New Zealand With Kids - Day Four, Rotorua

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Up for breakfast and out the door and on the road by 9am, we grabbed takeaway coffees and headed south east on highway 1 before turning off at highway 2 towards Matamata or ‘Hobbiton’ – the site where the Hobbit’s village was filmed in The Lord of the Rings.

In keeping with NZ’s steep tourist prices, an overlong 2.5 hour tour at well over $100 for a family of four quickly kyboshed the desire to visit this movie set. We instead shopped, grabbed coffee and hit the road again for Rotorua.

The countryside on the way from Auckland to Rotorua is green and beautiful – not very mountainous but extremely pretty in some places, with odd little bulbous hills here and there.

Lots of animal stock, too – and the cows and sheep seem to enjoy a huddle – hanging in large groups rather than scattered across fields like they are in Australia. Really cute.

It was so exciting to come into Rotorua and see the columns of white steam drifting skyward from points all over the city – particularly at the amazing Kuirau public park where we meandered through the many hot spring and boiling mud areas with great puffs of steam rising into the sky.

There were even little streams of hot champagne bubbles rising in some pools and a pile of marshmallow-like rocks with steam pouffing from the crevices.

This park is the site of the recent death of an eight-year-old boy who scaled a fence and fell into one of the boiling pools, so you can imagine we had every eye on the kids. Having said that, there’s no reason to worry – the park is perfectly safe, with danger zones more than adequately fenced and sign-posted.

Afterwards, we headed to the fantastic Skyline Gondola and Luge north of town - $97 for a family ticket to take the gondola to the mountain top, and then 8 luge rides (with chairlift returns).

The luges are small wheeled vehicles with a simple handle bar push/pull go/brake system. Riders wear helmets but little other protection on a relatively steep concrete track with the potential to go very fast.

There are three channels – ‘scenic’, ‘intermediate’ and ‘advanced’ and riders can go as fast as they like, with room for overtaking. There are some merging channels and the entire system is quite safe, though there is potential for mild to moderate stacking. Ella tumbled from her luge at one point and scraped her knee quite badly. Although she was ok, had another luge come soaring around the corner, she could have been injured, so encourage the kids to pace themselves.

Younger children can ride with a parent. Kids under 6 or 7 years may struggle to control the push/pull handle bar system, as operating the luge means holding the handle bars in a constant state of flux. This can test even adult arm muscles.

Ella and dad took off for one more luge ride together and Riley and I sat in the cafĂ© nibbling hot chips, admiring the stunning view over the countryside. Alas, it started to rain, gradually got heavier… and heavier… and didn’t stop for two days.

view over Rotorua Lake
After a quick grocery shop, we checked in to the Quest apartments, made some dinner and settled in for the night. These apartments are right next door to the Whakarewarewa thermal reserve – hot spring steam can be seen from our room, meandering into the wooded hills. As they don’t cater to families, we instead took two rooms, with scarcely any kitchen facilities. The rooms were nonetheless really lovely and we still managed to prepare food with the microwave oven.

There is an outdoor swimming pool on level one, and two heated spas, which the kids enjoyed. Quest Rotorua, while really nice, are a little noisy – they’re opposite a major tourist hotel, so buses offloading Korean and Chinese tourists rumble around til all hours of the night.

Interesting thing to note is that apartments from Rotorua south don’t offer cooling, just heating. Although New Zealand doesn’t consistently achieve sweltering weather, it’s awfully stifling to be encased in a sealed room with no fresh air, even if it needs to be simulated fresh air. If you have trouble sleeping in stuffy rooms, you might want to consider a hotel instead, or ask if air conditioning is available upon booking.

We happened to be staying at Quest at the same time as a team of scientists who were testing Rotorua’s nearby Lake Rotomahana for remnants of the famed Pink and White Terraces, the eighth wonder of the world which was destroyed by a volcanic eruption in 1886. They were using the swimming pool to test some of the underwater equipment, which was super cool to see, and it was all over the news a few days later, so we felt almost famous!

An early night as the rain came thundering down.

New Zealand with Kids - Day One, Auckland
New Zealand with Kids - Day Two, Auckland
New Zealand with Kids - Day Three, Auckland
New Zealand with Kids - Day Six, Lake Taupo, Palmerston North, Wellington
New Zealand with Kids - Day Seven, Wellington
New Zealand with Kids - Day Eight, Wellington
New Zealand with Kids - Day Nine, Inter Islander ferry, Picton, Blenheim, Christchurch
New Zealand with Kids - Day Ten, Christchurch
New Zealand with Kids - Day Eleven, Christchurch
New Zealand with Kids - Day Twelve, Queenstown
New Zealand with Kids - Day Thirteen, Queenstown
New Zealand with Kids - Day Fourteen, Queenstown, Glenorchy, Arrowtown, Wanaka


Megan Blandford said...

It all looks so beautiful. I'm with you - I would have skipped the movie set tour too.

Kirsty said...

What a sensational day!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...