We finally flew to Auckland in June. It was our first plane ride since we got to Wellington and it wasn't a particularly good experience. Our flight with Jetstar got delayed for 6 hours without notice. There was no announcement whatsoever. I must say that Jetstar customer service at that time was very poor. They didn't seem to know what was going on either. I understand it's a budget airline, but the delayed flight and how the staff handled the situation are enough reasons for us to avoid Jetstar in our future travels.
But apart from the not-so-good flight experience, the rest of our trip was wonderful. We arrived in Auckland just after 1am (on Saturday) so we didn't get to see anything obviously. We stayed at the Rendezvous Hotel in Mayoral Drive. Although we literally just slept at the hotel, we had a very pleasant stay. The staff was nice and helpful and the room was very clean. Overall, the hotel is beautiful and the location is perfect, so I would highly recommend this hotel to anyone who's planning to visit Auckland.
Our main itinerary was actually Rotorua. Before we came to Wellington, a lady I used to work with posted this amazing photo of what looked like a hot spring. Since then, I became obsessed about going there. In fact, this place is on top of my list to see in New Zealand.
And so we commenced our 3-hour journey to Rotorua at around 9am on a Saturday. We took the route via Matamata to check if we could potentially go to Hobbiton. Unfortunately, they were fully booked as expected. So we drove over there anyway, just to get a feel of the area where the Hobbits lived. But we will definitely go back at some point.
The truth is, I am not a LOTR or The Hobbit fan. In fact, I have not seen any of the films. It's a shame really especially because J now works for the company, but whatever. I very much enjoyed the 20 minutes drive to Hobbiton though. The green rolling hills were a sight to behold. "No wonder why they chose this place to be Hobbiton", J said.
We continued our journey to Rotorua and after an hour of a very scenic drive, we arrived in Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. Man, the pungent smell of rotten eggs gave me a headache. The whole town smelt of Sulphur actually. But, the beauty of this place makes it all worth it. Also, it doesn't take long to get used to the smell. Trust me.
Of all the geothermal pools in the area, the "Champagne Pool" and the "Artist's Palette" are my favourite. The mineral colours are beautiful. I also like the wooden pathway in the middle of the pool.
And then there's the "Devil's Bath". The green Sulphur colour is really eye-catching.
The bubbling pools, smoking pits, steaming grounds and beautiful mineral colours made me appreciate nature even more. Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland is definitely worth the journey and the NS$32.50 entrance fee. We missed the Lady Knox geyser however, because we went in the afternoon. The geyser erupts at 1015am. But apparently, it doesn't even naturally erupt, so perhaps it was a good thing that we didn't make that extra effort to catch it. We also missed the mud pools as they are both in different locations.
Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland
201 Waiotapu Loop Road
On our way to the hotel, we missed our turn and came across the "Government Gardens". We only entered the gate to make a U-turn, but then "Government Gardens" piqued our curiosity and so we drove farther and voila! We accidentally found the only thing I wanted to see in central Rotorua, the Bath House- once a spa house, it is now the Rotorua Museum.
After that pleasant detour, we drove to our hotel. I am glad that we chose the Wai Ora Lakeside Spa Resort because we had a wonderful stay. We were very well looked after from the moment we checked in until we left. Our room was very neat and tidy and the restaurant food was good (we had dinner and breakfast over there). A really good place to stay.
Anyway, as soon as we dropped off our bags in our room, we went for a short walk by the lake and watched the beautiful sunset. Afterwards, we spent some time in the outside jacuzzi and enjoyed the romantic view of Lake Rotorua.
On Sunday, it was time to go back to Auckland to catch our flight back to Wellington. This time we drove via Hamilton. When I was looking for places to see in Hamilton, nothing actually impressed me so I thought we would just drive straight to Auckland. But then somehow J found this cafe in Hamilton Gardens and he wanted us to drop by for coffee. We ended up going around the garden and having our food and coffee as take-away.
Hamilton Gardens is a massive themed garden and for you to be able to totally inhale the beauty of this place and be in one with the gods of nature (if you like), you must spend a considerable amount of time here. It's a touristy area but I'm sure you can always find a quiet spot to just sit for a while and contemplate on life. A truly elaborate garden.
Italian Renaissance Garden
Te Parapara Garden
After an overwhelming tour at the beautiful Hamilton gardens, we headed back to Auckland. Honestly, we were not very keen on Auckland. Apart from the gloomy weather, the city didn't really give us a good first impression. It would have been okay even if we weren't able to go around the city, but we had two hours to spare so we thought we might as well go to some places.
I suppose if you don't have enough time to explore a city, the best way is to at least see a panoramic view of the city. I sort of learned this when I went to Rouen in France a few years ago.
And so here's what we did in Auckland when we only had two hours to spare:
First, we went to Mount Victoria in Devonport. There we saw mushrooms (hehe) and a beautiful 360-degree view of Auckland.
And then we decided to go up the Sky Tower just because we were already in Auckland. We also had extra time to eat an ice cream at the Sky Cafe in Level 50.
I wasn't brave enough to step on the main viewing platform because there were glass floors, but J enjoyed it.
Victoria St W & Federal Street
Entrace Fee: NZ$28
We also had the time to check out the War Memorial Museum.
Reflecting on this trip, I think J and I did a fantastic job in utilising our time efficiently. Considering that we arrived at our hotel very late on Friday (or should I say very early on Saturday?), we were still able to have room service at almost two o'clock in the morning and travel to Rotorua five hours later. We also had stopovers (for coffee) in between. It actually helped that we drove. It saved us a lot of time.
Overall, this was an absolutely fantastic trip. Short but sweet as they say.