It’s March, summer is nearly over and it’s the perfect time for a sweet escape in the North Island. This month, we take you to Rotorua, Taupō and the authentic Kawhia.
Day One: Auckland – Rotorua | 230km – 2h45
As you cruise down the southern motorway, suburban scenery gradually gives way to the farmland of South Auckland. The Waikato River will accompany you for much of your journey through the green countryside. The city of Hamilton is carved in two by the mighty Waikato River. Stop at the stunning Hamilton Gardens for a stroll.
If you go through between March 22nd and March 26th, stay overnight and enjoy the amazing site of balloons ascending through the Waikato sunrise at 7.30am at Balloons over Waikato.
The rest of the trip to Rotorua makes you go through prime Waikato Farmland. Cambridge township is located in the heart of the Waikato’s affluent horse breeding district. It has a relaxed country atmosphere, lovely tree lined streets and many well-preserved heritage buildings.
Soon you’ll come across the town of Tirau, known for its antique shops and animal-shaped corrugated iron buildings. 12kms from Tirau you will find one of the hidden secrets of New Zealand, the Blue Spring – one of the purest waters in the world. This water supplies 70% of New Zealand’s bottled water. The walk to the springs follows a track alongside the Waihou River, through wetlands, across rolling pastoral land and features views of small waterfalls, native bush and the famous Blue Spring. Keep an eye out for the trouts along the way. There are 2 points of access, off Whites Road or off Leslie Road.
Then it’s only a short 45min drive to Rotorua, one of the world’s most lively geothermal areas.
Day Two: Rotorua
From crystal-clear streams and magical forests, to epic biking trails and explosive geysers, Rotorua truly has it all. There are so many attractions and experiences for everyone from adrenaline and adventure seekers to those just looking to relax and unwind.
Sitting within the Pacific Rim of Fire, Rotorua is a geothermal wonderland with bubbling mud pools, clouds of steam and natural hot springs perfect for bathing and relaxing after a long day of wander.
If you’ve never visited Rotorua, before you go off the beaten track, there are some must-dos:
- Take a stroll or hire a mountain bike to discover the magnificent Redwood Forest.
- Wander around Kuirau Park, the city’s free geothermal wonderland
- Admire the geysers of Te Puia
- Experience the Maori culture and food at Mitai
For those of you who are familiar with these must-dos, don’t worry, there are a lot of off the beaten track options for you.
On a warm summer day, head to Matahi Spit on the east side of Lake Rotoma. This gorgeous spot is not as accessible as say Hannah’s Bay or the Blue Lake, but it is worth the little trip. The lagoon at the back of the reserve is a locally notable wildlife habitat.
On the way back to Rotorua, stop for a warm soak at Waitangi Soda Springs. These springs are a natural geothermal spring nestled amongst nature near Lakes Rotoehu and Rotoma. The healing waters of these springs are perfect to revive mind, body and soul. It’s a paid entry ($8) but it is worth it!
And if you visit Rotorua between March 25th and April 2nd, then be quick and grab a ticket to Crankworx, nine days of mountain biking madness. It is a spectacular event which brings the whole city to life, well worth a stop!
Rotorua comes from Māori “Te Rotorua-nui-a-Kahumatamomoe” which translates to “The second great lake of Kahumatamomoe”. Roto means lake and Rua means second.
Day Three: Rotorua – Taupō | 80km – 1h
The road to Taupō will keep you entertained with its unusual, volcanic geography. You’ll also drive through large tracts of plantation pine forest.
Take a side road to one of the geothermal park like Waimangu (don’t forget to redeem your 10% discount by booking with us) or the colourful Wai O Tapu.
If you’re didn’t have the time for a soak in Rotorua or simply want more, head to Kerosene Creek, a hot spring only known by locals. It’s a small stream that flows downhill through native bush. Bathers have excavated small smooth rocks to form their own little hot pools that you can sit next to and enjoy the hot water cascading down. To get there, about 30kms from Rotorua, pass the turn to Mururapa on your left and pass on lake on your right, then take the next left turn just past a small bridge. The signpost is Old Waiotapu Road. Exactly 2.2km down the road, pull over to the grass verge on the right and follow the path down to the stream. Enjoy.
Towards the end of your journey you’ll encounter the Wairakei Geothermal Power Station.
Whether you’ve seen them a hundred times or not, take a stroll at the Huka Falls to admire and listen to these powerful river roaring and rumbling along the canyon before crashing into the turbulent pool 11 metres below.
Taupō sits at the edge of Australasia’s largest lake which is actually a massive volcanic crater. This picturesque playground offers a myriad of activities, from swimming in the lake to mountain biking in the recently completed Great Lake Trail.
Taupō is also home to one of New Zealand’s best sports event, the Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain IRONMAN New Zealand. Each year in March, near 1500 athletes – professionals and amateurs – rush down Lake Taupō at dawn for a mighty 3.8km swim in the lake, followed by 180km of biking to finish the day with a marathon – 42kms of bravery. At Ezi, we are very proud sponsors of the event and enjoy the special atmosphere of this great race for which the whole town gets behind. If you’re around on Saturday the 4th of March, come with us and cheer on these ironmen and women!
Taupō is short for Taupō-nui-a-Tia. Literally translated from Māori, it means “The great cloak of Tia, where Tia is the name of the discoverer of the lake.
Day Four: Taupō – Turangi | 50km – 45min
Hit the road on this scenic route along Lake Taupō to reach Turangi on the other side the Lake Taupō.
Fishing is Turangi’s local obsession. The town sits on the banks of the Tongariro River, which is famous for its rainbow trout. Another trout haven – the Tauranga-Taupō River is not far to the east. Visit the Tongariro National Trout Centre, a hatchery run by the Department of Conservation to know more.
Turangi is also the ideal base for hiking adventures into the Tongariro National Park, with shuttles to the famous Tongariro Crossing. It’s only a 40 minute drive to the Whakakapa Ski Area, which experienced hikers know as the departure point to climb the mighty Mount Ruapehu, the highest mountain of the North Island.
Day Five: Turangi – Kawhia |222km – 2h50min
Head north from Turangi towards Waitomo. If you’ve never seen glow-worms before, make sure you visit one of the caves. In Otorohanga, take left on Kawhia Road which you will follow to Kawhia.
Kawhia is a quiet coastal village beside a placid harbour – sheltered from the Tasman Sea by a buffer of forested dunes. It’s the perfect place to enjoy the peaceful, nostalgic magnetism that draws visitors back year after year. Much of this town’s appeal is its quietness and its isolation. But it’s also an inexpensive place to spend a holiday. You can hire a cabin, a campsite or a motel for modest prices, buy a flounder directly off the boat and watching these fishermen cleaning fish on strings of flax.
Day Six: Kawhia
When reaching such a peaceful place, it would be a shame to spent only one night. Take time to unwind and relax.
Kawhia’s harbour is a drowned river valley system on the Tasman Sea coast. The harbour entrance is guarded by a large sand bar – a feature of many harbours along the western coasts of New Zealand. The black sand ocean beach is pounded by ocean swells; the inner harbour is vast and tranquil.
On the northern shore of the inner harbour is the final resting place of Tainui Waka, the migration canoe of the Waikato Maori people. Two large upright stones mark the stern and prow of the buried canoe. You can visit these stones on the walk to Maketu Marae.
If low tide is late afternoon, head to Kawhia’s hot water beach for the rare experience of soaking in a sandy spa pool while you watch the sun go down. Don’t forget your spade or buy one there to dig up your own spa pool!
Day Seven: Kawhia – Auckland |200km – 2h30min
Before heading back to Auckland, take a trip to Raglan on the 45km unsealed road from Kawhia. Take your time and enjoy this amazing back-country road which takes you through great scenery. Make a stop at the Bridal Veil Falls, some of New Zealand’s most spectacular falls with its 55m plunge. Hire a board and get wet in this surfing mecca before hitting the road again.