Quick stops before heading to the South Island

By Dakota Lum

Posted On October 5, 2018

Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland

On our way out of Rotorua we stopped at the Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland. This is the ultimate place to experience the beauty behind the rotten egg smelling region that is Rotorua. 

The park has a trail that is numbered, marking the different points of interest throughout the nature preserve. The best of the best is at the far end of the park. You’re left with a beautiful view of a waterfall flowing into a lake with a picturesque tree-line and a volcano in the horizon. Pictures don’t do it justice.

Once we finished wandering through the park we set out for Napier. It was a stressful drive because it was several hours among windy, narrow roads and a relentless downpour of rain. 

Eventually we arrived safely in Napier. Even though the weather was crappy, the town still managed to look beautiful. The downtown area looked really well maintained with its Art-Deco style, and the surrounding area was full of farms and vineyards. And of course who could forget the gorgeous coastline that runs along the entire east side. I could only imagine what it looks like in the sunshine. 

We were only spending one night in Napier so we wanted to try and taste some wine while we were there since it is at the south end of the Hawkes Bay wine region. Unfortunately most of the wineries closed at 4 p.m. so I made reservations for dinner at the Mission Estate Winery so we could at least try one local place. 

Dinner was a bit too fancy for my poor college graduate tastebuds, but dessert was excellent. They had a deconstructed tiramisu that was to die for. As for the wines, we had the same issue as last time. It just seems that the red wines in New Zealand are not the same as the ones we’re used to in California. We’re used to the full bodied reds, but theirs are not as full and much more dry. That’s why they are well known for their pinot noirs. So if you’re a pinot fan, then New Zealand may be the place for you. 

The following morning we had breakfast at this great 1920s style restaurant called Emporium. It went well with the town’s Great Gatsby-like appearance. From there we had to head to Wellington because the next morning we had to catch the ferry to the South Island. So it was yet another day full of driving. 

We stopped in Palmerston North for lunch. It wasn’t anything special. But the views once we started descending into Wellington were unbelievable. It’s yet another gorgeous coastal city that New Zealand has to offer.

Down the road we passed the Westpac Stadium that we would be watching the All Blacks play at in just a week. That’s what I’ve been waiting for throughout this entire trip. But first, we had to get through the South Island and back. 

So we grabbed some dinner and headed to bed so we could catch the ferry bright and early in the morning.