Day 2 (Auckland – Rotorua) of a 6-Day Itinerary of New Zealand’s North Island
Day 2: 8am. Have an early start today. Drive south to Rotorua. Depending on the route you are taking, you can choose the one that takes you via Matamata first (about 2 hours from Auckland City). To take the more scenic route, drive south along State Highway 1, take exit 477 to State Highway 2 and continue straight to State Highway 27 at Mangatarata. Along the way, you will pass by some of the most verdant farmlands in the Waikato region. If you’re an LOTR (Lord of the Rings) fan, then Matamata is a must-stop. The movie set for Hobbiton is located here. If fact, Matamata is so proud of this association, you will see a fair number of signs for Hobbiton here. You will need about 2.5hrs for the Hobbiton tour.
Perhaps it’s time for lunch now. Head towards Tirau, about 15 minutes away. Tirau is an interesting little town, but often times, no more than just a pitstop to refuel your car and your soul. They have a number of cafes here, but I would recommend the Cabbage Tree Cafe, just alongside the main thoroughfare, it’s got great coffee here. They serve lunch too. If you’re on a budget, check out the many other cafes that line both sides of the main street. Pies, fish and chips, sandwiches, take your pick.
Opposite the Cabbage Tree Cafe, is the Clock Peddler. It’s really a very interesting shop. It’s got clocks of all sorts, and you are not short for time, then it’s a great place to unwind (sorry, I really can’t help myself!).
After this brief detour, it’s time to go on to the next detour before you stop at Rotorua for the night: Te Waihou Walkway. For the first time visitor, it can be a little hard to find. But it is just about 15 minutes south of Tirau. Because it may not be clearly sign posted, please use your GPS. After leaving your car at carpark at the head of the Te Waihou Walkway, walk through private farmland for about 15 minutes. You will be surprised by the cleanness and clarity of the river. In times past, you can even collect the water cress growing by the banks of the river. But these days, it is unlikely you can find much, for others would have beaten you to it. Walk along towards the end of the path until you see the source of the blue spring. The water here is so pure, MOST spring water bottlers in New Zealand get their water here. You can even have your packed lunch here, taking in the views and the cool air at the same time. (No rubbish bins here, so please take your thrash along with you).
Driving on about 45 minutes, you will arrive at your destination: Rotorua. You will be welcome by ubiquitous smell of flatulence, you know, farts. But don’t raise a stink yet, your partner’s not the culprit, it’s just hygrogen sulphide emissions from underground. Rotorua is geothermally active is really famous for its hot springs and geysers, hence the sulphur. In truth, the smell is not all that bad. My wife and I have been here so many times, we don’t even smell it anymore.
Voted as the one of the most beautiful cities in New Zealand, Rotorua is home to the famous Polynesian Spa. They have expanded massively over the years and have a mix of both family and adults pools, as well a private pools with time limits on them. But, do not be fooled into thinking that their Adult-Pools are all peace and quiet from the photos posted at their website. Polynesian Spa is incredibly popular with Korean and Chinese tourists and they come in the busloads. If you really want to enjoy some space to yourself, go for their private or deluxe pools. But if you are constrained by budget, then go to the adult pools during dinner time, when it is most quiet.
Getting accommodation for the night at Rotorua is not difficult. There are plenty of motels lining both sides of Fenton Street, just 5 minutes south of the city centre. If you arrive on a Thursday, Rotorua has a fine night market that opens from 5pm to 9pm. As far as food goes, I personally think that it has a pretty good selection. Spanish, Chinese, Western, Indian…you have plenty of choices. While not quite restaurant standard, this is street food after all, but I would say they are very good value.