With Australia in the books, we were excited to start exploring New Zealand. The change of scenery also brought a change of pace, which inspired us to embrace our inner kiwis and not book much in the way of accommodations and activities – counter intuitive for us Type A Levines. Here’s a summary of our first stop in Rotorua and why spontaneity worked out well in the end.
We Stayed on a Farm
After flying from Sydney to Auckland on Latam Airlines, we learned there was a special event in town and there were no hotel vacancies! After some nail biting, about 15 phone calls and a lot of Internet searches, we found rooms available at Ngapuke Farm in Mata Mata, about halfway to Rotorua. We booked the room at 7:30 p.m. and arrived by 10:00 p.m. (is spontaneity always so last minute??). Debbie Smith, who runs the bed and breakfast, gave us a warm welcome into her home and showed us to our rooms. We were so grateful to have a place to stay. The next morning we woke to the sounds of sheep and got our first look at the incredible landscape in the daylight. Over a scrumptious breakfast spread, Debbie and her husband Paddy gave us lots of local recommendations, told us about the farm and reminisced about the time they went to New Orleans Jazz Fest! It was an incredible experience and we wish we could’ve stayed longer. We highly recommend Ngapuke Farm!
We Visited the Agrodome
When we visit a place for the first time, we think it’s beneficial to learn about regional wildlife and local industry. The Agrodome in Rotorua was the perfect place to do just that. We got to take a tour of a working farm, orchard and paddocks, get up close and personal with some new furry friends and ask our guide Anna all our kiwi-related questions. This was our cheesiest stop in Rotorua but one we’d recommend if you’re in the area and have time (especially the off road adventure tour that we didn’t have time to do!).
We Dined at the top of Mount Ngongotaha
The primary concern while in Rotorua was properly celebrating Thanksgiving! We booked dinner at Stratosfare, a restaurant at the top of Mount Ngongotaha that we heard was perfect for special occasions. It was a very nice, “smorgasbord” (buffet) style place with exceptional views overlooking the city and Lake Rotorua. After dinner we stopped in at Pig and Whistle, the oldest pub in town, and met some very nice locals.
We Went White Water Rafting
We were most looking forward to white water rafting the Kaituna River with Rotorua Rafting. I was the one person who had never been before and I booked us for a level 5 experience that included the largest commercially-rafted waterfall in the world, Tutea Falls. Go big or go home! Robin and John were nervous for me but I loved it and had the best time. The photos are hilarious!
We Toured a Maori Cultural Center & Geothermal Park
We couldn’t leave Rotorua without learning about the original settlers of the area, the Maori people. We stopped at Te Puia, a Maori cultural center and geothermal park, where we saw a reconstructed village. We also learned about how they used the natural geothermal pools and geysers to cook, bathe and heat their homes. It was very interesting and a beautiful sight.
We Made a Few Stops
On the 2.5 hour drive from Rotorua to Napier, we made a few pit stops…
On to Napier and the Hawke’s Bay Wine Country!