Holiday: Rotorua in Detail

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 🙂

Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland

Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland

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” 😉

They forgot to take a photo of it for me when they went, so he drew me a picture instead lol What do you think of my brother inlaw's sketch of the dish? :)

They forgot to take a photo of it for me when they went, so he drew me a picture instead lol What do you think of my brother inlaw’s sketch of the dish (insert)? 🙂

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.

The Rotorua Museum

The beautiful building – Rotorua Museum

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

The Hobbiton

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!

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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).

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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.

Activities Summary:

  • 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.

Restaurant Suggestion:

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!

Accommodation:

Arista of Rotorua

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.

What we found in one of the souvenir shops - wut wut?

What we found in one of the souvenir shops – wut wut?

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.

Holiday: Auckland in Detail

Activities/Things we did

Auckland CDB

On our first full day in Auckland, we started the day very early for Canberra time as Little E adjusted to the time difference almost immediately. We had a leisurely breakfast then made our way to the French market around the corner. We didn’t buy anything though there were many things that looked delicious, especially the cronut!

Cronutttttssss!

Cronutttttssss!

We walked towards the ferry terminal to do a day trip to Davenport. A sea side town across the harbour, lined with shops, cafés and restaurants. Little E absolutely loved the ferry trip, he laughed the entire trip, pointing at the seagulls, clapping. Despite the fact that it was windy and cold, he didn’t stop smiling.

Ferry Ride

Once we got there, we made our way to the lookout point of North Head. It was such a hike! Pushing a sleeping baby up a steep hill is definitely a great work out. We got a nice view of Davenport, the water and Auckland. After a quick look around and loads of photos, we descended down the hill towards the playground.

Things to do in Devonport

Things to do in Devonport

As it was a Sunday, there were plenty of families with young children. I believe the local council organised a treasure hunt for the older kids. Such fun! While Little E played, we enjoyed some much deserved coffee and hot chocolate. Once Little E had enough of playing (and getting slightly pushed over by some unruly older children) we had a quick look at a craft market that happened to be on. We didn’t get much from there, just a couple of jars of feijoa jam – a fruit that tastes almost like guava.

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We caught the ferry back to Auckland, which Little E equally enjoyed. We had lunch at what-was-advertised-as the “Largest Asian Food Alley” in the Southern Hemisphere. There were 13 food joints, but we just couldn’t go past the Indonesian food joint 🙂 Little E had an extraordinary amount of food for lunch! My little Indo boy 😉

Little E's favourite Indo dish

Little E’s favourite Indo dish

We then spent the rest of the day poking around all the shops in Auckland CBD as Little E needed to nap – a great time to shop indeed! On that note, if you ever need (free) hot drinks or cold water and a clean place to change the baby, Galleria Duty Free is the place to be 😉 😉 😉

What we found in Galleria - wut wut?

What we found in Galleria – wut wut?

We went back to our accommodation in time for Little E’s dinner. We didn’t want to overtire him on his first day of holiday, in fear of him being cranky for the rest of the trip!

Activities summary:

La Cigale French Market
A ferry ride to Davenport – a walk to North Head for beautiful view of Auckland, an amazing playground, little seaside shops and a craft market
Lunch at the “Largest Asian Food Alley”
A walk through Auckland CBD

I reckon we could’ve spent an extra day in Auckland, as there were two places we wanted to go to for Little E. The aquarium and the water park at the Rose Gardens. Maybe the next time 🙂

Accommodation
We had a hard time finding accommodations that ticked all our boxes for this trip. It is our first overseas trip with a baby and we really couldn’t afford to mess up with sleeping arrangements – if he doesn’t sleep, we don’t either. Not good when you have full days of activities 🙂

The days that we were in Auckland also coincided with the Pacific Princess cruise ship. Most reasonable-priced rooms (that could fit a portacot comfortably) were booked out and we really don’t want to stay too far away from the CBD. We then found this guy from AirBnB. It was perfect for us, the place was easy to find, the room was massive (we could fit the portacot in and still have plenty of room to be comfortable), and the hosts friendly. Since the place isn’t specifically decorated for kids, we did have to be extra watchful of Little E though. There were knickknacks within arm’s reach, and cactuses all around the garden. However, of course, it is someone’s house, so we had to be respectful anyway 🙂 All in all, being our first experience with AirBnB, it was a good one and I reckon we’re going to do it again for our future travels.

We enjoyed our short time in Auckland, it felt like we were still in Australia, with some shops getting a name change (Countdown instead of Woolworths, etc). If I can compare it with another city, I would say it is like Sydney. Though I could not say that it’s a must-visit city, given the chance, I would go there again 🙂

I hope you enjoy this first series of my NZ travel posts, and hopefully it gives you the inspiration to go 🙂 In case you missed it, read here for reasons why I think NZ is a great child-friendly country to visit.

For more of my other NZ posts, please click here 🙂

Kid’s City, Mitchell, ACT

I have heard a lot of great things about Kid’s City here in Canberra. For those who don’t know, it is basically a giant indoor playground. There are a couple of such places around, but this one is apparently the biggest.

There are heaps of things to do in Kid’s City, both for toddlers and bigger kids. For the under 2s, there’s some walkers, a plastic tunnel, a ball pit and some climbing tubes. For the bigger kids, there are giant slides that I really wanted to go on (but didn’t as the place was packed). As well as the more advanced climbing tubes. There are cubby houses too for kids of all ages to enjoy.

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We finally went to check out the place last weekend and Little E had the fun of his life yet! We were lucky to be allowed in for free (it is normally $9.50pp), though I would have been happy to pay 🙂 We were there for around 1.5 hours and the whole entire time, Little E was zombie-walking and crawling everywhere, being the busybody that he is. He loved the big ball pit the most, with the cubby house coming second.

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While we were there, there were three separate groups having a birthday party. I noticed that the adults of the parties were able to socialise, while their kids run around by themselves having fun. I think it is such a great idea and would probably do it for future birthdays.

There’s a small café offering drinks, ice cream and other small snacks. Comfy sofas were also available for parents to perch themselves on. We didn’t get to try out any, as we were too busy keeping an eye on Little E. However, I will certainly try something next time I go 🙂

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Other than the fact that Little E loved the place, I fully appreciate how clean it is! The whole area was spotless, and the toilets (at least the female ones) are clean and not smelly at all. The ride-on car Little E played in was a little sticky, however, I found everything else clean. I will most certainly take my precious back there again 🙂

Child-friendly Eatery: Sprout Café, National Arboretum Canberra

Sprout Cafe, National Arboretum Canberra
Tuggeranong Parkway
Weston Creek

The first time I went to the Arboretum was with the inlaws, where Little E had loads of fun playing in the playground. We didn’t get to have anything to eat there, so I was keen to go back. What got me intrigued was the fact that the place is large and open, allowing children to roam freely.

Almost surrounded with floor-to-ceiling glass windows, the Arboretum is light and airy. By these windows, there are plastic stools and benches that you can move around to suit your needs. When we were there, someone had made an enclosure for their children to play in – ingenious! 😉

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It wasn’t difficult to choose what to have for lunch. Show me “pork belly” on any menu and I almost always order it. I didn’t expect the pork to come as slices, though, and I don’t know what made the pork a “satay”. They were cooked slices of pork belly, but I can’t say if they were grilled either. Regardless, I enjoyed my salad. The cabbage was slightly more bitter than how I normally like them, but it was still nice.

Mr E ordered the beef burger, just so that Little E could have some. You know you’re a good parent, when.. 😉 and he certainly had some, half, in fact! Lucky that Mr E wasn’t too hungry, as he definitely didn’t get a full lunch. Little E approved of the beef patty, and when I gave him some of my strawberry milkshake, he cried when I took it off him.

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After lunch, we eagerly set off for the playground. Of all, my little one loved the hut with the drums. Maybe he’ll live up to my dreams and grow up to be a drummer? He also loved the swing, however, as the playground was chockablock full, he couldn’t stay long in it.

I absolutely love the playground there. It is so nicely set up, I can’t wait for Little E to be slightly bigger and appreciate the rest of the play areas. Then, I can use him as an excuse to trek up the climbing tubes 😉 Yes, I am going to be one of those mums!

Once we were hot and tire of the drums, we went to look at the Bonsai exhibition. They’re so pretty! I don’t have the patience to grow one myself, so I truly appreciate the effort that go with each one.

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If you’re looking at a place to eat, where children can be children, please do try the Arboretum. Make sure you bring a hat and a drink, as there isn’t much shade in the playground. There is a restaurant right next to the café, which I thought was weird. It could have been better separated, as it’s very obvious that the food come from the same kitchen 😉 I can’t vouch for their food, but we enjoyed ours from the café.