We made an ultra early start towards Rotorua as we wanted to catch the Lady Knox geyser being manually erupted. The drive is around 3.5hrs from Auckland to the Thermal Wonderland (it’s about 30mins south of Rotorua CBD) and we made it just in the knick of time. We all liked seeing the geyser erupting, it was pretty fun to see while it lasted (it didn’t erupt for very long). Little E was mesmerised by all the commotion and the clapping 🙂 After seeing the geyser, we went to the wonderland itself and it was amazing! I have not seen anything like it, the colours and the bubbling sound.. oh and of course, the smell? It’s spectacular! Little E didn’t really like it all that much, I guess it was pretty boring for him, being stuck in his pram the whole time. He did enjoy walking around the shops afterwards though 🙂
We made our way to the Rotorua CBD for lunch and went straight to Hennessy’s Irish Bar. It was highly recommended by my brother and sister inlaw from when they went. I was told that the mussels were really good so that was what I had. Little E had a great time making himself comfortable at the pub, charming the pub lady while he was at it. She liked him so much that she gave him four marshmallows! There goes my rule of “no sweets until he’s 15” 😉
After lunch and a quick look around at the shops, we went to the supermarket to get some supplies. We had booked a room with a full kitchen, in an attempt to not eat out too much and maintain some sort of healthy eating for Little E. I absolutely loved our accommodation, especially the huge outdoor spa (more on this below). After checking in, we made our way to Rotorua museum, a beautiful building full of equally beautiful exhibit. It is full of Maori cultural information/stories and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Though he would enjoy museums later when he’s a little older, Little E had great fun running around the place, making friends with some of the other patrons there.
That night, we made great use of the playground, the spa and the free videos on offer.
The next day, we got up bright and early for the Hobbiton tour. This was the first thing that we booked and paid for after we bought our tickets to NZ 🙂 I enjoyed the tour immensely, even when Little E had his worst ever tantrum in his life so far! We did make him pose a lot, as he is at the perfect height for a hobbit 🙂 I’m also sure that there are a lot of people who has photos of him dressed up as a hobbit at the Green Dragon Inn. We got there as a big tour group of oldies were enjoying their complementary beer, and they were so delighted watching Little E toddling around in his outfit, pretty much all of them whipped out their cameras and started clicking lol
I won’t say too much of the tour as it is something that you gotta experience yourself, but I can now appreciate the sheer amount of work that goes into filming such big-budget movie. Oh, and that Peter Jackson sounded like a really pedantic dude who has a high attention to detail. I really think that it is worth going to the Hobbiton, and given the opportunity, I would go there again and again 🙂 One of my favourite stories told to us that day was of a 2.2m tall German guy who came dressing up as a hobbit. When asked why he didn’t dress up as Gandalf, he answered “I wish to be a hobbit”. Fair enough! This same guy apparently refused to leave the Hobbiton, telling the staff there that he was home and they can’t possibly kick him out. When the staff finally coaxed him out, he told them that he was going to help Frodo look for “the ring” lol I love crazy people!
We were dropped off at our motel after the tour, and after a quick and easy lunch at the motel, we went to the big playground by the water. It was another awesome NZ playground, full of squealing kids 🙂 Little E particularly loved all the seagulls around, and had great fun chasing them around. We contemplated going to see another attraction in town, but we enjoyed seeing Little E played there that we decided to stay. After he had enough fun terrorising the poor seagulls, we had another look around at the shops before dinner at Brew (more details below).
Dinner was soon followed by ice cream for dessert then another run around at the park before another bath in the outdoor spa back in the motel.
- Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland – Lady Knox Geyser is manually erupted at 10.15am everyday.
- The Hobbiton Tour – goes for 4.5 hours with free bus pick-ups/drop-offs
- The Playground near the Novotel Hotel
- Shopping for souvenirs in Rotorua CBD
- Rotorua Museum
Tips and hints:
- If you got to the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland right at 10.15am, don’t worry about going to the main entrance to get a ticket. Go straight to the geyser first then get a ticket later. That’s what we did and we made it.
- If you’re looking for souvenirs, do look around first, as Rotorua is chockablock with souvenir shops all selling almost the same thing but at different prices.
All three of us enjoyed our meals at Brew, a craft brewery place in “Eat Street”. The restaurant is child-friendly, the waiter was super patient and friendly with Little E, the food was good and if you or your travelling buddy loves beer, I heard the beers weren’t bad either 🙂 Right across from it is Lady Jane’s ice creamery where you can have your choice of ice cream from the 25 or so flavours there.
We also liked the Hennessy’s Irish Bar for simple hearty pub meals and fresh cold ones. As mentioned above, the pub lady was very friendly and super duper nice to Little E. So despite it being a pub catering for adults, it was still child-friendly. Little E was able to share our meals (the serving size was huge) and we got to enjoy our lunch!
It was difficult to choose an accommodation in Rotorua as there were a lot! We went to Tripadvisor for help but was innundated with too many people’s differing opinions. In the end, Mr E found Arista of Rotorua through a random forum and we booked it. I loved the room we had, it was in a loft-style room, with the beds upstairs. It came with an outdoor spa, which came really handy for Little E. The motel also had a big playground, though it was a little dilapidated and needed cleaning. The room itself was clean and recently refurbished. The housekeeping ladies were very friendly and accommodating with our requests. It is a little far from the Rotorua CBD, though it wasn’t a problem for us, because we had a car. Depending on where you’re going next and when, I would suggest you don’t do any laundry at the motel as it was expensive! NZD4 for the washing machine and another NZD4 for the dryer.
I have to say that Rotorua was one of my favourite spots we went to in NZ. I expected the smell to be a lot more pungent than it was, in fact, after only a couple of hours, my nose got used to it that I couldn’t smell it anymore. I would call Rotorua as a must-visit city, only because you need to go to the Hobbiton and also experience the sulphuric experiences 🙂 For my other posts on our New Zealand trip, please click here.