Our next stop was Rotorua, a city known for its geothermal activity. We had been warned about the strong sulfur smell and opted to just spend one night here. The smell wasn’t awful and I’m sure we would have gotten used to it, but we were happy with just one night. This appeared to be a tourist mecca and with lots of tourists, there appeared to be lots of shady people looking to prey on tourists.
We headed out in the morning to Rainbow Springs, a bird sanctuary of sorts advertised as a great place to see a Kiwi bird. We spent a couple of hours here looking at all the unusual native (and not so native) birds, riding a water ride that talked about prehistoric birds and even seeing two kiwi birds in a nocturnal viewing area. We were a bit disappointed that they didn’t allow pictures in the kiwi habitat though. All in all, it was pretty fun, a bit pricey at nearly $32 USD each, but had we stayed another night we could have come back that night to see the kiwis in their outdoor habitat since the entry ticket was actually good for 24 hours.
From Rainbow Springs we began our journey to the next stop, Lake Taupo, located about 45 minutes outside of Rotorua. On the way to Taupo we stopped at Orakei Koroko, a geothermal park and cave. This was a great experience and well worth the $32 entry fees this time! You take a short ferry ride across the river to a “hidden valley” where you are left to walk at your leisure through geysers, hot springs and bubbling mud pools. We felt like we were all alone out there in this natural wonderland, it was fantastic!