along the way, look forward to steaming, bubbling and spectacular examples of the country's still-active volcanic genesis, and an entire souvenir DVD's-worth of opportunities to get active in the great Kiwi outdoors.
58 Hakanoa Street, Auckland, Auckland Region, New Zealand
5 Willoughby Street, WKO, NZ
Sure, you could head directly south from Auckland to Hamilton on SH1, but this scenic and usually overlooked detour to one of New Zealand's coolest cafes is well worth the effort. After scouring the vintage clothing and antique shops of sleepy Paeroa – good luck finding that retro 1960s Air New Zealand carry-on bag of your dreams – seek out The Refinery in a quiet back tree-lined street. Grab a spot on the comfy old sofas, fire up the turntable with an album from the overflowing bins of vintage vinyl, and recharge with a local artisan soft drink (soda) and a Cuban-style sandwich packed with spicy roast pork. Now you're really set up for a Kiwi road trip.
30 Waitawheta Rd, N, NZ
149 Western Road, BOP, NZ
While you're out near the Agrodome, take time to go zorbing down a grassy slope. It's not everyday you get the chance to bounce down a hill ensconced in a see-through, water-filled inflatable globe. Only in New Zealand, right?
89 Old Taupo Rd, BOP, NZ
Following all the action, you'll have definitely earned a world-famous-in-Rotorua pie from the award-winning Goldstar Bakery. Try the classic steak and cheese or get all fancy with a Thai chicken curry pie.
201 Waiotapu Loop Road, WKO, NZ
Just ten minutes' drive from Waimangu – today's adventure packs in lots of volcanic action in a relatively small area – Wai-O-Tapu is where you'll find the colourful Champagne Pool. Sorry, there's no imbibing of the bubbling expanse but the intense colours range from incandescent orange to mysterious blues and greens, and your photo will make a great laptop screensaver when you get home. Translating from Maori to 'Sacred Waters', Wai-O-Tapu is also home to the Lady Knox Geyser. Make sure you're onsite by 10am as the spectacular display – apparently aided and abetted by the sly addition of liquid soap – kicks off punctually at 10.15am.
2476 State Highway 5, BOP, NZ
587 Waimangu Road, BOP, NZ
You'll definitely notice Rotorua's geothermal credentials soon after arriving in town – those wispy clouds of steam and the telltale aroma of sulphur are pretty hard to miss – and the road south from Rotorua to the lakeside tourist town of Taupo has three spectacular examples of the earth's volcanic might. First up, and formed by the massive eruption of Mt Tarawera in 1886, Waimangu Valley combines otherworldly thermal features like Inferno Crater Lake and Frying Pan Lake – when you're imagining a hostile alien planet you could do worse than think of these seething and steaming spectacles – and the walk on well-marked trails concludes with a 45-minute boat trip taking in rugged cliffs alive with geothermal steam. This is where you definitely need to set your recording device of choice to video.
494 Orakei Korako Road, WKO, NZ
Less-visited than other volcanic areas, but actually one of the region's most interesting sights, Orakei Korako is packed with expansive silica terraces, and is a great place to conjure up new names for the surreal colours of the surrounding landscape. Catch a ferry from the visitor centre to the start of the gentle downhill walkway through the terraces to the shimmering green pool in the Ruatapu Cave, and before you kick on to Taupo, settle in for coffee and cake – try the excellent homestyle baking – at the Kiwiana-themed Mihi Cafe. Yet more evidence some of New Zealand's best eateries are in the most unexpected places, and Mihi's banana cake is a retro classic.
171 Karapiti Road, WKO, NZ
Before negotiating shape-shifting clouds of geothermal steam to explore the Craters of the Moon (actually more like Mars we reckon...).
Huka Falls Road, WKO, NZ
Then experience the intense natural theatre of the Huka Falls. The ten-metre drop of the Waikato, New Zealand's longest river, can be seen from above the ravine, but it's worth going the extra few hundred metres and viewing the falls from a closer footbridge. If it's a windy day, you may wish to pack a raincoat for the inevitable (but enjoyable) drenching by the torrent that local Maori call Hukanui (Great Body of Spray).
14 Runanga St, WKO, NZ
When you're reliving your adventures on Instagram and Facebook, seek out the Storehouse Cafe, a firm local favourite hidden away on the edge of downtown Taupo. Try the buttermilk chicken sliders with possibly central New Zealand's best coffee.
Tongariro Alpine Crossing, MWT, NZ
How's that for an intrepid journey to put your own travels in perspective?