It shouldn’t come as any surprise that children love Rotorua. After all, who wouldn’t love a place that’s home to geysers, rivers, adrenaline parks and pools of bubbling mud? Sure, the air might smell a bit like sulfur from all the natural geysers, but it’s fun to simply tell the kids it smells like eggs. For an idea of where to take the tykes in the middle of New Zealand’s North Island, here are some the best activities for kids in Rotorua.
When my alarm went off at 5:45am on my second morning in Auckland, New Zealand, I was seriously reconsidering how much I cared about the Hobbiton movie set. At the request of my fiancé, I have seen all six movies from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies precisely once each — hardly a reason to rise before the sun does. But I rose in time to be picked up for our Viator Exclusive: Early Access to The Lord of the Rings Hobbiton Movie Set, which turned out to be well worth the pre-dawn wakeup call, even for a nonfan.
The smell of eggs was a small price to pay for a trip to The Wai-O-Tapu, a scenic reserve within the Taupo Volcanic Zone that is administered by New Zealand’s Department of Conservation. Covering 18km (6.94mi) squared, with Maungakaramea (Rainbow Mountain) marking the reserve’s northern tip, Wai-O-Tapu is chock full of geological wonders. I was thankful for my Viator Guide on this Rotorua Eco Thermal tour because the experience of walking through the reserve was sufficiently surreal; without his continued narrative, I would have certainly drifted off into a crater somewhere. While I have travelled to many far-flung places, nothing prepared me for the feeling that I was on another planet—one where the pools were yellow and the lakes were rimmed in ochre.
Auckland is known as the “City of Sails,” but rarely is it considered a popular Polynesian beach town. But just because this booming urban metropolis has over a million people doesn’t mean you can’t find some secluded pieces of shoreline. In fact, there are literally dozens of different beaches that ring the Auckland city center, and the fact that Manukau Harbour nearly separates Auckland from the North Island makes it one of the only cities in the world that’s literally surrounded by beaches. So, for a brief look at where to leave some footprints in the sand, the following are some of the best beaches in Auckland for enjoying a day in the sun.
There’s the initial excitement when you see the splash towards the distant, cobalt horizon, and then the added excitement when a flipper confirms that the splash wasn’t simply a whitecap. The captain turns and motors the boat in the direction of the flipping and splashing, and the next thing you know there are dozens of dolphins swimming in front of the bow. Best of all, if conditions permit and you’re a strong, competent swimmer, there’s the chance that you could strap on a mask and dive right in and join them.
Cities aren’t usually the types of places where you expect to find lots of wildlife. Wellington, however, is a notable exception—and even though it’s the nation’s capital and has 200,000 residents, there’s a surprising amount of animal life in reserves as well as the wild. While it isn’t a place like Anchorage, Alaska, where bears roam free in the streets, it’s still a place where pods of dolphins will occasionally visit the harbor—or a couple of orcas might swim near shore while chasing stingrays or fish. Aside from the isolated marine life encounters, there are a number of places back on land for viewing native wildlife, and the following are some of the best places for seeing animals in Wellington.