Rotorua

Rotorua Travel Blog

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Kiwi fruit from the "kiwi train", Kiwi 360

Quite a long drive from Auckland to Rotorua, but we did take the more indirect, scenic route.  Our first stop was at Paeroa, home of the mineral water which is "world famous in New Zealand since ages ago" according to the ad!  The famous drink is L&P (lemon and paeroa) and isn't bad, in fact goes quite nicely with gin instead of tonic!  We drove through the Karangahake Gorge, which was stunning, a lovely mountain area with lots of valleys and rivers - wish we'd had time to go for a hike, although the weather was a bit inclement.

Rotorua Museum (ex-bath house)
  We stopped at Waihi to look at the old Cornish Pump House which has been moved from one side of the current gold mine to the other to protect it, quite a big job.  The mine is still in operation and you can do tours, if you have the time and inclination.  The town is quite nice, seems like our old town of Kyneton in many ways.

The highlight of the day was Kiwi 360, a kiwi orchard with a big kiwi out the front, so we can continue our "big things" photo collection.  We did a tour of the orcharge and learnt all there is to know about kiwi fruit ($20pp), driving around the orchards on a kiwi train (looked a lot like the macadamia train at the Big Pineapple in Qld).  The guide was very good and provided us with lots of information, such as the fact that the original "chinese gooseberry" which they are developing again, is in fact a much small, hairless fruit and therefore a lot like a gooseberry, much different to today's bigger, hairier fruit.

Noel and friends, Agrodome Rotorua
  We knew we'd arrived in Rotorua when the rotten egg gas smell hit us!

On our first full day in Rotorua we did the "Tarawera Legacy" package of tourist sites ($60pp - in fact, there was no great saving doing it this way, and we would have been better off using the 10% discount vouchers that were in the tourist booklets).  First stop was Whakarewarewa Thermal Village, a living Maori village.  As you do the tour, you wander through the streets and houses that are still lived in, along with the child care centre where  the language is used and taught.  The survivors of the Mt Tarawera volcanic eruption of 1886 were brought to this village after their towns were destroyed.  You get to see th eback of the Pohutu Geyser along with lots of steaming water and mud pools.

Who's the boss? Dog and friends at the Agrodome.
  You can buy a piece of corn on the cob cooked in the thermal water - no taste of sulphur, thank goodness.  You also get a cultural show here, although it is a bit more amateurish, and a couple of the performers looked decidely uncomfortable about the whole thing!  Next stop was Te Wairoa, the "buried village" which disappeared under the debris of the 1886 eruption.  It was developed by the Smith family, who started excavating the site in the 1930's.  You get a good guide, which is just as well, because without it you would be struggling to recognize very much.  There is a terrific walk, though, around the waterfall and down the valley slightly, the highlight of which is the trout pool which is teeming with monster fish (Melissa's dad would love it, although you're not allowed to catch them!).
Geysers, Te Puia, Rotorua
  Our last stop was the Rotorua Museum, which is housed in the old Bath House.  The Museum is good and you can do a volunteer-guided tour (although this wasn't that great), but you should allow yourself enough time and energy to do it justice - we were getting tired by now so probably didn't really see all there was to see.  In the basement you can see some of the old baths and equipment used in the spa, including the "electrical bath" - not so sure that would have been very useful!  YOu can also walk out onto the top of the building to get a great view of the town and lake - this was only re-opened last year after being closed for about 70 years.  We went back to our holiday park and had a soak in the hot thermal pool - very relaxing and makes your skin quite soft because the water is "oily" from the minerals.
Cooking our lunch, hot pools, Whakarewarewa Vilage, Rotorua

The next day saw us indulge in one of NZ's icons - the Agrodome (Melissa can remember photos of her grandparents here in the 1970's).  YOu get a 1 hour show about the 19 breeds of sheep that stand on stage, plus a shearing demo, a dog show and a cow being milked.  It was quite amusing, but also informative for those with no rural background.  The Woollen Mill has a 100yo carding machine to comb the wool, and they give demos of this after the show.  The Shearing Museum has lots of old equipment but not that fascinating.  We then went up the Skyline Gondola, from where you get a great view of the town.  The gondolas and big and quiet and really don't  move about at all, which is most comforting.  oNce you're up the top, you can then try out the luges, which was great fun, racing down the hill on a sled on a wheels, and then getting the chair lift back up - most enjoyable - you can even do the advanced run if you're a bit of a daredevil.

Kiwi 360
  In the afternoon we went to Te Puia.  The tour of the site was quite good and the cultural show much more professional, but they are in the midst of renovations with the new site to be opened next week, so the ARts & Crafts Institute (the main reason we went) is actually shut (as it is at weekends anyway).  We really wanted to see the weaving and carving schools, so it was pretty disappointing that we were not told about this before we went in and paid the $28 entrance fee pp.  The Pohutu Geyser is in this area, and has apparently been acting very strangely for the past day - spouting almost continuously and at heights up to 60m which are very unusual.  The guide said she'd never seen it go so high - maybe it's just as well we're heading off on Monday! 

Our last full day was spent at Waimangu Volcanic Valley.  This site is very expensive ($64pp) to do the walking tour (on your own) and the 45min boat cruise on Laka Rotomahana, although a 10% YHA discount is available.  It is very well set out, though, and shuttle buses are provided if you get tired.  You could in fact spend all day here doing the normal walk as well as the more difficult mountain hike, but the weather was pretty  dull and drizzly, so we only lasted about 4 hours.  The walk is pretty easy and the boat tour is quite interesting, gives you another perspective of the Mt Tarawera eruption - the lake now covers over where the Pink and White Terraces once stood (incredible silica terraces which were the 8th Wonder of the World until the eruption, but were destroyed in it).

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Kiwi fruit from the kiwi train, …
Kiwi fruit from the "kiwi train",…
Rotorua Museum (ex-bath house)
Rotorua Museum (ex-bath house)
Noel and friends, Agrodome Rotorua
Noel and friends, Agrodome Rotorua
Whos the boss? Dog and friends at…
Who's the boss? Dog and friends a…
Geysers, Te Puia, Rotorua
Geysers, Te Puia, Rotorua
Cooking our lunch, hot pools, Whak…
Cooking our lunch, hot pools, Wha…
Kiwi 360
Kiwi 360
Rotorua
photo by: Vanessa_Mun_Yee