My first journey through this part of New Zealand was back in 1997, when I travelled by campervan from Dunedin to Northland, with my then-boyfriend and his parents. While we drove almost constantly on the way there, we took the time to stay in Rotorua for a couple of days on the way home. I returned to Rotorua in 2006, when Tall and I visited friends living in Hamilton, and we spent a day in Taupo on our way back down the country after our New Year in Gisborne.
Once you get past the sulphuric smell, it’s actually a really nice city. Famous for it’s geothermal parks and pools, Rotorua is definitely the place to go if you want to learn more about Maori culture. Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland is home to some amazing geysers and mud pools of remarkable colours; Hells Gate Geothermal Park, and the Polynesian Spa are also worth visiting. While I haven’t been, the Buried Village of Te Wairoa is apparently quite interesting.
Also known for it’s hot pools, Taupo is the kind of town that people flock to during the summer months. Then, the lake teems with water- and jet-skiers, swimmers and lake golfers (who try to hit a hole-in-one onto a little “island”). Taupo is an attractive town, and would be a great place for a family holiday. One of the biggest and best attractions is Huka Falls, the thundering waterfalls that are sure to wow even the hardest-to-impress visitor.
At the risk of offending some people….I find Hamilton an incredibly soul-less place. After a weekend there with friends, we all concluded that you go to Hamilton to then travel out of Hamilton – to Auckland, Rotorua, Raglan…anywhere else. We did wander through a pretty garden which had some interesting sculptures in it, but I can’t tell you the name of it. Otherwise, we spent two days out of the city, which means my knowledge of what to do there is basically non-existent. However, if you are looking at visiting Hamilton, you can find a list of attractions here. Ha, that feels like such a cop-out….oh well.
(Photos from 1997)