We drove from Auckland to Rotorua. Rotorua is a hot springs city (geothermal activity, geysers, and hot mud pools). It stinks but you get used to the smell. Every single accommodation you stay in has a hot tub included. No hotel – just a bunch of nice motels. It’s a great, cool, and nice town.
What to Do
Book your Waitomo Glowworm Cave tour in advance ($50/adult) and make sure you note the time you’re booked on – arrive early. These caves have glowworms that illuminate in the dark. On the tour, you get to see fossilized rocks have been layered upon each other and compressed to create limestone, stalactites, stalagmites, and other cave formations that grew from water dripping from the ceiling or flowing over the walls and leaving behind limestone deposits, and, while on the boat ride portion of the tour, tons of starry light glowworms! Sorry, no photos because you can’t take any photos. Full-blown tourist trap that worth getting caught in. ~2hr drive from Rotoroa.
A hobbit hole!
Book your Hobbiton tour in advance and read directions on your location choices (e.g. where to get picked up or how to drive there). We chose to get picked up at the remote Rotorua location. After long bus ride, you make it to Hobbiton and the Shire is stunning, gorgeous, and everything I imagined. The only thing was that the tour felt really rushed. You’re on a very clear, timed strict tour path so you have to take pictures really quick and snap all the shots you can. At the end of the tour, you get a drink of your choice – the ginger beer was most excellent (in my opinion). No hobbits and just a bunch of houses.
3. Black Abyss
One of the most unique experiences I’ve ever had on vacation – you put in a wet suit and then are cave jumping and rappelling (spelunking!), ziplining, swimming, inner tubing, crawling through tiny crevasses (you can fit, trust me, our guide was huge and he crawled through with ease), seeing all the glowworm caves up close, and climbing waterfalls. It’s an intense, 5-hr worthwhile journey with fun, excitement, and obstacles. The water was COLD. I was COLD and in the photos, you can tell I’m not having the greatest time (I abhor being cold) but the unbelievable experience was incredible. I super highly recommend it. Book it in advance. ~2hr drive from Rotoroa.
DEPARTURE TIMES | All year 9.00am, 11pm, 2.00pm plus additional tours in summer (to be confirmed at booking).
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW | Allow 5 hours. Beginner level. You may be 16 years and 45kg+. Need swimwear and towel. Water temperature 10-14°C / 50-57°F. Wetsuits and footwear provided. 8 people per tour maximum.
ACTIVITY INVOLVES | Abseiling training, Abseiling 35 metres, Caving and walking, Cave tubing (black water rafting), Glow worms, Jumps, Flying Fox, and Climbing Waterfalls
BOOKING CONDITIONS | Subject to availability and weather conditions. Minimum of 2 people per trip.
It’s really for family and older generations – we were probably the only group of 20-year olds in the group but it was well worth it. It’s a cultural learning experience plus dinner where the performers take you on a journey back to a time of proud warriors and ancient traditions on an authentic Maori village nestled in a Rotorua forest. Amidst crackling village fires, you get to discover Maori art forms, take part in ancient rituals, learn fascinating Maori traditions, and listen to impressive song and dance before enjoying a traditional feast, cooked beneath the ground on hot stones.
What to Eat
1. Fat Dog Café
Fish and chips and fish burger
Steak sandwich and breakfast
Where to Stay
We stayed at the Silver Fern Accommodation & Spa and it was wonderful. It was a nice place to stay with a giant hot tub and a nice kitchen, couch, tv, and small patio. 326 Fenton Street Rotorua 3010 NZ. Check-in at 2pm.
JoYo Guide to Rotorua is part of the New Zealand Map here.