Yesterday we left the Hot Water Beach Holiday Park early to set out for the Rotorua area. The town of Rotorua and its environs sit on top of a volcanic zone that angles roughly along a northeast to southwest axis across the North Island. All across this zone there are hot springs, geysers, and bubbling mud pots. Rotorua developed as a spa town in the late 1800s and has remained a tourist attraction to this day. It’s no Niagara Falls, but it definitely attracts a lot of visitors like us, who enjoy a long, hot soak.
Due to the continuing threat of rain, we are staying in a cabin at the Rotorua Thermal Holiday Park. They have great communal kitchen facilities and, of course, free hot pools for soaking. After the drive, Alan needed a short nap, but I hit the pool right away. So nice!
When Alan got up, we drove into Rotorua proper to take a walk around the Government Park. On the shores of Lake Rotorua, there is a walking path that takes you right by mud pots, springs and fumaroles (vents where steam escapes). All of these natural features in a lovely, well-manicured Victorian era park. After exploring the park, we headed back to camp for another soak before dinner and bed.
Photos from Government Park in Rotorrua:
Today we did more soaking in the morning before heading out for a drive to see some sights. First we explored a town park called Kuirau, full of more mud pots and fumeroles. Then we drove south of Rotorua to see some small lakes, Blue and Green Lakes. Lovely mountain lakes that live up to their names. There is public access to Blue Lake and you can hike around it, if you were so inclined (we weren’t). Green Lake is privately owned and considered sacred by the Maori, so no visiting there, just catching a glimpse of it from high above. We continued south, beyond Green and Blue Lakes to Lake Tarawera, another gorgeous jewel of a lake, surrounded by volcanic hills and green forests.
For the afternoon, we set out to drive around Lake Rotorua, with a stop at a little park called Hamurana Springs. We had a snack in the parking lot before setting out on a walk to the springs. As we walked across a bridge to the other side of the creek, a bunch of ducks and geese noticed us and seemed interested. Alan ran back to the car to grab a few slices of bread and quickly became the object of their affection.
With the ducks and geese fed, we set out through a beautiful grove of California Redwoods! In New Zealand. In 1919, someone planted this large grove and its been flourishing ever since. It was kind of nice to see North American trees again. Once out of the redwood grove, we hiked through more traditional New Zealand bush to the Hangarua Spring. Neither Alan nor I had ever seen anything like this. Ridiculously clear spring water gushes up from a deep hole in the ground. The stream we had been following literally starts here—quite amazing to see. A few hundred meters up the path was another spring head, this one called Dancing Sands Spring. At first I just thought that’s a cute name, but then quickly realized the sand in the spring was, in fact, dancing around. Little fountains of water coming up through the sand made little dancing dervishes of sand! Dancing Sands and Hangurua combined to make the big creek that we had been hiking along.
Photos from the Hamurana Springs:
Tired from all our sight-seeing, we headed back to camp for an early dinner. Then we went to the movies in Rotorua to see The Hobbit 3. Nothing like watching a movie set in Middle Earth while you are visiting Middle Earth!