New Zealand: Rotorua and Auckland

5/06/2018 11:58:00 AM

Hell's Gate, Rotorua

New Zealand! When Sandra's parents were here over Christmas, we took them to New Zealand for a week. This was a 60th birthday present for her dad, Rudolf, but we'd never been either, so it was a great new experience for all of us! We had such a great time, and I'm so excited to tell you all about it!

We only had a week in New Zealand, so we decided to stick to the North Island. We managed to cover quite a lot of the island in our short time there - flying into Auckland, and driving down through Rotorua, Taupo, and finally Wellington. We loved it! There was beautiful scenery! Redwood forests! Amazing geothermal systems! Hot springs! Hobbiton! The WETA workshop! Mince on toast!

Today's post is all about Rotorua (and a little bit of Auckland).

So! We flew into Auckland, and spent one night there before embarking on our road trip. We didn't get to see much of Auckland (next time!) and to compound matters, we didn't realise until we got there that our one night in Auckland was also a public holiday in NZ (the day after new year's day), and all the restaurants in our area were closed. So, we took it easy, getting a simple Uber Eats dinner delivered to our AirB&B, and started off nice and early the next morning.

We had breakfast at a cute little cafe in Victoria Park Market, Standing Room Espresso (210 Victoria Street West, Auckland 1010).

Standing Room Espresso

And then we hit the road in our trusty little Toyota Corolla! Here's Waikato - it was a pretty spot for a rest on our way to Rotorua.


So, Rotorua! Rotorua is a popular tourist destination, known as a geothermal wonderland, with beautiful scenery and heaps of natural attractions. Thanks to all that thermal activity, it's also known for having quite a strong smell, like rotten eggs, from the hydrogen sulphide emissions. I didn't find it particularly strong, but you could definitely notice it in town.

We were there for two nights, and stayed at this amazing AirB&B house in the middle of a cow paddock. It was beautiful! (It happened to be raining pretty much the whole time we were in Rotorua - I ran out to snap these photos during a rare sunny patch!)

Rotorua AirB&B

View from the AirB&B

Cow paddock!


Our first stop was Hamurana Springs, a beautiful nature reserve. It's an easy walk around the reserve, with crystal clear streams and freshwater springs, and a redwood grove.

Hamurana Springs


This is Te Puna-a-Hungurua, the largest spring in the North Island. It's 15 metres deep, is a constant 10°C, and is estimated to produce about 4.5 million litres of water per hour. (Source). Wow!

Te Puna-a-Hungurua

We also visited Okere Falls. There are nice walking tracks so you can view the falls and waterways here. It's also a popular spot for white water rafting and kayaking if you're into that. I'm not, but we really enjoyed the walk and the views.

Okere Falls

Okere Falls

And you know what we were really excited about? HOBBITON! Yes, the iconic movie set! It was so pretty and perfect in real life, I couldn't believe it! According to our tour guide, after the first Lord of the Rings trilogy they dismantled the set and the area went back to being a normal farm, but heaps of tourists and fans kept coming to visit! So after rebuilding The Shire for The Hobbit trilogy, they decided to keep the set there and it's now a huge tourist destination and (I believe) big moneymaker and source of employment for the surrounding towns.

Just a heads up: you can only go in tours (i.e. you can't just walk through by yourself), and you need to book your tickets in advance. It's extremely popular, with loads of tourists going through every day, but they do a good job of spacing out the groups and letting you take all your photos and ask questions. We got a bus transfer from Rotorua and did the most basic tour, which was a walk through the set and a beer in the Green Dragon (but no pipe-weed, unfortunately). However, if you're a mega fan there are other, longer and more detailed tours you can do too - evening banquets, private tours and the like.

It was so beautiful and I just loved the attention to detail. Definitely worth a visit! Most people I've spoken to who've visited Hobbiton have said they enjoyed it too - in fact the only person I ever heard say they didn't like Hobbiton was someone who HADN'T SEEN THE FILMS.

Hobbiton - just look at those tiny Hobbit clothes on the line!

Hobbit Hole

View of Hobbiton

Fake tree - each individual leaf was attached by hand


Look at that detail!


Whilst New Zealand had always been on my father-in-law's bucket list, Hobbiton was definitely the highlight of the trip for him. Germans are typically very punctual and organised (and my family is no exception), but the evening before our visit to Hobbiton, he had set out all our breakfast plates and prepared the coffee pot, and on the morning itself, he was up and dressed and had made all our drinks and toast a full ninety minutes before we had to leave, before I'd even gotten up! So keen!

We were also super lucky with the weather. When we arrived in Rotorua it started raining pretty heavily, and the forecast looked like it was set to continue all week, right through our Hobbiton visit. However, as our bus drove from Rotorua to Hobbiton, the sky kept clearing up and it didn't rain at all while we were there. Hooray!

The rain came back with a vengeance that afternoon, right in time for our visit to the Redwoods Treewalk. These are a series of suspension bridges built through a forest of 116 year old Redwood trees, so you can experience the majestic trees from up high. (These were actually built by a German mechanical engineer, Alex Schmid, once a tourist and now Rotorua resident). This just goes further to proving my theory that Germans LOVE New Zealand. The bridges get up to 12 metres high and offer beautiful views. Sandra's mum is scared of heights, and I'm generally poor at co-ordination and general physical activity, and the bridges got quite slippery in the rain, but we managed!

Redwoods Treewalk

Redwoods Treewalk

Redwoods Treewalk

You can do nighttime walks as well. I'm sure the forest would look gorgeous, all lit up! We decided not to do the nighttime walk, though, as they were expecting a pretty bad storm that night, and we weren't sure if the walk would be open or safe that night. Next time!

Redwoods Treewalk

Hell's Gate wasn't on our original itinerary, but we saw the name on a street sign, Googled it, and just had to visit! It's a geothermal reserve park with sulfur spa and mud baths, and was completely different to anywhere I'd ever visited before! We decided to skip the bathing (there was a whole lotta specific care instructions you had to follow to prevent your bathers from deteriorating, and we just did not have the energy or time to deal with that), and stuck to the Geothermal reserve walk. It was completely otherworldly and legit looked like the set of a dystopic 1970's sci-fi film set in the not-too-distant future. Also, I mentioned that the sulfur smell in town wasn't that strong? Well, it was verrrry strong here.

Hell's Gate

The Māori name of this area is Tikitere, and it was also named "Hell's Gate" by Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw who visited in the 1900s. It's considered the most active geothermal field in New Zealand, and has boiling hot pools, erupting waters hotter than 100C, steaming fumaroles, hot water lakes and more (Source). Amazing!

Hell's Gate

As per my "Christmas with the In-Laws" post, this wasn't really a food focused trip, so whilst in Rotorua we mainly self catered or picked something up quickly at a local bakery between sights. However! We did enjoy dinner in town at The Thai Restaurant (1141 Tutanekai St, Rotorua 3010), and lunch at The Pig and Whistle (1182 Tutanekai St, Rotorua 3010). Their steak, ale and mushroom pot pie was delicious, and just perfect comfort food on a cold and rainy day.

The Pig & Whistle

The Thai Restaurant

Next post: Taupo!

Have you been to Rotorua? What's your favourite thing to do there? Any must-visit destinations that I've missed? Hit me up in the comments!

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  1. Hobbiton is so cute! I spent a bit of time in Rotorua a few years ago but never made it here. I'm amazed that it wasn't too busy (as in there weren't a lot of other people in your pics) which makes it nicer!

    1. Haha there were heaps of people there, but I was just very alert and quickly snapped photos any time there was a break in the crowd! :)

  2. What an awesome gift - and a handy excuse to have your own holiday! Heh. I still haven't been to Rotorua but I would love to go. I also have a mild obsession with eating a hangi. lol

    1. OMG a Hangi! Putting that on the bucket list



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