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Category: North Island

Geothermal wonders of Rotorua

Rotorua is another geothermal treasure of New Zealand’s North Island. It’s located just one hour drive away from Taupo and offers various attractions for curious explorers. A special feature of this town due to the sulphur in the air is the incredibly strong smell of eggs that makes the journey unbearable and can be handled for only 2 days.

35% of Rotorua’s population is Maori and the reason for that goes back to the time when the tribes just arrived in New Zealand. Shortly after they discovered lake Rotorua and it’s geothermal surroundings. They immediately saw the benefits, providing hot water and fertile soil. They also gave a spiritual meaning to the region. Nowadays there are numerous villages that you can visit and experience a journey back in time.

Where to stay?

We stayed in the private double room of the X Base Hostel which I doubtfully recommend, if you want to make your journey lovely and memorable. It looks like the building has seen some wear and tear, which needs a bit of maintenance. The bathrooms and toilets were not cleaned and the swimming pool area looked like no one was interested to take care of it. The positive aspects were the close proximity to the city and the free parking space for the driving backpackers. Wi-fi was available at the reception but only until 9pm, otherwise you need to pay $6 for 24h. Anyway if your expectations are not as high as mine and you are a flexible, easy-going traveler then you will survive a couple of nights in this hostel.

The highlights of Rotorua

Geothermal reserve walk in Hell’s Gate

Rotorua is one of the most touristic towns of the North Island because it’s New Zealand’s most dynamic geothermal area and contains various attractions. The best way to start your day getting to know the sulphur-rich area is with visiting one of the 5 geothermal parks. We decided to experience the unique Maori owned active geothermal area with mud bath spa, Hell’s Gate. They also provide it’s visitors with a shuttle bus, just write them an email and book it in advance. Unfortunately they don’t mention it on their website that you need to let them know that you want to be picked up, so we were waiting in the early morning in the cold for them until I decided to call. Nevertheless it’s a mesmerizing field with erupting waters, pools of boiling mud and a volcano with the largest hot waterfall in the Southern Hemisphere. Every hot pool has a different temperature, for example the steaming cliffs pool is the hottest one and reaches 122C.

If looking at the active geysers and boiling mud is not enough for you then you can also immerse yourself into it’s waters and experience nature’s healing beauty therapy. There is a separate charming area where you can relax and enjoy the landscaped view. I need to warn you though, your skin will have an egg odor for a few days. Addendum, you will need around 2h to visit this unique place.

Volcanic Hill – ambrosia in the bottle

New Zealand is famous for it’s rich variety of great wine. Every region produces it’s own liquid pride, so does Rotorua. Nevertheless there are only two amazing winemakers, who are creating divine wine together, Sean Beer and Brent Park. They gathered experience from all over the world and decided to produce high quality wine, poetically named Volcanic Hills. Their winery is small and they sell directly to costumers which makes their wine even more exclusive.

To explore the savoriness of Volcanic Hills’ wine you can have a ride on the breathtaking Skyline and visit the tasting room. The memorable ride on the Gondola will leave you in excited anticipation to see the top of the Skyline. The tasting room will spoil you with samples of wines from New Zealand’s best wine regions. Furthermore the ladies who are working there, will give you detailed information about the treasures in shiny glasses. While you are being a professional and decadent wine taster you can also enjoy the 180° panoramic views over Lake Rotorua. There are 5 different varieties of wine to try each one has it’s own explosive flavours. My favorite is Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, love that fresh and herbal character. And of course you can also purchase a bottle of these scrumptous squeezed grapes!

Experience Rotorua by night

This is one of the must tours in Rotorua! It’s something completely different because you will experience the nature of New Zealand by night. Everything that seems to be so normal by day comes to life by night. The shiny eyes of a cute opossum looking at you from behind a tree, curious wallabies and thousands of glowworms covering the walls of the forest like stars in the sky.

All this we witnessed with our great tour guide Stephen, who picked us up from the hostel. He told us about Rotorua’s history and forestlands, to which we were driving. When we reached the secret location, we were provided with torches and safety vests and we started our journey through the dark and mysterious woods. On the way Stephen was telling us about the fauna and flora, pointing out the most important plants. The wow effect were the glowworms adjacent the waterfall by night. It’s very hard to describe the beauty of the nature that we saw, you just need to experience it by yourself.

After the walk through Native Forest we headed to a river where we could sit down, have a nice chat and enjoy hot chocolate with biscuits. Stephen’s wife is from South America and she makes really great hot chocolate, of which you can’t get enough!

Hobbiton

Visiting New Zealand and not going to Peter Jackson’s famous movie set, where the adventure of the little hobbit Frodo began, is a sin! All tourists know it, that’s why 30% of Hobbiton‘s visitors haven’t even seen the movies and still were willing to pay $114. We’ve been told that the best time to experience hobbiton is in the morning, before the set is full with excited fans. That’s why we took the first bus from Rotorua to Hobbiton. Over an hour later we reached our destination and started our walk through the magical paths. By the way movie set is not the original one, it was rebuilt after the Lord of the Rings trilogy concluded. Why? Because after the movies came out, many people came to the farm where it was filmed. So being a businessman, Peter Jackson decided to cooperate with the farmers again and open the attraction park for their faithful groupies.

 the 2 hours guided tour will definitely leave you with an infinite amount of pictures and a happy smile on your face. Hobbiton is indeed an amazing place with incredible scenery that looks so genuine that you would like to choose one of the gardened houses and stay there forever. People who are working here taking care of every element of the village, even the evergreen lawn grass is perfect! After a fun tour you will be invited for an ale or cider at the Green Dragon. Unfortunately you will have only 15-20 minutes to enjoy your drink and the magnificent views, which is a bit disappointing. But Hobbiton is full with groups of people every single day, that’s why everything should go fast. All in all it’s must visit place that will inspire you to watch all movies from the beginning again!

Attractions and things to do in amazing Taupo

The lakeside town of Taupo in the middle of New Zealand’s North Island is one of the most beautiful and tranquil places to visit in the country of sheep and hobbits. The lake is actually an active rhyolitic volcano, which has produced two of the world’s most violent eruptions in recent geological history. The marvelous lake with the crystal clear water is also the largest lake in New Zealand. The whole area provides it’s visitors with various activities like hiking, fishing, lake cruises and many others.

Where to stay?

Private Double room in Base Hostel, Taupo

We were staying in the centrally located Base Hostel. Important to mention; Taupo is a very tiny town with numerous lovely cafés and restaurants, so everything is just a stone’s throw away. Base hostel is relatively new, rooms are very modern and the walls are still white. In the kitchen area guests are provided with all possible equipment and even a spacious deck, where you can enjoy your breakfast under the hot sun. The hostel would be ideal if not only for one essential thing: sleep. It’s located just above the Element Bar, which is part of the hostel. It starts to play incredibly loud music from 6pm – 2 am. If you think you can sleep through this, then you are mistaken! The locks on the doors are made out of huge metal card readers and to close it quietly is impossible. It means after 2 o’clock you will hear banging of the doors until at least 8am.

Arrived in the evening

Ernest Kemp Cruise

We started our journey in Taupo with the famous boat cruise to the Maori Rock Carvings. The 14-metres artwork above the deep water was completed in 1980 by the team of four artists and is only accessible by boat. We decided to visit this attraction with Ernest Kemp Cruise and it was a great choice! We went on the evening trip at 4:30 and were spoiled with a cozy vibe, heaps of wine & beer, pizza and even some delicious treats by the end of the almost 3h long trip. We could enjoy a gorgeous sunset and get very close to the carving to take amazing pictures. The tours are organized by a lovely couple who made our little trip memorable.

Maori Rock Carvings

One perfect day in Taupo

Taupo Bungy

The perfect way to start your day is to be picked up by the Taupo Bungy Team from the place you stay in the morning and to dip your head into the mesmerizing Waikato River from 47 meters high. Adrenaline rushing through your veins will work better than the strongest coffee you know! I did my Bungy Jump with Taupo Bungy for the first time and I think it’s much better to know that there is water underneath, so there is still a possibility to survive! I’ve also tried the Tandem Swing and both of the experiences are definitely memorable and exciting. Nevertheless I believe that Bungy is more of a test on how courageous you are and the swing is more about enjoying the butterflies in your stomach and a picturesque view! So don’t think twice if you are in this region, collect all your bravery and do it! YOLO!

Taupo Bungy

After thrills and spills you will be able to skip around like an energizer bunny, so it’s an ideal time to go to see the Huka Falls. Just follow the path next to the river in the opposite direction from the town. It’s one of the best free walks in New Zealand that will lead you to the natural hot springs first. After 30 minutes of walking you can soak into the hot bubbling water in Otumuheke Stream at Taupo’s Spa Park. Just don’t forget to grab a towel, swimwear, a pick-nick basket and 1-2 or even more friends. It’s better to arrive in this place to be in the morning, because the hot pools are famous but very tiny, so many locals and tourists want to enjoy them too.

The lakeside of the walk

The famous Huka Falls, one of the Taupo’s highlights are another 45 minutes away from the natural hot springs. On a sunny day the water on the lakeside walk is crystal clear blue and very inviting. If you have thick skin and are not afraid of the cold then don’t hesitate to jump in. I didn’t do it, I enjoyed the walking track alongside and the views from the platform when we reached the waterfall. Huka Falls doesn’t look like the waterfalls that we all know, the 220,000 liters of water per second flow horizontally. Waterfalls are genuinely beautiful but the sound of a steady rhythm has something peaceful and magical about it. It’s a great spot to immerse into the tranquility of the nature.

Huka Falls

How about a fancy dinner?

In Taupo you are spoiled for choice when it concerns eateries. The town is tiny but it offers numerous great possibilities to have sumptuous and huge portions of delightful food. The only challenge is if you are not keen on eating fish&chips you might have to pay fair amount of money for your meal. Withal we discovered a marvelous restaurant where casual and fine kitchen meet each other: Plateau.

Angus Beef Eye Fillet

We had two different mains: Angus Beef Eye Fillet with truffled potato, portobello mushroom, shallots, charred baby leeks, baby carrots, madeira jus and Fish of the Day, Pan Served Snapper with camera fondant spinach, baby carrots, fennel, orange slaw, sundries tomatoes and salsa verde. The steak was juicy, tender and full of flavors accompanied with a delicious dark sauce. An epitome for the steak lover. The fish was done on point and the ensemble of the various culinary treasures made the whole dish very interesting and tasty.

Chocolate Fondant

After the sumptuous mains we couldn’t resist to try some desserts. We decided to take two classical variations: Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée and Chocolate Fondant
with doris plum & creme fraiche ice-cream. And it was the best decision! The Creme Brûlée was perfectly smooth and crunchy on top. The Chocolate Fondant was right on point: hot and intense with a meltingly soft centre. In one word: Divine!

One more day of exploring

Real Kiwi Tour with Alex

We came to visit Taupo by bus but there are various magnificent spots in the surroundings of the harmonious lake. We were lucky that we could find Alex, who organizes private tours to the different attractions around Taupo and Rotorua in her spacious and comfortable four-wheeler. Alex is a lovely woman, who knows a lot of facts about the area, she will take care of you, provides you with snacks and will keep you hydrated. She can adapt the tour to your wishes the way she did with us. We wanted to visit Orakei Karako and afterwards head to Rotorua. Alex made our wishes come true easily!

Orakei Karako

We also needed Alex’s transport help because you can only reach the geothermal treasure of nature Orakei Karako by car. It takes 25 minutes to drive from Taupo or 45 minutes from Rotorua. It’s a volcanic colorful world of geysers, hot springs, mud pools and silica terraces. To get to the untouched geothermal paradise you need to take a ferry which will bring you to the other side of the lake. Don’t worry, it’s all included in the acceptable price of $36.

Orakei Karako

On your 1h self-guided tour you will discover 23 active natural geysers, numerous bubbling hot springs and the Ruatapu Cave. This impressive natural cave has a jade-green pool, which is thought to have been used as a mirror by Maori women for ritual preparations. It’s also one of the picturesque geothermal areas that doesn’t have so many visitors because of it’s hidden position. This means you won’t feel crowded when you enjoy the native bushwalk. I would recommend to everyone to visit Orakei Karako, see the stunning beauty of geothermal park and it’s vibrant colours with your own eyes!

 

 

 

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