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open mind, empty stomach

travel, food, and fun

Due to its geothermic activity Rotorua has been permanently affixed on the tourist map. Located just about midway between the Bay of Islands and Levin, a brief stay in Rotorua worked out wonderfully for me logistically. I spent two nights and one full day in the sulfury splendor that is Rotorua and had a great time.

I was originally supposed to Help at a place called Lyons Lakestay, but when I emailed to confirm my arrival time, the host let me know that the dates she agreed to no longer were good for her, forcing me to find alternative accommodation at the last minute. Fortunately, I ended up Couchsurfing with an incredible host named Kylie. She teaches high school and I arrived at the very end of her winter break, so she was able to hook me up with some greatly appreciated rides and spend a little time with me.

I arrived in Rotorua at 5pm and by 7pm Kylie had taken me to a place called Two Streams, where a geothermal stream and a cold stream intersect, to go for a swim. The atmosphere was amazing. Fellow swimmers had surrounded the water with candles and brought music. It was a clear night and you could see the stars above as you were soaking in the water. This was the perfect welcome to Rotorua.

The next day was my only full day in town before continuing south. On the recommendation of my host, I went to Wai o Tapu Geothermal Wonderland. Everything in Rotorua is pay for play and, at $32.50 NZD Wai o Tapu was a great park at a (relatively) great price. I arrived in time to see the geyser go off at 10:15 am, then spent the next few hours walking around the park checking out brilliantly covered geothermal pools, deep craters, and other natural wonders. It was incredible and definitely worth it. Two Streams is literally around the corner from the park’s entrance.

After the park, Kylie dropped me off in town where I ended up having the roast pork special at Relish for a late lunch. It was phenomenal. The serving size was huge, everything was cooked to perfection, and it was topped with a generous amount of crackling. It ranks next to the lamb I had on my first night in Auckland as the best thing I’ve had to eat this trip. After lunch, I waddled around town very content, eventually making my way to St. Faith’s Anglican Church.

I wasn’t aware that the town of Rotorua itself was built on an active geothermal area. There was no steam or pools in downtown, but they were abundant in the area surrounding the church. It was like something out of a horror movie with cracks in the sidewalk filled with boiling liquid and holes in the ground seeping steam. To add to the spookiness, the church is also an old graveyard. I had a fun – though slightly creepy – stroll around the grounds before heading back to Kylie’s house. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize it was Friday the 13th until I had left the church area.

Although brief, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Rotorua. While there isn’t a lot to do (especially for free), Rotorua is definitely worth a stop if you’re traveling through the North Island.

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