Day 3 (Rotorua – Whakapapa) of a 6-Day Itinerary of New Zealand’s North Island
Day 3: Our itinerary takes us to Taupo and finally at Whakapapa Village. However, after checking out of your accommodation, take a moment to visit the Redwoods – the Whakarewarewa Forest in Rotorua. These are Californian Sequoias and were introduced to Rotorua in 1901. The sequoia trees here though, grow too quickly because of the fertile soil and thus are too soft for furniture-making. While not as majestic and tall as the ones in California, the Redwoods is definitely a must-visit while in Rotorua. The fresh air and several fine walking tracks will certainly encourage the most laid-back of us to venture out here. The shortest track here, the Redwood Memorial Grove Track is just 2km, and you can easily cover it in 30 minutes or less.
Your next stop should be at Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland, just 30 minutes south of Rotorua. Call me stingy, I usually don’t like attractions that needs a paid ticket to enter. But I’ll make an exception for Waiotapu and the reason is because it is really a colourful place. Carved out of volcanic activity, there are mineral sediments and pools or various kinds. I am personally very impressed with their “champagne pool”. Deep hues of orange and green defines the very colourful champagne pool. But stick to the defined walking paths here.: it is an active geothermal area, we certainly don’t want to see you in the news! You would need at least an hour at Waiotapu. Waiotapu has a resident grand dame that puts on an interesting performance everyday: The Lady Knox geyser. A geyser more faithful than the ‘Old Faith’ in Yellowstone National Park, the Lady Knox Geyser erupts EVERYDAY at 10.15am. That’s because the park guide would instigate the geyser to fizzle and rumble with soap powder before it erupts into a huge spray. If this is your first time here, it is an interesting sideshow, but I wouldn’t lose sleep over if I had missed the show.
Your next stop, Taupo, is about 40 minutes away. Just 5 minutes before hitting Taupo town, make a brief detour to Huka Falls. Huka Fall is simply amazing! The sheer volume of water – 220,000 litres rushes through per second. That is enough to fill an Olympic-size pool in just 11 seconds!
Depending on the time of the year, Taupo can either be very quiet or very busy. In winter and early spring, it is a good gateway to the ski fields at Mt Ruapehu, especially during peak skiing season when it can be hard to get accommodation near the ski fields. For the more active, Taupo offers a number of water sports in summer. While on this itinerary, we wouldn’t be stopping here for the night, do take a break for lunch or simply walk the Lakefront. On a clear day, you can see from the shores of Lake Taupo to Mt Ruapehu. Do layer up as the Lake is almost always windy and cold.
Pressing on, drive another hour to Whakapapa Village in Tongariro National Park. Whakapapa Village is one of two springboards to the ski fields at Mt Ruapehu (Whakapapa Ski Field), the other being at Ohakune (Turoa Ski FIeld). There is an excellent visitor centre here which has very interesting and informative details about Mt Ruapehu, which last erupted in September 2007. The ski fields at Mt Ruapehu is accessible all year, except in bad weather. Otherwise, it offers a chairlift ride for skiers and day-trippers that takes you to the highest cafe in New Zealand: the Knoll Ridge Cafe. The ride promises breath-taking views of the surrounding plains and of Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Tongariro. Because you would probably be arriving late at Whakapapa Village, you might want to try the chairlift ride the next morning.
There are a number of accommodation available at Whakapapa Village. If your budget allows for it, try staying at the iconic Chateau, built in the late 1920s. Or, if you prefer accommodations easier on the pockets, check out Skotel, which is just a stone’s throw away from the Chateau. Other accommodation are available outside of Whakapapa Village, 15 minutes away at National Park.