Sept 5th- 10th
Rotorua- 'Rotten-rua' as it's known due to the bubbling sulphur, also commonly miss-pronounced as 'Rota-rooah', correctly pronounced as 'Raw-tah-roo-ah' (with rolling 'R's').
So a short drive from Tauranga and we were back in Rotorua- another place we had been in 2012, originally in planning I thought we could skip through here for that reason, but so glad we didn't as Rotorua actually had so much to offer, that when we booked our tours with Peterpans we ended up booking 5 tours/trips/ excursions here.
After pitching our tent at 'Rotorua Thermal Park' $16pp for 5 nights we went off exploring, first stop the lake and ice cream from the famous 'Lady Janes' Ice Cream Parlour', nice ice cream but the milkshake I had wasn't up to much.
Next day bright and early we headed to Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, where we both were genuinely over awed and amazed. The place was immense, there were green pools, steaming champagne pools, mud pools, bubbling lava pools, lakes and Lady Knox Geyser (pronounced Guyser not Geyser), which is set off daily at 10:15am. Wai-O-Tapu was simply amazing, it was like another world! The normal entrance fee is $32.50 pp but we got a bit of discount as booking so many trips. We would totally and utterly recommend it!! Click here for our photo diary...
Then on to some thermal action of our own in the form of the Polynesian Spa. Set next to the beautiful Government gardens, the spa ranges in prices depending on what you want, we chose the 'deluxe lake spa' at $45 each, we had 4 hot pools ranging from 36 degrees to 42 degrees, plus one cold plunge pool. There were heated beds to relax on out of the water whilst relaxing. We went in mid afternoon and stayed until the stars came out. The pools which are fed from 2 local natural thermal springs were a delight and relaxing whilst looking out to the lake. Equally as good were the showers and changing rooms with hairdryers provided and luxury body wash. Shan on the other hand had one big communal shower where all the other guys were walking around naked.
Shannon is currently reading the Lord Of The Rings trilogy and has watched LOTR and The Hobbit multiple times, I've watched some but it's not my kind of thing however I was never going to miss an opportunity to miss visiting Hobbiton, it's iconic, and I will watch the movies at some point. And so we drove from Rotorua to Matamata (1 hour journey) where we got picked up and taken to Hobbiton for the movie tour, the guided tour cost us $88 each. We drove out to the hills where Peter Jackson once flew over scouting for the perfect location. The set was taken down after the first movie but the farmers asked for it to be kept permanently after the next movie set was built as so many tourists were coming to the land in search of Hobbit anyway. Shannon was spellbound and I thought it so pretty and intricate. The hobbit holes, lakes, Green Dragon pub, hobbit doors, and clothes lines all so cute and mesmerising. The tour was good, listening to the guide tell stories of filming and how it was all built but I felt it was rushed (maybe cause we were lagging behind taking over 200 photos). We had an ale in the Green Dragon before making our way from this magical little place. Check out our photo diary here...
Next up was the Luge. I was scared to start with as I didn't fully know what it entailed and I pictured it like a dodgem, flying down a steep hill whilst people crashed into me. It wasn't like that. We got our passes for 5 luges ($55 pp) and headed up the hill in a chair lift where we then grabbed our helmets and made our way to the starting point where we climbed in our three-wheeler go-cart and were given a rather brief safety check- pull handle towards you to brake, away from you to move, I was still petrified until I actually got on the track. It was easy and fun! I gently glided down the 'scenic track' with Shan guiding me, then it was back to the top again and to try the 'intermediate track' I put my foot down and loved it! As of course did Shannon. We were flying down the curved pathway for 'advanced track' before we knew it! We had two more rides and it was thrilling. I think I prefer the intermediate route though as it takes longer to complete the track, though we were literally coming off the ground on the advanced we were going at some speed! We are coming into the off season now and keep finding advantages for that, there were large areas for the queue lines but we never had to wait more than a minute for a chair lift/ go cart.
Last on the list of activities for Rotorua was white water rafting with Kaitiaki Adventures- well for Shannon anyway. I have never had a desire to get in a raft and hurl myself over deadly boulders whilst rushing water capsizes me or at least drowns me. However Shannon is not a pessimist like me and he is fearless, this is exactly his kind of thing, and he has always wanted to do white water rafter, so off he went on his own for a half day tour at $79. And he really was on his own, no one else had booked on the tour, so he had 2 instructors and him, after getting into the wetsuit they carried the boat to the river, had a Maori blessing to acknowledge the waters and then Shan was told that this would be a very different tour than normal- as they could mess around, they got him standing up, going backwards, went down the 7 metre fall, and he had an awesome time! I'm super glad he didn't try persuade me to go as I really would have hated it.
Later we seen a little more of Rotorua and took a walk through Kuirau public thermal park in the middle of town where we saw more bubbling mud pools and steaming hot pools.