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Lake Taupo to Rotorua. Where to Stay, What to Do, Where to Go

Lake Taupo to Rotorua. Where to Stay, What to Do, Where to Go

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

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, New Zealand

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, Thermal landscape outside Taupo, NZ

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

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!

Whakarewarewa Village

Whakarewarewa Village

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….

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Wellington to Lake Taupo. Where to Stay, What to Do, Where to Go, Where to Eat

Wellington to Lake Taupo. Where to Stay, What to Do, Where to Go, Where to Eat

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.

Driving in New Zealand - Amazing Scenery on the N1 New Zealand Roads


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.

Foxton New Zealand

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.

The town of Bulls, New Zealand

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

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, New-Zealand

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.

New-Zealand Lake Taupo with Mountain Snow

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… )

Wellington, New Zealand. Where to Stay, What to Do, Where to Go, Where to Eat

Wellington, New Zealand. Where to Stay, What to Do, Where to Go, Where to Eat

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

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

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.

Fun Sign at Wellington Observatory

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

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.