Now on the second half of our trip through the north island of New Zealand. After stopping to see the Huka Falls we made our way to Lake Taupo. It is New Zealand’s largest lake. Lake Taupo was created by a supervolcanic eruption 26,500 years ago. It was the largest volcanic eruption in the last 70,000 years, and may have triggered the last ice age.
Lake Taupo is beautiful. The water is this unbelievable cerulean color. We got to enjoy a lovely dinner by the lake, and our hotel’s breakfast cafe also overlooked the water. There is also a nice town square with a great park and little local shops to meander around. One very nice things about traveling with kids in New Zealand is there are parks everywhere. Really nice big parks that are well taken care of. We were always able to find one to let B play along the way.
From Lake Taupo we headed out to the Tongariro National Park for a two day stay. It was of course a beautiful drive.
Tongariro National Park was pretty amazing. It has three active volcanoes, one of which was Mt. Doom in the LOR movies. You absolutely cannot go to New Zealand and not hear about Lord of the Rings, the landscape was such a huge part of those movies. Tongariro National Park is also where a famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing Trail is located.
We stayed at the Chateau Tongariro, which is a grand old hotel right in the middle of the park surrounded by the volcanoes. There are active ski runs on the side of the biggest volcano. The off season is actually the summer, which we were there at the end of. I LOVE hotels of this era, so this was a real treat for me.
In the basement there is a gym and some conference rooms, and the quirkiest, most bizarre hotel pool, I have ever seen. It was a fun discovery. It was small, and fairly shallow with seats that you could soak on. The water was pretty warm, but not hot tub warm, and the lighting was blue. The ceiling was very low. It was really therapeutic after a day of hiking, and B loved it playing in it. I won’t lie it was totally creepy.
On our full day here, we packed a lot in. We went on two hikes, and an airplane ride. The first hike we did was a fairly easy one down to a waterfall. B got to test out the baby ride.
After our hike we went into the park down the road to a small airfield and took an tour of the park on a small airplane. It was well worth doing. We got some amazing views of the tops of the volcanos.
This is the first volcano we flew by. I am pretty sure this one is Tongariro.
Here is Ngauruhoe, also known as Mount Doom.
Below is Ruapehu, this the volcano with the active ski runs on it.
The afternoon after the plane ride we did a longer hike that started next to our hotel. It was a nice, fairly easy hike to a waterfall. B slept through most of it.
We really enjoyed Tongariro. I kind of wish we had stayed another day so we could have done more hiking. It was so peaceful, and not very crowded, because it was the off season. I will also say the creepy, warm, blue pool was really welcome at the end of this day.
As when we left Tongariro we headed back north to Hamilton. This was our last stop before heading back to Auckland. We took our time on this drive, it was a long one. We stopped at and alpaca farm. I bought a scarf and hat, what was completely useless in Malaysia, but it was great last winter.
We stopped and took a lot of pictures. There is just so much diverse natural beauty this this country.
We stopped in Waitomo for lunch, but decided against the glow worm cave tours. B had an unfortunate incident in Penang with a 4-D ride that was misrepresented as kid friendly, but turned out to be a scary shark. He freaked out because we were locked until the ride was over. He had become very weary of dark places, so we didn’t want to get trapped in a boat in a cave and have him flip out. So as much as we wanted to see the glow worms it was not worth the risk of a major meltdown.
So on to Hamilton! Hamilton has a beautiful botanical garden. There are separate sections that have all kinds of different gardens; such as a traditional english garden, a Japanese, and an indian just to name a few. It’s worth checking out.
We went to Hamilton’s downtown area for dinner. We ate at a Mexican Restaurant. I know what you are thinking, really Mexican in New Zealand? We live in Austin. We eat a lot of Mexican, and Tex Mex. There is a lot of great food in Penang, Mexican is not one of them. We missed it a lot. It was delicious.
Anyway, as we strolled through downtown Hamilton. We discovered the coolest thing ever. There is a statue of Riff Raff from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”. The statue commemorates the development of the idea and the writing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show by Richard O’Brien – who lived in Hamilton and worked next door to the site of the now demolished Embassy Theatre where the statue stands (per the Hamilton’s city website).
The next day, all we had to do was drive back to Auckland. We had not been doing many things that really interested B for most of this trip. He was such a trooper. So the next morning we went to the Hamilton Zoo.
It is a really nice Zoo. It’s small but really well laid out, and the enclosures are really nice. They also have face to face encounters that you can pay for. It really wasn’t expensive, but the spaces are limited. You have to get there before the zoo opens and get in line to get a spot. We were able to get a spot for the face to face with the Ring Tailed Lemurs. We got to feed the Lemurs! It was really awesome. We had a ton of fun at this zoo.
We left the zoo and headed back to Auckland. We had the afternoon so we headed to the harbor with was not that far from our hotel. We shopped a little and grabbed dinner at an a burrito place, that had excellent margaritas. Did I mention we missed Mexican Food?
We absolutely loved New Zealand. It was such a respite for us. The weather was wonderful, the customer service was fantastic everywhere, the coffee was great, the food was like home and really good quality. It was an amazing trip. We would really like to go back someday and explore the Southern end of the North Island and the South Island. The flight over there is completely worth it.