Summer holiday in Rotorua & Taupo

The last week of January, before the start of a new school year, we drove up from Wellington to the central region of the North Island for a week’s holiday. We’ve holidayed in this area many times over the years and never tire of the endless outdoor activities on offer in the most beautiful natural landscapes. On this occasion we enjoyed zip lining through native forest, kayaking down the crystal blue waters of the Waikato River, where it runs through Taupo, walking through geothermal landscapes and natural springs, cycling alongside Lake Rotorua and Lake Taupo, bathing in hot pools, games of mini-golf, and watching the most beautiful sunsets.

Sunset over Lake Taupo

We stayed in Rotorua for the first three nights and were impressed with the landscaping work that has taken place along the lake shore since our last visit to the area (in February 2020, when I ran the Tarawera Ultra Marathon). Wooden jetty’s lead out and over the edge of the lake shore, leading the eyes on a journey across the water, whilst wide pavements provide ample space for walkers and cyclists. Majestic sculptures tower over the pathways; a series of pou tumu and a seat for contemplation and reflection, installed in 2022. The pou tumu have been designed to reflect both past, present and future, and this was also factored in with the material used for each series (you can read more on the Rotorua Lakes Council website).

The sculptures are a beautiful addition to the lake front, and one day we cycled on toward the sulphur flats and the redwood forest, where more sculptures can be found on the Rotorua Sculpture Trail.

A highlight of our last visit to Rotorua was zip lining through beautiful native forest and our daughters were keen to revisit this experience, but do the other experience of the two. So we set off to Rotorua Canopy Tours for a few hours of fun in the forest!

It was an exhilarating morning, but after a few hours in soggy conditions we were feeling a chill, so headed to ‘The Secret Spot Hot Tubs‘ for a divine soak.

Whilst we were up in Rotorua our daughter Sophie had a friend staying with family at Ohope Beach, an hour and a half’s drive away in the eastern Bay of Plenty. She organised to spend the night camping on the lawn of the family bach (a term for a New Zealand holiday home) with her friend. She was picked up by her friend and his Dad from where we were staying in Rotorua. Whilst she headed off to the beach and surf, we took our youngest daughter for a walk to see New Zealand’s largest natural springs, Hamurana Springs.

Hamurana Springs is a taonga (treasure) to the people of Ngati Rangiwewehi, whose association with this land goes back to the mid 1300’s. We marvelled at the incredible clarity of the turquoise water winding its way up from the belly of the earth and cutting through emerald green native forest.

After marvelling at one natural wonder we paused to admire another, pulling in on our drive back to our accommodation to amble through Kuirau Park, New Zealand’s only free geothermal public park. We marvelled at the bubbling and steaming geothermal action as we walked tentatively over scorched boardwalks.

The next day we drove to Ohope to pick up Sophie, enjoying the scenic drive which skirted around lakes and richly green native forest, before reaching the sweeping bay for a beautiful swim in the warm sea and strolling along the vast beach.

After a few days in Rotorua we headed to Taupo for the reminder of our week’s holiday. We stayed at an apartment on the lake front, with stunning views over the lake and in a perfect position to admire the majestic sunsets.

A highlight of our time in Taupo was kayaking on the Waikato River and swimming in beautiful mineral water, where natural hot springs bubble up into the cool river water. It’s quite something to plunge into crystal clear and cool river water and then find yourself swimming into a hot spot. We floated down stream, through a pumice gorge and past a bungy platform, marvelling at the colour of the water.

We had walked alongside the same route that our kayak trip followed the day before, only we walked on past the point where our trip ended – since the kayaks needed to pull out safely before Huka Falls. The wide channelled river gets forced into a narrow gorge, causing the water to powerfully erupt out at Huka Falls. I have stopped to watch this breathtaking sight numerous times. It never fails to leave me awe struck at the magnitude of power in that water, cascading through the narrow channel and being released into the wide breadth of the Waikato River on the other side.

It was lovely to be staying on the shore of the lake, not far from Two Mile Bay, and make the most of the path that runs alongside the eastern shore of the lake, south from the Taupo township, to Five Mile Bay. One evening hubby and I cycled along the pathway, through lakeside reserves, past idyllic picnic spots and swimming locations, admiring the vastness of the lake and the volcanic plateau on the distant horizon.

We also enjoyed eating on the lakeside, at Two Mile Bay, a short walk from where we stayed.

The rest of the holiday was interspersed with dips in the lake, the pool, games of mini-golf and doing an ‘escape room’. Love this area of New Zealand for having such an array of activities with the most incredible natural scenery. We will be back again!