October 29 - October 30, 2016
Of all the places we visited, Rotorua was probably the only one that felt noticeably "touristy." We drove into town late in the morning and checked into our B&B right away. It was located right off the main road, but still had a warm and ecclectic vibe. Our host, who reminded me of Professor Sprout from the Harry Potter movies, was an energetic woman named Sandi, probably in her late 50's or early 60's. She had a really strong accent that almost made her seem like a cartoon, and made us one of the best breakfasts of the trip.
Sandi recommended a few activities for us for Rotorua, and we wandered around a little on our own as well. Near the B&B was a sort of resort, extremely touristy, that offered chairlift rides to the top of a nearby hill/mountain, as well as luge carting, mountain biking, etc. Katie and I rode the chairlift up to the top mostly just to get a good view of the area. Here we did a quick wine tasting and talked to some employees about what activities they recommended.
One recommendation that we followed through on was the "Polynesian Spa" experience, a (touristy) place near the outside of the city that rented out private hot pools (hot tubs). The main draw here is the natural and mineral rich spring water that feeds the pools. While the water did smell like sulfur and we basically had to throw away our bathing suits afterwards as a result, the experience was really relaxing and we both left contented, feeling like we had just chugged half a bottle of NyQuil each.
The following morning we went on a zipline canopy tour. This was (obviously) a pretty touristy activity as well, but our guides were all really energetic, friendly, and knowledgeable. We learned a lot about New Zealand wildlife throughout the tour and saw a lot of really cool native birds. Even the sounds the birds made were strange, and at several points in the tour we had opportunities to hold out food for the birds to take. Since tours through here are pretty regular, the birds are used to (and even expect) the handouts. Regardless, it was very cool. The tour consisted of a few short hikes through the woods, and six different lines to zipline across. Some of these ziplines sent us out to points where the forest floor was over a hundred feet below. As our guide said several hundred times, "Choice."
We left Rotorua after our ziplining experience was over, and made our way to Napier.
On the way to Napier, we passed a geothermal area that was open for self-guided walking tours. There was enough to see here that we were able to spend a couple hours walking around. Since I'm not a geologist I'm not going to try and explain anything in the photos, but you can see pretty quickly how bright and colorful some of these things were. One thing you can't tell from the pictures, however, is how strong the sulfur smell was.