This post is a continuation of the review of my recent trip to New Zealand and includes details of Lake Taupo on the route to Rotorua, including Where to Stay, What to Do, Where to Go and where to eat along the way.
While we were staying at Lake Taupo, we decided to take the boat ride on the lake to go and see the Maori carvings at Mine Bay which are only accessible by water. The day was windy and the lake was rough, and our boat, “The Ernest Kemp”, was very small but warm and comfortable. It didn’t help that the Captain of the vessel kept referring to us as ‘brave souls’, which was not appreciated – but the dark humour after a while took our minds off the waves on the lake. After about 50 minutes of very rough water we arrive at the carvings which were very impressive.
Lake Taupo Maoir Rock Carvings
Moving on from Lake Taupo we were told of major waterfalls only 2 minutes north on the N1 (to the right), and was only a 5 minute further drive. This was of course, Huka Falls. These rapids were amazing (see below) – roaring waters cascading down a narrow channel. resulting in a huge waterfall. At Huka Falls, the Waikato River which is usually about 100m across, is squeezed through a 20m wide gorge and over a 20m drop. Every second over 200,000 litres of water gushes down through the gorge and shoots out over Huka Falls by about 8 metres.
Huka Falls, Just outside Taupo
Having left the falls we were driving north once again on the N1 and I spotted “Craters of the Moon – 500m on left” and decided to give it a go. These were well worth stopping for. It is a spot where the earths crust is so thin, you get bubbling mud, steam vents and a landscape which Sméagol from Lord of the Rings would be at home in.
Craters of the Moon
Back on the road again we were heading for Rotorua on the N1 – note there are not many places to stop for food or sightseeing between the two locations. We were lucky to find a BP station near Kinleith, to refuel the car and ourselves.
Theres not much between the two locations and we reached Rotorua in decent time and checked into the Copthorne Hotel which had great views of Lake Rotorua and the Polynesian Spa. The one thing you will notice in Rotorua is the smell of sulphur in the air. Now, its not as bad as I had expected, but it is noticeable. Some people describe it as a rotten egg smell but I don’t think the smell was that bad.
View from the Copthorne Hotel, Rotorua
Having not had much food consulted the guide book and headed for the ‘Pig and Whistle’ which used to be a police station but is now a gastropub. The food was very good, atmosphere was not great as it was very quiet with only 8 or 9 other tables full.
Next morning we tried to go to the Polynesian Spa but that’s when the smell was too much for us. Apparently at certain times the smell is worse than others. Instead we decided to take a trip on the old paddleboat which was docked on the lake. It was a very enjoyable one hour trip around the lake with history and other details being announced over the speakers onboard. Te and coffee was also free on the ship.
After that we headed to Whakarewarewa reserve which is a Maori town, and they show you around the town, the geysers, the hot pools and give you an insight into the history of the area. Whakarewarewa, “The Thermal Village”, is an area not to be missed in Rotorua as it shows history combined with how these people are living today in an area where the earths crust is so thin, you can feel it by sitting on the ground. Whakarewarewa is definitely worth seeing. You also get to see a Haka and get your photo taken doing it – I’m not uploading my photo of this however!
Later that evening we attended a Hangi (Hang-yee) which is the Maori feast at the Mitai Maori Cultural Experience. The food is cooked by the Mitai tribe, underground as is the tradition, using the thermal heat from the earth. Before the meal there is a cultural show, including songs, dance and another Haka. A really good evening and one of the best tour-dinner-show combos I have been on, apparently the Mitai experience is the best in the area. There is a night safari after the meal and you have a chance to see glow worms (at least we would have if some little runt didn’t keep turning on his flash light) and you get to see a Kiwi closeup.
Rotorua is a lovely place, with lovely people … a bit smelly due to the sulphur in the air (not as bad as I expected) … but there is plenty to do in a 2-3 day stay.
Next stop Bay of Islands….
It has never been more important to insure your luggage when you go abroad. Recent statistics from the European Commission reveal that, on average, one piece of luggage is lost for every 64 passengers who travel by air.
Although the airlines themselves often provide a certain amount of compensation in the event of baggage loss, they can only reimburse you for lost items in your luggage for which you have receipts, and then only up to a maximum of £800 if your baggage is lost for longer than 21 days. When the suitcase first goes missing, some airlines will provide you with around £50 to cover essentials. However, if you have your luggage insured, you can expect a bigger payout, with fewer hassles.
Unfortunately, the recent financial crisis has led many customers to take cost-cutting measures, and some savvy customers have noticed that you can save money on your travel insurance by adding luggage insurance cover to your home contents insurance policy.
Many home insurance policies include cover for your possessions when they are out of the home. In fact, some home insurance policies provide more comprehensive cover in the event of the loss of luggage than is offered as standard with most travel insurance policies. Customers can save often save up to 25% off their travel insurance bills by opting to exclude personal belongings and baggage cover.
However, the section of a home contents insurance policy that covers personal possessions outside of the home is usually a cost option with most policies, and may work out more expensive than dedicated travel insurance. Be aware that no two home contents insurance policies are the same – you should always check the small print of your policy to see if you are adequately covered before opting to exclude anything from your travel insurance cover.
Of course, many travellers may not even be aware or may have forgotten that they’ve included luggage cover in their home insurance policy when taking out travel insurance. Check your paperwork thoroughly in order to avoid paying for the same cover twice – but make sure you are covered.
Use a reputable firm for your holiday cover. Take a look at the Santander website for some useful information and online quotes for travel insurance.
Going to New Zealand? This rough and brief travel guide will show you What to Do, Where to Go, Where to Eat and What to See traveling between Wellington and Lake Taupo in New Zealand. Continuing on from Wellington on our way to Lake Taupo we were traveling along the N1 on the North Island of New Zealand visiting small towns such as Foxton, Bulls, Taihape on the way to Lake Taupo where we had already booked accommodation.
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The first town we reached was Foxton. This is off the main road, but the guide book said it was a lovely town so we decided to take a look. Foxton is like a step back in time, not in a bad way or behind the times, rather Foxton has manged to keep the old town look and feel in a nice way.
Windmill and Tram in Foxton, New Zealand
The main feature is the Windmill which was brought over from Holland, bit by bit and build by people who had never built a windmill before – by reviewing the plans for the structure. There are horse drawn tram rides, an electric trolleybus, old style streets – I was told there are plans to make Foxton a hub of activity with kayaking, walks and other things to do. We enjoyed about 2 hours here before getting back on the road, taking a nice coffee and snack in the cafe near the Windmill.
From here we traveled back on the N1 again and on passing through a town called Bulls we just had to stop and take some photos. The shops are all BULL Oriented, e.g. the local realtor / estate agent has “live-a-bull” as his tag line, the town hall centre has “soci-a-bull”, and so on to Taihape where we had decided to take lunch.
Fun signs in the town of Bulls, New Zealand
Taihape is another very nice town, almost like small town America, worth taking an hour or so to enjoy, plenty of nice cafes to take a snack in.
The town of Taihape, New Zealand
On the last leg to Lake Taupo, back onto the N1 we go via the desert road, part of which is a military area, with an amazing landscape.
As soon as you see Lake Taupo for the first time you will have a few opportunities to stop into the left and enjoy many of the viewing areas, with incredible vistas of the lake. I’m sure there have been an accident or two with drivers looking at the nice view and not the road. Its still another good hours drive to Lake Taupo – so far its been about 6 hours since leaving Wellington.
Lake Taupo, Viewing Point with Snow-Storm moving in
After about 45 minutes we enter into Taupo and arrive at the Millennium Hotel which sits on the waterfront with amazing views of the lake. The Millennium Hotel also has a really nice outdoor heated pool, no problems using it in winter as it is quite warm. The restaurant there is very nice and we enjoyed a buffet there on arrival – only $39NZ per person which was very reasonable.
Lake Taupo with the Mountains covered in Snow.
We later found out that the desert road was blocked by snow and we made it to Lake Taupo with 4 or 5 hours to spare before the snow trapped people on the desert road.
Lake Taupo – To Be Continued … ( Lake Trip to Maori Carvings & Craters of the Moon… )
This picture of an amazing Cloud Formation which I spotted when driving alond the desert road in New Zealand (the N1 road towards Lake Taupo). Its like something from the start of War of the Worlds or the new alien feature, Skyline.
Amazing Cloud Formation spotted in New Zealand – Looks like a UFO is just about to break through the clouds…
Below is a close up of the clouds shows the weird formation which I had never seen anything like before.
Close-up of the weird cloud formation
Going to Wellington, New Zealand? This rough and brief Wellington travel guide will show you What to Do, Where to Go, Where to Eat and What to See in Wellington, New Zealand. Wellington is a lovely little city, much nicer than the business oriented Auckland – Wellington is one of the nicest places we visited in New Zealand and is a place where the pace of life is as nice as the people you meet there !
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On arriving in Wellington it was a real change of pace from the metropolis of Hong Kong and the city buzz of Sydney. One of the first things you notice is the quaint / small town feel you get from the moment you leave the airport. Some very nice sculptures along the way also. We were staying at the Copthorne Hotel in Oriental Bay – a hotel which was so nice we stayed at the Copthorne / Millennium Group Hotels during our whole stay in New Zealand.
Wellington, New Zealand – View from Cable Car station near Botanical Gardens
Wellington is a great place for relaxing – the pace is not that of a capital city which of course it is. Our first stop was the botanical gardens, as it is on a hill which overlooks the city – get the cable car to the summit (not the type of cable car which you might think – more of a vernicular).
Flowers in the Wellington Botanical Gardens
The view is stunning and there are plenty of walks which should keep you going for 2-3 hours. The restaurant in the Botanical Gardens is really good and service very fine meals, hot drinks and desserts. not to be missed also is the observatory which has a 3D projection tour of the night sky which is a very relaxing way to spend a half hour.
Alien Toilets? – Fun Sign at Wellington Observatory
Food in Wellington is not a problem. Cuba Street is one of the places where you can find good food at any time. One of the places we tried was Simply Paris, 181 Cuba Street. Welcomed by a french waiter, the food was excellent and the ambiance was very authentic – would certainly return here if in Wellington again.
If you are looking for a good view of Wellington, you should try going up to Mount Victoria which has an observation point giving a 360 degree vista on the area. Out hotel said we could walk it but if you do walk it, bring oxygen, as it is a fairly strenuous hike !
View from Mount Victoria, Wellington, New Zealand
If you want to do something more cultural, the Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa located on the sea front is worth going to. About 4 floors of artifacts, pictures, videos and interactive exhibits (many of them stuffed which I didn’t like too much) – it is a great way to get to know more about New Zealand and the Maori people who inhabited New Zealand before the white people colonised the islands. There is a restaurant here which is quite nice – the main courses were decent and very tasty but the seafood chowder which we got was not really chowder but some sort of seafood broth – I like my chowder but it was not great. They do however do a good coffee / cappuccino!
Look out in Wellington for the variety of sculptures – many of which are moving in the wind. The best of them all is the Smarties which is located along one of the main streets ( which you can see on Google Street View by clicking here)
We really enjoyed Wellington and would certainly return. A relaxed city with lots to do, good food and nice people – you don’t find that every day.
From here we hired a car, and progressed up N1 route North, visiting Foxton, Bulls, Taihape, en route to our final destination Lake Taupo.
Going to Sydney, Australia? This rough and brief Sydney travel guide will show you What to Do in Sydney, Where to Go in Sydney, Where to Eat in Sydney and What to See in Sydney Australia. Sydney is a place to be savoured – enjoy Sydney when you are there as you will miss it when you leave!
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Sydney is a place which is like a second home to me. I spent a year working here in 2003, working in both Sydney and Melbourne … but Sydney is by far a nicer city (no offense to Melbourne but there is much more to do in Sydney and winter in Melbourne is fffreezzzing). In Sydney, there is plenty to do, weather is always decent enough that you can get out and about.
Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport at Sunrise
Arriving in Sydney, you will be about 30 minutes drive from Sydney at Kingsford Smith Airport. Cabs and Airport transfers are easily accessible. A Taxi will cost between $30-$50 depending on where in the city you are going and what time of day it is. Transfers would be a bit less at between $13 and $20 depending on the company. We stayed in Sydney for 2 whole days, arriving late on a Monday evening in the middle of a monsoon and leaving on the first flight Thursday morning as sun was just coming up.
Sydney Harbour as seen from the AMP / Sydney Tower
One of the key things about Sydney is the sheer number of areas you can enjoy a walk, from Circular Quays, the Rocks and Botanical Gardens to Darling Harbour and Hyde Park. The Rocks is a really quaint area full of olde world charm and some olde worlde cafes. You can continue through to Circular Quays, perhaps catch one of the many ferries which service Balmain, Darling Harbour, North Shore, and as far a field as Manly. If you are looking for food, check out City Extra – their fish and chips is really good as is the chicken pie which is served with a hot baked roll. From Circular Quays, you can walk into the Botanical Gardens which hugs the waterline looking out over the bay, with excellent views of Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The walkway extends around to Woolloomooloo Wharf … if you still haven’t eaten go straight to Harrys Pies (Harrys Cafe de Wheels), a small cart based pie shop with the best pies and best mashed potato in Sydney. If you haven’t taken the route to Woolloomooloo you can continue through the Botanical Gardens to the Domain and on to Hyde Park. This walk is easily followed but worth taking 3-4 hours over as the views are spectacular.
People Walking over Sydney Harbour Bridge
In the city you can enjoy the views from the Sydney Tower, formerly called the AMP Tower. The AMP logo is still displayed on the tower but it seems to have been rebranded. When we were there we almost missed the entrance as the whole area is being renovated. From the tower you can get views as far as the airport and beyond … some days you can see as far as the Blue Mountains. If you are really adventurous you can climb Sydney Harbour Bridge (not on your own please, don’t start scaling the bridge and telling them it was my idea – it is a paid guided excursion with safety equipment). The only disadvantages are that you can’t bring a camera, you can’t decide to take a bathroom break and once you start out its about a 2 hour round trip – also not great for those with vertigo. We didn’t do this, instead took a helicopter trip with Cloud9 Helicopters from Bankstown Airport (phone 02 9771-3654) – well worth the money.
The main shopping areas extend from Pitt Street down around Town Hall also don’t miss Paddys Market in Chinatown which has excellent deals and is great for getting some fresh fruit, great deals on t-shirts and holiday clothes. While you are in Chinatown, you could get a really nice Chinese meal. If you are looking for a nice restaurant, go all the way as far as the Chinese arch in Chinatown and look for the Golden Harbour – Maria and the staff at the Golden Harbour will look after you and the food is always really nice. Yum Cha is also served early in the day.
Fruit Bats sleeping in the Botanical Gardens
Later in the evening there is plenty to do in the city. You can enjoy dinner in the AMP / Sydney Tower overlooking the city by night, the food is very nice, usually a buffet – however we found that The Summit Restaurant (http://www.summitrestaurant.com.au/) had nicer views (being that bit closer to the harbour) and also the menus were a bit nicer also. If you are looking for real class, try the Bennellong Restaurant at the Sydney Opera House. Not as expensive as you would think – and the service is 5 star (bordering on 6) with the food being similarly as good. The experience of dining at the Bennellong will live long in my mind – not only for the food and service but for the views and thrill of dining at one of the most iconic landmarks in the world.
The iconic Sydney Opera House – the Classic Shot from any trip to Sydney
Sydney is a place to be savoured, so if you are coming here for a holiday, spend as long as you can here – its one of the few cities in the world, where I can say I would be happy to live. Looking forward to going back already !
Recommended Links for Sydney
Bennellong Restaurant, Sydney Opera House : http://www.guillaumeatbennelong.com.au/
Sydney Tower : http://sydneytower.myfun.com.au/
Harrys Cafe de Wheels : http://www.harryscafedewheels.com.au/
City Extra, Circular Quays : http://www.cityextra.com.au/
Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb : http://www.bridgeclimb.com/
There is much more than this – but I wanted to keep this blog post short … If you have any questions about tips on where to go, eat or stay in Sydney please drop me a comment.