Tokaanu Hot Springs and Huka Falls
Our next stop after walking the Tongariro Crossing was a place to ease the aches in our muscles. The Tokaanu Hot Pools are near Turangi and an ideal place to relax for a few hours. We had a lovely hot soak in a private pool. The cost for a private pool is NZ$10 each for a generous 30 minutes. There are also cooling showers outside the private pools. There also is a lovely free leisurely 15 minute walk around the back seeing bubbling mud, hot springs and the thermal area where the hot springs originate. There also is a public pool included in the price of admission for the private pool. I like this hot springs as it is not trying to overcharge you like some of the hot springs around Taupo and Rotorua. We stopped here on our way to Rotorua at the Huka Falls. The Huka Falls are the beginning of the Waikato River which originates from Lake Taupo. Around 220,000 litres of litre go by every second at the base of the falls. The Falls are free to see by taking a short walk over the bridge and channel of thundering water, along a path, for a few minutes to get a view and photo of the falls. The best view is a few minutes away by car up the road from a lookout overlooking the falls.
We spent three days at Rotorua exploring the area from nearby Blue Lake. We camped at the Blue Lake Top 10 Camping and motel site for two nights. The camp is beside Blue Lake where you can do a lovely walk around the lake or go for a kayak or swim. Facilities at the campsite are excellent with hot showers, kitchen (you can get cutlery, pots and pans as well if you ask), recreation room and a small shop. It cost us NZ$42 per night for a non powered tent site. If you have a camper van then this is the ideal place to stopover. We had a lovely leisurely hour and a half walk around the lake in the morning listening to the bellbirds and watching the water skiers on the lake practicing.
If you go to Rotorua make sure you visit the stand of Californian Redwoods. We went twice during our visit to Rotorua. In 1901, a 6 hectare stand of Californian Redwoods was planted and is called the Redwood Memorial Grove. It is a magical experience walking among these giants of the forest listening to the chorus of cicada’s. Unlike every other experience in Rotorua this one is completely free. There is nowhere to eat at the Redwoods, however, nearby on the main road before you turn into the road leading to the Redwoods is the Office Cafe. We stopped here before visiting the Redwoods. The barista won a prize in 2014 and made an excellent flat white. I decided to have porridge and enjoyed it. My wife had the full works. It was also nice to have good free wi-fi.
We had previously visited the thermal pools and a Maori Hangi Concert so did not do those this time. Instead we wandered around the beautiful Government Gardens and went for a swim at the Blue Baths. We went to the Polynesian Spa first but the long queues put us off. So a short walk to the Blue Baths and wow. We paid NZ$11 each and had the baths to ourselves. The two side pools were the hottest I have ever experienced in NZ. We had a very relaxing few hours enjoying the pool.
Our next stop was Tauranga where we spent a lovely few days with some friends and enjoyed a walk around Mount Manganui. Our friends took us to Phils Place, one of only two restaurant actually beside the water in Tauranga. There is a great view of the marina and of planes landing at the airport. We ate on a balcony outside. I had mussels for a starter and for a main the pork belly. Both delicious. Service was good and a highlight was seeing a large stingray swim alongside the restaurant.
I only wished we could have stayed longer at Al and Julia’s and the two days went to quickly. We also introduced Debbie to the wonderful Australian film ‘The Castle’. Then it was back to Auckland before flying down to Wellington for a week.