Geothermal Wonderland

T and I said good-bye to our cozy cabin in Coromandel and hit the road to Rotorua along the east coast of the peninsula.

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We stopped in Tairua for a quick coffee and ended up finding the town quite pleasant with beautiful views of the bay and coastline. I would say this is a better spot to visit than Coromandel town if you’re looking for another town on the peninsula to visit.

After getting coffee, continued on to the Karangahake Gorge Road, which is known to be one of the prettiest short drives in the country, and it did not disappoint. It’s incredibly worthwhile to take this route, and leave a bit of time to do some of the walks through the gorge area.

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There are ruins of old mining batteries, beautiful suspension bridges, and views of the valley for the peak (the walk to the peak is about 1.5 hours). The longer walk around the gorge really just follows the road, so if you’re short on time, you can drive the road and then pull off in the main area to walk a few of the trails.

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(Leo made an appearance!)

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The drive starts in Waihi and ends in Paeroa, a small town known for starting the L&P soda (it has now been bought by the Coa-Cola Company). It’s a small town with a giant soda bottle and a lot of L&P merchandise.

We grabbed a soda and continued on to check out Hobbiton. We visited the cafe and area where the tours leave from, but the weather was rainy, and we didn’t think it was worth the $150 to visit the set. We decided to save busting the budget for something later down the road. Plus, we had already felt we had been in The Shire fore the last few hours…

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The rest of the road to Rotorua was rather scenic and felt like you were in The Shire as well. The GPS took us off the main highway through a number of back roads and farms along the way, which was quite an enjoyable ride.

Once we arrived in Rotorua, we walked around the town and grabbed lunch at the Fat Dog Cafe. The lamb shank and sweet potato (Kumara) mash was quite tasty here. We checked into the hostel (called The Crash Place), and got a ton of great advice from the amazing staff there. She gave us a tip to walk around the lake and to follow a route that included a number of geothermal sites along the way, including bubbling mud, pools full of boiling water of various colors, and crystallized sulphur.

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The walk took us around the lake, and ended in Karau Park, which is also home to a number of geothermal sites. Not to mention, it also has the biggest version of these play structures we had seen so far, so we decided to take advantage of the empty playground (yes, we do revert to acting like kids in playground settings or near trampolines…we just can’t help it).

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Back at the hostel, we grabbed a beer and took advantage of the hot tub. I know what you are thinking…a hot tub at a hostel would be gross. My initial thoughts were the same, until I saw it and it was crystal clear and extremely clean. Not to mention, unoccupied and very hot.

Relaxed and hungry, we made dinner at the hostel and sat in the dining room. We ended up meeting a lovely Italian Couple, Alessandro and Eveleen, and having an extra long dinner chatting away with them. We enjoyed our dinner so much we had breakfast with them the next morning before leaving the hostel.

On our way to Taupo, we went to Wai-O-Tapu (a.k.a Geothermal Wonderland) to check out geysers, bubbling mud, sulpher, and neon colored water.

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(Lady Knox Glacier)

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After our walk around the park, we went down the road to Rainbow Mountain Reserve, and took a 10-15 minute walk off the road to find a beautiful view of a crater and electric blue colored lake.

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We also tried to find some hot springs down a dirt road, but turned around a bit too early (we found this out after talking to a local guy at a gas station, but it turned out we didn’t miss much). We made a few sandwiches and continued the drive to Taupo, stopping to checkout  Huka Falls on the way into town.

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We also found a gourmet food market with good wine called The Merchant, and picked up a few backpacking meals for our trek the next day.

The B&B we were staying at, Tongariro Adventures, was another 45 minute drive along Lake Taupo (the biggest lake in NZ) to Turangi. We met our hosts, Michael and Barb, who were incredibly friendly, easy to talk to, and so helpful. The accommodation was large, yet cozy and comfortable. Michael and Barb recommended the Lakeland Bistro for dinner, which was a perfect spot with good food and great views of the lakefront at sunset. We had our first rack of New Zealand Lamb to fuel us for the big hike the next day, and returned to the B&B for the evening. We would highly recommend a stay at this B&B if you are planning on visiting the area!

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: New Zealand: North & South Island Itineraries | Fit To Wander

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