Wrapping up our trip with a few days in the Rotorua area of the North Island!
We’d planned to head down to Hamilton for one night so we could do a dawn hot air balloon ride, but the weather didn’t cooperate so we headed straight to our rental house on Lake Tarawera, about 20 minutes from Rotorua. It was dark when we arrived, but early the next morning Sarai and I took our coffee down the hill to our little jetty and watched the sunrise.
Our deck had a great view! We were totally off the grid out there—no cell service or wifi—so we lit the fireplace, sat on the deck, drank wine and talked. It was so relaxing!
The Rotorua area is famous for being a “thermal wonderland”. One day we visited Wai-o-Tapu, probably the most well-known of the thermal areas. The gorgeous Champagne Pool, with its “artist’s palette” came to life for us, and this highlighter-yellow lake was unbelievable! But everything smelled like rotten egg, which was really gross—I haven’t been up for eating eggs since then…
We found this awesome cafe called Capers in Rotorua. They had all sorts of great stuff, so we stopped there twice for brunch. The second time I had this amazing toasted brioche with ricotta and local honey.
Capers had all sorts of great brunch stuff, and my eyes were definitely bigger than my stomach. This was a brioche with rhubarb and custard.
A salmon and avocado omelette.
A must-do for us was visiting the Shire, a.k.a. Hobbiton. It was so much fun, we totally nerded out, and even had a drink in the Green Dragon!
Sarai finally got her rack of lamb, a local specialty that we had a surprising amount of trouble finding. This one had a kiwifruit glaze that was awesome.
We continued to find interesting ciders, though this one wasn’t local. They really seem to love their ciders in New Zealand!
Our last night in Rotorua, I found out about this Italian place called Leonardo’s Pure Italian. We swung by and even though we didn’t have a reservation, Leo was super nice and was able to squeeze us into a small table. We had his awesome bruschetta, papardelle with bolognese, gnocchi, spicy herbed chicken, and steak with arugula and cheese—all topped off with delicious, creamy tiramisu! This was definitely Enoc’s favorite meal.
After driving a few hours back to Auckland, we drove around a bit before locating this tavern gem, the Zookeeper’s Son. I had a deeelicious burger and these absolutely stellar beer-battered fries!
Then it was off to the airport to head home! We loved New Zealand and definitely want to come back! I’d love to explore the bottom half of the South Island, down in Dunedin, the Moeraki Boulders, the Catlins, etc.