18 May 2017
Off towards the capital – a highlights trip to Wellington
Through Rotorua, we headed south, aiming to get to Wellington by evening. We set off early, rounding Green Lake and leaving the Taraweras behind. From Rotorua it is an easy half an hour drive to Wai-o-Tapu. Wai-o-Tapu, which means ‘sacred waters’ in Maori, certainly lives up to its name. Thousands of years and volcanic activity has produced here a colourful and unique natural landscape. We visited the geothermal lake, and even had the chance to see the Lady Knox Geyser erupt before our eyes. The bubbling mud pool here is also an attraction, and was the site of a large mud volcano, now destroyed through erosion.
We drove through the Tahorakuri Forest, and were at Taupo in less than an hour. The opportunities for fun in Taupo are boundless - from fishing, biking and golf, to visiting geothermal parks and relaxing in hot pools. You can skydive, white water raft, jet boat and sail - or you can go hiking or hunting. There’s lots to do for families, with recreation activities lining the lakeshore, and sculpture gardens, the prawn park, and a 6D movie theatre too. We have spent lots of time in Taupo, and were just passing through, but its one of the best locations on the map!
Following the lakeshore south, we reached Turangi - the “Trout-fishing capital of the world” - by late morning. We hit the hauntingly beautiful Desert Road, where we passed the turn-off to Tongariro National Park. For the Lord of the Rings fans, the Tongariro National park is the place to go. Mt Ngauruhoe - also known as Mt Doom - is a spectacular sight in winter and summer alike. There are some fantastic walks and hikes to do in this region, as well as guided tours.
From Waiouru, it’s a pleasant drive through rolling green country before reaching Palmerston North. You’ll know you’re almost in Palmerston North when you see the iconic white windmills on the hills! Here, a local favourite is the Rugby Museum, where you can read up on the history of the All Blacks and the game in general. We stopped for a lunch break at Cafe Jacko, which has fresh, tasty food and gluten free/vegetarian options available. After filling our bellies, we continued south.
After just over an hour, we reached Paraparaumu, where we stopped to stretch our legs and enjoy the view over the Kapiti Coast. From here, it’s not far to the capital, and we reached Wellington just as it was getting dark. With the city lights beginning to glow, we had a wealth of options for an overnight stay and a meal.