Living in Auckland or visiting New Zealand?
Rotorua comes first in the list of places to visit in the north island. Rotorua is so unique and spectacular in many ways.
New Zealand is a beautiful country without any doubt. It is a country taking pride on its landscapes. Volcanic Zones around Auckland, Sand dunes in top north, Snow mountains and beautiful lakes in the South Island, islands surrounded by stunning beaches and cliffs and rain-forest spread all over the country makes it a great all-in-one destination. If you ever believe that mighty mountains, pristine lakes, sea, sun and sand are wonders of nature, come visit Rotorua once for its wonder – The Geothermal activities.
Rotorua is a small town in North Island of New Zealand very well-known for its Geothermal activities. 3-hour drive from Auckland makes Rotorua a go-to destination for Aucklanders throughout the year and a must visit place for tourists in North Island, New Zealand.
Drive from Auckland to Rotorua: 3 Days in Rotorua
The best way to see New Zealand is by road by car. The changing sceneries will make you think of seizing the moment. New Zealand road trips are one of a kind. The shortest route from Auckland to Rotorua takes 2 hours 45 mins while the route via Hamilton takes 4 hours 30 mins. If you are visiting New Zealand, then Driving via Hamilton is better as Hamilton is another beautiful garden town to visit.
One most important place to visit is Hobbiton Movie set at Matamata while driving towards Rotorua. Plan and book in advance. Hobbiton tours(3-hour guided tours-paid) operate only at certain times of the day. It is a must visit place, if you are a movie lover especially “Hobbiton”.
Entering the town, you get to realise that you are nearing a geothermal spot just by the odour of sulphur. It smells bad still tolerable. And the thing what you see here is different from the usual Scenic New Zealand. Rotorua is of course scenic, but different. Natural geysers screaming out from the earth, blowing out steam from the surface isn’t what you expect on a scenic landscape. I said, New Zealand is different!
Te Puia – The Thermal Reserve
First things come first. We have come to Rotorua to witness the Geothermal activities. Aren’t we? So, it is very obvious that “Te Puia” is the first point of interest in Rotorua (at least for us). Te Puia is 3km away from the Rotorua Town centre and has an entry fee that varies for New Zealanders and visitors. Check Website – Te Puia.
The moment you enter into the reserve; you will feel a strong punching rotten egg odour which is created by sulphur. Believe me, it doesn’t irritate while some people might feel uncomfortable. Steaming hot mist coming out from the earth covering the marked area throughout the year; hot bubbling mud pools; natural boiling water pools, natural hot water fountains – The geysers are the special things here.
Pohutu, the largest geyser in the country is just ultimate which erupts at least 15 times a day (once or twice every hour) and can raise up to 30 metres high. You can witness all the above geothermal scenes in one place – Te Puia, The Thermal Reserve and few of them in and around Rotorua.
Te Puia, also has a natural steam vent cooker. Using the escaping hot steam from the earth, food can also be cooked. The writing says, it takes 10 mins to cook a piece of corn and two-and-a-half hours to cook a leg of meat in this way of natural cooking. Cooking can’t get so earthy and natural than this. Delicious method!! Isn’t it??
You also get to see the hot bubbling mud pools and the boiling water pools which reminded me of the “Hell Story”. People who sin against God would go into hell after death and would be thrown into the boiling pools forever. I am pretty not sure about the truthiness in that story but you can witness the exact scene here – “The Hell Gate on earth”. I think I am becoming over imaginative. But, don’t worry none of these things frighten you. You will only admire things here just as I did.
Witnessing Kiwi in Kiwi Land
Living in a Kiwi land, it is unfair if I didn’t get to see the country’s National Icon, the endangered Kiwi bird. Kiwi is a nocturnal flightless bird. Seeing a kiwi bird is possibly hard unless you see it in a Kiwi House where they breed Kiwi bird inside a dark room as they are sensitive to lights and sounds. Te Puia has a Kiwi House where you can actually see a Kiwi inside a dark room with a minimal light. We have now seen a Kiwi bird hoping and eating. One of the bucket list item ticked off! If you are really keen to see the bird, check the timings of visit in their website and plan accordingly.
Zorbing – A bucket list item
New Zealand is a destination known for its adventurous sports and adrenaline activities like Bungy jumping, skydiving, Surfing, Rafting etc. Zorbing is one of such fun activities. Zorbing is nothing but rolling from the top of a slope inside a bubble sphere with water. While it rolls down in a zigzag path, the hard hit to the ball splashes the water on you rotating in all possible ways. It is fun! There are places in other parts of the world doing zorbing but experiencing Zorbing in a place where it was first played makes it a bucket list item. Zorb Rotorua is the original company that started this adventure, they claim.
Polynesian Spa – Oh, yes to that!!
Getting relaxed in a Geothermal hot pool is so rejuvenating. Visiting Rotorua makes the Polynesian Spa visit compulsory. The first day evening, it was time for some hot bath. Heading straight to the Polynesian Spa, we found this long queue for the Spa. Couldn’t really think about being in a spa with that much crowd. The plan got changed actually postponed to the next day morning and we walked straight into the Government Gardens which is just 2 minutes from the Polynesian spa.
The Government Gardens is the official garden of Rotorua which portraits the beautiful architecture of Rotorua Museum within. They have the nice setting. Unfortunately, we couldn’t visit Rotorua museum as it was closed due to damage during a recent earthquake. Due for next time anyhow.
Note: Rotorua is the most touristy spot in north Island. It gets crowded during peak seasons. Make sure, you visit the spa in the early morning or late evening to avoid crowd.
Kerosene Creek – who would say “No” to a fresh and natural hot stream spa bath!
The next day, the first thing we did is to drive to Kerosene Creek, the natural hot stream sheltered by a dense forest. What a location! Who would ever bother to go to a man-made thermal spa when you have a natural thermal stream for free. We let our feet soak in the hot water, we felt the heat. The spa treatment you get from fast flowing stream cannot be compared with any other spa treatment. It was a complete rejuvenation moment. You could sit in for hours. The water was not so hot, still hot. My little daughter could tolerate it.
Note: On a hot summer day, the hot water would dehydrate you soon. Bring drinking water. There are no facilities to change clothes.
The Redwood forest – Disney’s Pete’s Dragon Film Location
On the third day, before we drive back to Auckland we went to Red Wood Forest. The man made dense forest; a wonderful place for biking, walking, running and all things exercise. There are many walking circuits which you could do depending on your time and desire. They also have a tree walk, a fun activity for kids. The tree walk had huge wooden lights hanging from the trees. It glows during night. Not to forget about the sovereign shop, this shop has lots to buy for your friends and family. The cheapest sovereign shop I have ever found in New Zealand. It has a popup café too.
Best time to visit Rotorua:
Throughout the year! In winter, especially!
Getting around Rotorua:
The good thing about Rotorua is that the attractions lies very close to the town. From the town centre you could just walk around and see places. Walk to the lake, then walk along the shores of the lake towards government gardens, then the Rotorua Museum. Spend your time around garden then a time of relaxing at the Polynesian spa. Have a feast at one of your favourite eateries in the town and go back to you room for a sound sleep. It’s THAT close.
All good things come to an end and after three days, we left Rotorua to drive to Auckland, the home with a strong feeling to visit Rotorua again during winter. The sole purpose of our next visit will be an adventurous one! Walking/Running/Biking the circuits of Redwood Forest (seeing Redwood Forest at night with the all the glowing bright big lamps hanging around), Rainbow springs, Rotorua Skyline and Kerosene Creek are in the list for the next visit.
What are your interests in Rotorua?
What do you like the most in Rotorua?
Leave your comments below!