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.
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.
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.
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.
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….