Redwoods & Rainbow Hot Springs: Rotorua, New Zealand

I’m slowly but surely bringing you all the amazing things that we experienced in our two weeks in New Zealand.  I loved it so much, it’s hard to even know where to start.  And our two days on the North Island may have been the least amazing part of the two weeks—which is really saying something.  Mostly it’s saying that New Zealand is the absolute best and you should go there ASAPronto.

As you’ll see from all the pictures below, Rotorua is full of interesting and somewhat contradicting natural sights…vividly-colored hot springs, neon yellow lakes, towering redwoods, and movie magic.  Here are some ways that we spent an awesome two days in Rotorua, New Zealand.

The view from our cabin outside of Rotorua New Zealand

Pick a home base that fits your needs

Rentals definitely made a lot more sense since there were four of us, and honestly I generally prefer them anyway.  But that was especially true for New Zealand, which isn’t a country with a lot of hotel options (at least outside the major cities).

We based ourselves at this adorable cabin (or “bach”, pronounced “batch”) on Lake Tarawera, about a 20-minute drive on winding roads from Rotorua.  It was so peaceful and beautiful…and totally off the grid, no cell signal or wifi or anything.  We had to drive the 20 minutes into town and stop at the Burger King to use their wifi each time we wanted to get online.

Every morning Sarai and I got up and drank coffee on the deck, looking at the gorgeous view, then wandered down to the jetty for some chill time (while the boys were still sleeping).  The gardens even had a handful of the awesome blue glow worms that the area is famous for!

But it’s important to note that this type of place isn’t for everyone.  For people who would be stressed out by that winding drive, being 20 minutes away from civilization, or without cell service, it would be torture.  So just evaluate your priorities and pick a place that meets at least your top two.

What to do when visiting Rotorua, New Zealand...tips on where to stay, eat, and go

Other New Zealand travel tips:

Stars, Sunrises, & Stunning Turquoise Water in Lake Tekapo

Should you skydive in New Zealand? (hint: yes!)

Hiking the South Island’s Hooker Valley Trail

Indulging our Inner Nerds at Hobbiton, New Zealand

Hiking Pinchgut Track in Nelson Lakes National Park (South Island)

Find a go-to breakfast place to fuel up

Food in New Zealand is so expensive, so we found that having a bigger breakfast and finding a fairly economical place to do it was important.  Capers Epicurean became our breakfast home during our stay at Rotorua.  I was obsessed with their ricotta toast with honey, and the omelettes and pastries were the bomb.

Duh…Visit Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

I probably don’t even need to say this, because the colorful thermal springs of Wai-O-Tapu are one of the biggest reasons people visit the Rotorua area.  Wai-O-Tapu is an active geothermal area in New Zealand’s Taupo Volcanic Zone.  I’d visited Yellowstone a couple times before, so I’d seen very similar hot springs, but it’s still work a couple hours of your time.

JUST LOOK AT THOSE COLORS!

Wai-O-Tapu's thermal springs are just one of the must-sees in the Rotorua area

Whakarewarewa Forest’s redwoods

Don’t get me wrong—these won’t probably bowl you over if you’ve spent time with California’s mind-blowing redwoods (which I haven’t, but am dying to).  But it’s still a pretty cool place to spend a meditative hour walking around and enjoying the earthy scents and hushed silence of Whakarewarewa Redwood Forest (and let’s be honest that’s the coolest name).

Go hug a tree.  You’ll feel better for it.

What to do when visiting Rotorua New Zealand...tips on where to stay, eat, and go

What to do when visiting Rotorua, New Zealand...tips on where to stay, eat, and go

We decided this is our first album cover.

Hang with hobbits

This one’s a little bit of a cheat, because it’s about an hour’s drive from Rotorua.  But Hobbiton is great either as an easy day trip from your Rotorua base, or you can catch it on your way between Auckland and Rotorua.  In our case, we visited on our way to fly back home (out of Auckland).

Yes, it’s quite touristy.  Yes, it’s overpriced.  But it’s a super charming and was actually quite chill, all things considered.  Unfortunately it was the only day of our entire trip that wasn’t completely gorgeous, so the only thing that could have made these pictures better was blue sky.  But we had a lovely and informative tour, had a beer at the Green Dragon, and then were on our way.

Here are my tips for a smooth visit to Hobbiton

Hobbiton, redwoods, gorgeous thermal springs, and other things to do in Rotorua, New Zealand...tips for planning your trip.

About halfway between Rotorua & Auckland, Hobbiton is fun even for people who aren't huge Lord of the Rings fans

What to know about Rotorua, New Zealand:

  • Book a Bach is an invaluable resource for finding houses, cabins, etc. to rent.  The cabin we rented is linked above, and we absolutely LOVED it.
  • Where to eat:  Capers Epicurean was a great breakfast spot (or lunch or dinner, they’re open til 9p)
  • The bright colors of Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland is a can’t-miss morning or afternoon.
  • Marvel at the redwoods of Whakarewarewa Redwood Forest for a peaceful couple of hours.
  • If you have any even mild nerds in your group (or people who love gorgeous flowers, movie arcana, etc.), a trip to Hobbiton is a must.  Plan a couple hours for your visit, and I’d definitely recommend reserving your tickets online ahead of time to make sure there are spots available.

Have you been to Rotorua before?  What would you add to the can’t-miss list?

More reasons for you to fall in love with New Zealand:

Indulging our Inner Nerds at Hobbiton

Hiking the South Island’s Hooker Valley Trail

What to do in Rotorua, New Zealand...tips for where to stay, eat, and visit. From gorgeous thermal springs to towering redwoods, this area has a ton to offer!

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