New Zealand Adventure Day 1: Kawakawa Bay, Bay of Plenty-Tauranga, Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland-Rotorua

At 5am, we touched down in Auckland following a 20-hour voyage from the US. We were very tired due to the near impossibility of getting sleep on the plane. Nevertheless, the excitement of beginning our journey of New Zealand’s North Island kept us going. After securing our rental car, our original plan was to drive just 3 hours to Rotorua from Auckland. We instead decided to take a longer journey so we could see an area that wasn’t on our trip agenda. Thus, we set our course northwestward and directed ourselves to Kawakawa Bay, with the hope of reaching it in time to see the sunrise.

While the drive from Auckland to Kawakawa Bay isn’t too far, approximately 45 minutes, adapting to driving on the opposite side of the road added some time. We arrived shortly after sunrise. Kawakawa Bay was a beautiful haven, offering respite from the hectic pace of everyday life. The views from the bay were truly breathtaking. Our early arrival allowed to see many fishermen getting started with their journey on the sea.

Though our stop at Kawakawa Bay was brief, capturing a few photos before continuing our journey, we would have loved to have more time to explore this area. Recognized as a favored summer destination, Kawakawa Bay boasts exquisite beaches as well as many outdoor actiivites.  We later learned about the artistic public toilets crafted from recycled materials, we unfortunately missed this attraction but worth noting for future visitors.

Our journey continued as we made our way down to Rotorua. There are so many places we could have stopped and explored but with limited time, and not sure how long our initial adrenaline will last, we decided to make our way to Tauranga for a nice brunch. Tauranga is a coastal city in the Pay of Plenty region. Tauranga is a beautiful area with beautiful beaches and plenty to do. The city has plenty of restaurants and shopping, perfect spot to stop and have brunch. We chose a small café on the bay, called Otto. Right across the way was a cool kids park and splashpad. We took a nice walk by the bay near the pier after brunch before continuing our journey. Tauranga is the largest city in the Coastal Bay of Plenty. If you choose to stay here on your journey you won’t be disappointed.

After Tauranga we made our way to Rotorua. Although we made many pitstops on our way it was still too early to check into our short-term rental when we arrived. We decided to check out Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland, and we were so glad we did. This destination is an absolute must-visit, offering a captivating and unique experience. They have 3 different walking trails, which is nice for those that may not be able to do the whole trail. We Opted for the complete trail, which took around 90 minutes, we were treated to the most vibrant geothermal sights in the region. Although this place is a major tourist destination, we went a few hours before they closed and found there weren’t many people. They have a geyser eruption at 1015 am every day, this is a popular attraction for many, but we read that it’s worth skipping to just be in the rest of the park without the crowds. Walking through Wai-O-Tapu we were mesmerized by the colors and the geothermal activity. It’s truly a natural wonder unlike anything else we’ve encountered—a testament to the unique beauty that the wonders of nature can unveil.

For most up to date pricing and hours visit: https://www.waiotapu.co.nz/

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