Leaving the South Island of New Zealand was bittersweet for me. The mountains of the South Island stole my heart and soul but I couldn’t shake the anticipation of visiting Hobbiton. It was my one consolation as Steve and I boarded the little plane to Rotorua.
The flight over was beautiful! The smell, however? I was prepared for a sulfur smell, I just did not anticipate it reaching the plane. haha! You get used to it rather quickly, so it’s really not all that bad. 🙂
Rotorua was interesting for me, I’ve never been anywhere with sulfur springs so it was an experience that I was thankful to have.
Steve reserved a room at Hotel Ibis, one of the nicer places we stayed while in New Zealand. I loved the layout of our room, it was definitely designed with small spaces in mind.
It might not look it but it felt super spacious.
The amenities were also nice, however, if you want WiFi you will have to sign up for a hotel membership at the front desk. Otherwise, you’re only granted 30 mins of WiFi for your entire stay and you have to be in the lobby to access it. We wanted to call our children every day so the membership was our only option. It’s free, so it was not a big deal for us to sign up, just a bit of an annoyance.
The lobby itself was large and doubled as a restaurant where you could order pizza or a hamburger. They were both excellent and one was big enough to feed us both! Allow me to recommend the Aloha pizza!
Just a block from the hotel was an open mall called Eat Streat (sic). I do not recommend visiting unless you plan to eat there; the smells that greet you are enough to rival the Sirens. haha The only problem is trying to decide which restaurant to choose; there are so many delicious options!
Every restaurant we passed offered outdoor seating which would have been nice but it was chilly when we went. We decided on the Solace Cafe & Restaurant. It was the right choice; the food was sooo good!
We were full after our meal but then we passed Lady Jane’s Ice Cream Parlour and HAD to stop! Probably the best ice cream I’ve ever had! The fact they were only a block away from where we were staying was not good on our wallet. haha!
Boysenberry is by far my favorite flavor of ice cream in New Zealand. Steve ordered the Raspberry Lemonade Fizz; I thought it tasted like a lemon sucker. 🙂
There is so much to do in Rotorua or nearby. Steve and I ventured out the first day to explore the town and came across the Kuirau Park which has wooden walkways taking you through a geothermal wonderland.
The steaming pools and bubbling mud were a welcome sight on our chilly walk. It was like venturing into an open sauna! It was pretty neat for me as I’ve never experienced anything like it.
If you are ever in Rotorua, let me just say, you MUST plan some time to visit the Polynesian Spa. Due to time, I can’t give all the reasons why but you can read them for yourself in my review of the Spa.
Te Puia Maori Village
This was a fast little tour we took as our day was jam-packed; it was a lot of fun! Our tour guide was hysterical and a Maori native who grew up on the land and had intimate knowledge of the Village.
The geyser was incredible to witness but my favorite was the hot rocks that warmed you up when you sat on them. They were just a little too hot for me but my chilled bones welcomed them nonetheless!
Rainbow Springs Nature Park
This little park was so neat! It was more like a mini zoo with fish, birds, and lizards but it was beautiful, and there was a natural spring from which you could fill your water bottles.
But my favorite part was getting to see our first Kiwi birds! We were not allowed to film or take pictures of them but it was definitely something I won’t ever forget. They were larger than I expected and so intriguing to watch as they stuck their beaks in the soil, smelling for bugs.
This was my husband’s choice; he wanted to watch the sheep trials and the sheep shearing. But I’m glad we went, it was a great performance and I was chosen to help feed baby lambs!
If you are interested in these tours, we made a video of some highlights:
This was the one place I wanted to visit from the beginning. Matamata is actually the name of the village it’s in but the tour bus takes you to their office where you load the bus that takes you to the set. Our driver actually worked on the set when they filmed The Hobbit, and our guide was a hobbit in the movie, so that was cool!
Here’s a video of our trip there:
My main piece of advice would be to take fast pictures because I got left a lot and missed some of the tour guides information. Also, if you took a bus in from town, you will most likely only get a couple of minutes at the gift shop. It’s not a huge shop, but we definitely felt rushed and we had a list of gifts we wanted to get for people.
Waitomo Glow Worm Caves
This tour was actually taken on our way to the Bay of Islands but you can do a day tour while staying in Rotorua. The Glow Worms and the caves were a once-in-a-lifetime experience but if you blink, you’ll miss it. lol Seriously though, I expected the time with the worms to be much longer but it was still incredible to see with my own eyes. Otherworldly is the best I can describe it.
This picture was taken as we got off the boat. It was as close as you could get to photographing the glow worms. The staff is quite vigilant about no technology once in the caves.
Our time in Rotorua felt short only because we packed so much in the time we had. I loved everything we did and was thankful for the opportunities we had to do the things we did. I hope this gave you an idea of the options available to you if you visit. If you have any questions about anything we did, I’d be happy to fill you in. 🙂
What are some of the things we did that you found interesting? Tell me in the comments what you would add to your bucket list.