The absolute best case scenario after arriving home from 24+ hours of travel (a 16-hour plane trip included)…? A five-day weekend!
We didn’t plan it that way, but thanks to flight changes and a public holiday, we arrived back in New Zealand with five full days to ease back into real life before heading back to work.
And that was incredibly necessary after spending six days with old friends. Floating in a beachside infinity pool, sipping tropical cocktails. At a posh Mexican resort. Celebrating the marriage of two wonderful people…. okay, okay, I’ll stop now. 😉
Anyway, five days of freedom meant we had the perfect opportunity to explore more of NZ. We made our way down to Rotorua, a tourist town capitalising on volcanic geothermal activity. It’s affectionately known as Rotovegas… but no Kiwis I’ve asked about it can quite explain why.
It seemed like a relatively sleepy town (in terms of nightlife), but shares with Las Vegas the quality of having plenty of overpriced activities to throw your money at. I’ve rounded up the four main activities we paid for… and some free alternatives!
Redwood Forest – Treewalk
A series of suspension bridges 6-12 metres off the ground are anchored by redwood trees, leading you through a 110-year-old redwood forest. I have a soft spot for Californian redwoods (we even got married in a redwood grove), so I gladly handed over the $25 for a ticket. But I have to admit, that the less than 30 minutes it took to walk didn’t quite justify the price – even though I had a great time!
- They also have a night time walk option, lit by lanterns that hang from the trees. That may have been a more unique experience and worth the money.
- But another completely free option would be to do a walk in the main grove of the Whakarewarewa Forest. The forest has a pretty unique story – after the eruption of Mt Tarawera and New Zealand government began replacing native forests. They imported seeds from around the world, including the Californian Coast Redwoods.
Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Wonderland
Dubbed NZ’s most colourful volcanic area, this park was pretty cool. Even from the parking lot, you can see steam rising from the group throughout the entire park. Following a map of interest points, you pass hot pools, bubbling mud, and more. The highlights are probably Devil’s Bath and the Champagne pool because they’re so colourful. The Lady Knox Geyser erupts at 10:30am, but we unfortunately missed it.
- For a free option, check out Kuirau Park, the only public geothermal park in Rotorua
Relaxing in natural spa pools was the perfect winter evening activity. They have a number of packages (including towels & lockers) and price points for different parts of the park (private pools vs. public – both natural looking setting and man-made pools). The public pools were not very crowded, so it was just fine for us!
- Next time, I’d love to go to one of the completely natural hot springs (free!) – that involve a little hike to get to. Here’s a list of the ones in the area.
Agrodome Farm Show
Best money we spent all trip was for the Sheep Show! I could go on and on… but they introduce 19 sheep breeds one-by-one. The woolly guys make their way to their assigned platform, where sheep chow is waiting for them. I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time….especially when they brought out the sheep dogs to practice thieir “backing” technique. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves!
- Not going to even offer a free alternative for this one – this is a must-do!
After Rotorua, we made our way to the east coast, spending the evening in Tauranga. We walked the beach and hiked a bit of the Mount (Mt. Maunganui), but want to go back to see more soon. More to come!