When we returned from our sail around the islands of the Hauraki Gulf we quickly arranged for a rental car for two weeks, stashed EV back at the Town Basin in Whangarei, threw some warm clothes in a suitcase and took off to explore the rest of the North Island. Our time in New Zealand is getting shorter each day and we don’t want to leave before seeing at least some highlights.
The first day was mostly driving with a quick photo op stop at the Mt Eden overlook in Auckland. That’s where we encountered for the first time the masses of Chinese tourists we continue to see every day wherever we are, by far the largest contingent. These ladies were excitedly photographing the bronze plate showing the distances to world capitals and each one wanted a closeup of Beijing. And who can blame them? I still have to pinch myself now and again that we’re in New Zealand for goodness sake, 14,197 km from New York. And yes, that’s a volcanic crater right above the city.
The geothermal region of Rotorua was our first real stop. The town itself lies along a beautiful lake and hot springs are everywhere. It’s hard to turn a corner without encountering bubbling mud and steam and distinctive mineral deposits. The city park even created a footbath, a welcome resting spot for dog-weary tourists.
The Rotorua Museum began life as a public bath where people came from near and far to take the cure in the various mineral waters. The baths were actual bathtubs embedded in unreinforced concrete floors with elaborate piping to deliver the waters from underground. After the wars soldiers were offered free treatment, but eventually the baths closed and the building became a repository for all things Rotorua.
The rest of the museum was the usual collection of local art and artifacts so we headed instead for the gorgeous redwood forest to walk among the giant trees. Rotorua suffered a volcanic eruption in the late 1800s that devasted the forests and conservationists sought ways to replant. They gathered seeds from all over the world to see what would grow the fastest and revitalize the timber industry. These California giant redwoods were originally planted around 1905. Walking among them is both peaceful and invigorating.