Rotorua, New Zealand
Onward to Rotorua where we would be for the next three days. Our Airbnb was a detached studio situated on the host’s property. We opened the door and were all smiles. The Airbnb’s have been great on this trip! A full kitchen and bathroom and… washing machine! We were is desperate need after the Tongariro hike (took half our clothes out of commission) and there was a proper clothes line. This was a great place to settle into for a few nights.
Hungry but not quite dinner time, we looked around for places both nearby and in town. It seems like most places were closed and did not open until 5PM. The other option was pub food which seemed very popular here but did not want a big heavy meal. Urbano Bistro opened at 5PM and figured if we got there at open we would have no issue getting a seat. There is also plenty of free parking for this restaurant.
We arrived promptly at 5PM and informed that the kitchen did not open until 5:30PM. Confused but not discouraged (why would you advertise opening at 5PM if you cannot feed anyone?), we sat with the intention of sipping a bottle of wine until the kitchen opened.
Having had a bottle of red, we switched to a bottle of white- Peregrine Pinot Gris, Central Otago. It was so fun to be familiar with Central Otago wines!
Once the kitchen opened, we ordered a few plates to share in order try multiple items on the menu. First we started with a cheese plate for two, something to go with the lovely wine.
It came with a selection of blue, mature cheddar, soft cheese, cracker selection, apple and apricot mostarda. The staff member that brought it out opted to not tell us which cheese was which. There were an insane amount of crackers on the plate. It was an ok cheese selection, most were average with one or two being good. We have had better cheese plates and was hoping for some knock-your-socks-off cheeses seeing we pasted so many goats, sheep and cows.
We also grabbed an order of the Prawns- pan seared marinated prawns, cold ramen noodle salad, spring onion, salad greens, roasted peanuts, toasted sesame seeds, crushed pork crackling, avocado, creamy ginger dressing, balsamic pearls. Kevin was a bit disappointed as he was expecting actual prawns and not little shrimp. This dish was still really good but we have learned that some places call shrimp prawns and it is a bit misleading when you have had actual prawns.
There was also the Pork Belly- braised pork belly, sticky honey soy sauce, pickled daikon and red cabbage, mustard streak, hazelnuts, green chili pearls, micro coriander, radish shoots. Now this was the good stuff! The pork belly was juicy and fatty, super flavorful, and all the noms.
Finally we finished with the New Zealand Mussels- green lip mussels, red pesto, garlic and herbs, white wine, and garlic bread. While the mussels were good, the sauce they were swimming in was outstanding! I needed a lot more garlic bread (excellent addition) to sop up all the liquid goodness.
With some hits and some misses, we were still satisfied with our meal.
Kevin had caught a mild cold yesterday (nasal congestion) and I promised a pharmacy visit to pick something up for symptom relief. Suddenly, I was a kid in a candy store trying to familiar myself with over the counter medication name and classifications. It was fun and I could definitely acclimate to practicing here. I learned that pseudoephedrine (Sudafed behind the counter) is prescription only here so I grabbed an anti-histamine (lor-tab/loratadine) and a nasal spray in case the congestion worsened for the flight at the end of the week. Congestion is no fun on a long haul flight!
We got back and hung the laundry outside under the stars which again brilliantly shined. Kevin got a star map app on his phone as we identified the constellations above us. We were hoping for starry nights like this- the ones that have so many stars and make you feel small in the great big universe.
This was our first night that we did not sleep optimally and while neither of us could pin point why, one night of off sleep was pretty good given we had had no issues with jet lag and exhausting days helped drag us into deep sleeps.
An early morning had us en route to Hobbiton! Our 9:30AM tour time, fifteen minute arrival beforehand to check in, and just over an hour drive into the countryside, we left shortly after 7:30AM. We have learned this far driving through New Zealand that while some drives can take less time, is it not uncommon to get stuck around tractors, buses, trucks, construction, and other delays increasing the travel time.
The drive out there was another interesting scenery change. Some parts it was complete farm land, then forest, and lastly rolling hills shaped just as depicted in the Shire.
Read about our trip to Hobbiton Movie Set.
Back at the car park at 11:30AM, we made our way to Skyline Rotorua. It is on the way back into town so it was the perfect time to stop and explore. The same company is set up in Queenstown but I read that this one in Rotorua is less crowded and has a better luge.
Read all about Skyline Rotorua luge!
Hunger once again shoved its way into our day. We did not want eat at the Skyline even though there were many options- it was expensive and not the authentic meal in Rotorua I was looking for. A similar situation as yesterday arose where nothing but the pubs were open. We decided to go the Eat Street in town and get something small to hold us over for a proper dinner.
Eat Street is a blocked off street where over a dozen restaurants are situated with mostly outdoor venues. When we arrived, it was quiet since only three places were open. We chose the Brew Pub and unfortunately our agreement to share a dish went out the window.
To my disgruntlement, I opted for a flat bread of mozzarella and garlic which ended up being a full size pizza- disappointing. Kevin enjoyed his pulled pork that we definitely could have split. I hate wasting a meal and leaving here felt like we were not going to eat again today- nor did I want to with all this just sitting in my stomach.
Instead, we ate more and got ice cream from Lady Janes Ice Cream Parlour at the corner.
Not holding back, I got two scoop of triple chocolate in a waffle cone (they call danish cones). We walked around the quiet downtown area with our cones, wondering where all the people were.
Now in a complete food coma, I recalled that there are neighboring hot spring spas we could relax in before heading back to the Airbnb. Polynesian Spa was just down the street and we walked in to see their offerings. Unfortunately, there was no space for massages or other treatments. There was also a wait for a hot spring pool. I knew this was a risk since it is a popular spot for tourist. Not terribly disappointed, we headed back to the Airbnb and relaxed in for the evening.
Looking to redeem the day, we continued our morning routine- woke up early and fixed our oatmeal- and headed out the to The Redwoods Whakarewarewa Forest. Surprised to read about a redwood population in New Zealand, it was an obvious stop to compare to the California Redwoods. There are two options- the free one where you walk around the forest floor or the paid one where you walk in the tree walk set up with a series of suspension bridges among the trees.
Read about the Treewalk!
I was very excited for this breakfast place I found down the street at Sequoia Eatery, I was craving healthy options after yesterday’s food debacle.
We walked in and it was like we walked into food heaven. So many choices! After a tough decision, I safely ordered the acai bowl and Kevin ordered the avocado toast with poached egg and bacon.
Both were perfection- a wonderful cleanse. There were so many things I wanted to try, I was trying to find a way to get back here before we left Rotorua. So sad we did not come here yesterday instead of going to Street Eats but happy to have found it now.
Kevin switched up his coffee order and got a flat white which is like a cappuccino but with less foam. Cue in the new favorite New Zealand coffee of choice- he even ordered a second cup! I think we were surprised at the New Zealand coffee scene as he has had great cups of coffee throughout the entire trip.
Less than ten minute away was our afternoon experience- white water rafting with River Rats.
Read all about our first white water rafting experience.
We finished white water rafting around 2:30PM and I seized the opportunity to eat at Sequoia Eatery again. We ordered dumplings and wontons to share- the perfect snack before our dinner.
Thanks for being awesome Sequoia Eatery- would definitely recommend this spot, well worth going out of town for it.
We stopped at the Airbnb to freshen up after ingesting the river before our Te Puia Māori Experience just minutes away.
Read about of evening at Te Puia.
Making our way back to the Airbnb, we certainly felt we made the most of our time in Rotorua. There is so much to do and see in this area and is well worth a stop on your New Zealand journey. We packed up our things preparing for another early morning.
I think we did very well around this area since we had almost three full days but we did miss going to the Polynesian hot spring, exploring more of the thermal areas since there are so many of them, including Hell’s Gate Geothermal Park and Mud Bath Spa. It was nice to stay in one area for a few days to experience the variety of activities in Rotoura!
A two hour drive ahead of us, we ate our oatmeal breakfast and departed around 7AM west to Waitomo, famous for the glowworm caves.