A drive through endless roads with snow-covered mountains in the distance, waterfalls with clear blue water and jet-boating pitstops, Rotorua is a miniature town 3 hours away from Auckland, deserving but seldom demanding the attention of locals on weekend getaways, tourists on a geothermal-discovery expedition, and backpackers who find themselves in this charming hamlet on a whim.
Along the way one passes by little hills with herds of sheep grazing on its greens, privately-owned farms and pastures and picnic-worthy vast, unblemished lakes with wild ducks and breathtaking sunsets.
While buses and trains to Rotorua are available, a road trip is the right way to travel through New Zealand’s countryside, along its immaculate highways, collecting snippets of life through strawberry farms and the sheep that seem comically attached to the hills in strangely stationary positions. Some of my best discoveries have come about on the Auckland-Rotorua highway, with christmas shops dedicated to charming Santa figurines, trees as high as the store itself and decorations unlike any I’ve come across. In one particular village (Tiara), I found an iron building in the form of a giant puppy’s face with it’s tongue sticking out. On another, we found an ice cream truck with a bell and an ice cream man in uniform, something I had only ever seen on Cartoon Network growing up. But the best was one fine evening as we drove back to Auckland, encountering a car with a board that read “House Ahead” moving along the highway. Curiosity overtook, as did our car, and we found ourselves staring open-mouthed at a house on Â a massive truck.. moving. I had only heard stories about houses being transported from different parts of a city to another- actual houses, picked up and placed on trucks and planted in other places around the country. Who would have thought it’s possible to literally move houses? But there it was.. a moving house on a highway, as I lived and breathed,with a car behind it reading “House Ahead” and one ahead of it reading “House Follows” as if it were the most uncommon thing in the world.
Rotorua is a vacation spot that can pull out many a magic trick from its hat of hot water geysers, mud pools turned into spas and open pools created from hot thermal springs. There’s a lake in Rotorua that whips up spectacular sunsets, with flocks of ducks running about in rows along its shores as sea planes land on its waters to create a sunset for the books.
The Skyline Rotorua, a Gondola service, offers a bird’s eye view of the lake, geysers and the city in a single ride up (or down) a hill. Once there, the hill offers various safe adventure sports, including the luge ride down the hill, zoom ziplines, mountain biking and sky swings. There’s a cafe up the hill that looks over the lake, offering refreshments and souvenirs and enthusiastic visitors.
Mt. Ngongotaha is one of the top eight star gazing spots in New Zealand, to witness falling stars and constellations through its clear skies.
Rotorua is known for its strong Maori (natives of NZ) culture, with many Maori villages worth visiting for tourists keen to discover the likes and lives of the island’s original inhabitants. These include the Mitai Maori Village, Whakanewarewa village and Tamaki Maori Village.
A two-day trip is enough to enjoy the best of Rotorua, complete with its graffiti, round the year outdoor-vacation vibes and a culture trip down the historic route.
On the way back:
The one thing that comes highly recommended is a stop at the Hukka Falls that lie mid-way between Auckland and Rotorua. A fresh waterfall with gusts of ice blue water cascading down.
There is a jet boating activity located right under the falls- undoubtedly one of the best experiences this highway has to offer. Of my three road trips to Rotorua, I have stopped here to jet boat all 3 times. Adrenaline junkies, ahoy!
There’s nothing like New Zealand, except a road trip through it’s pristine landscape. It’s hard to believe that in the 21st century, this is a country that is nothing less than diving through a rabbit hole and finding oneself in Wonderland.Someone once said that visiting New Zealand has ruined his travel forever, for no other place compares to the beauty of this island country. I tend to agree, but I’m biased- for it’s my home.
Author: Nikita Butalia
Nikita Butalia is the founder/editor of Stumbling Around Delhi. A 20-something travel blogger who shows off her experiences in witty and informal blog posts based on luxury weekend getaways around Delhi, short trips around the country and solo travel experiences abroad. She dreams of checking the entire world off her bucket list, Antarctica being at the top of that list!