We are off on an amazing 4 day tour of the upper North Island in conjunction with Choice Hotels Asia-Pac, Hamilton Waikato Tourism, Destination Rotorua and Destination Great Lake Taupo! Catch up on Day 1 here and Day 2 here!
We awoke on Sunday to the most beautiful, blue sky day in Rotorua and decided we had to spend a little more time exploring before we hit the road. We had, after all, slept in the BEST beds known to man at Econo Lodge Cleveland so we were feeling ready to tackle THREE tourist hotspots in one day. We have kids remember? This is the parenting equivalent of climbing Mt Everest – no joke!
First up was a visit to The Redwoods where we smashed out a quick 2km trail through these vast, silent giants. Well, they were silent until my family arrived! The kids had a blast hooting and hollering through the trees, it was beautiful! So different to walking through the dense native bush that we’re used to. Dave and I can’t wait to make it back to the Redwoods, we both want to run those trails or compete in a race down there.
Our awesome hostess at Econo Lodge Cleveland recommended we head to Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland to finish off our Rotorua experience and I’m SO glad we did. Halfway between Rotorua and Taupo, we spent 2 hours wandering the trails here and I can’t get the amazing colours out of my head! There is so much to learn and see here, from bubbling mud pools to crazy mineral craters and landscapes. We didn’t have the Mountain buggy with us so Nix walked most of the way, hopping in the umbrella stroller when he needed a rest every now and then. The paths are great, really smooth so there was only one section where we left the stroller off the path and continued on foot. This place is gorgeous, this IS the Rotorua experience I wanted to have and to give the kids so it was worth it to splash out a little and add it to our itinerary.
Onwards to Taupo and the final destination on our road trip. Our lake cruise on board the Ernest Kemp was to depart at 2pm and we made it with enough time to grab a pie for lunch – we are sahhhhh kiwi guys, it’s not even funny lol.
The Ernest Kemp is a beautiful replica steamship that sails a 2 hour course from Taupo Marina out to the ridiculously amazing Maori rock carvings that are only accessible from the water. Our boys were so excited to get aboard, which to be honest, worried me a little, but they both settled in and really chilled out and enjoyed the experience. EVEN NIXON! Wonders will never cease. We were thoroughly looked after by our Captain and his crew, as were all of the 20+ passengers onboard on Sunday. It wasn’t the smoothest sailing as the wind had come up on the lake and we could definitely feel it on the way out, but the Captain kept checking on his passengers and kept us informed throughout the entire journey – it was lovely and smooth on the way back and everyone was smiling!
I loved this experience for three reasons;
- It was so personal. Even with a large group on board, I’m fairly certain that every passenger was spoken to, offered refreshments, a chocolate fish, a coloring page and crayons, or even a beer!
- Being out on the lake gives you a totally different perspective of how HUGE it actually is.
- It was real. There was rain on our faces, wind in our hair and we all felt alive.
Get out on that big old lake guys! Preferably with the team at Ernest Kemp cruises ; )
A massive day exploring meant we were all ready for our hotel beds and some dinner. We spent the night at the lovely Comfort Inn Cascades on the lakefront and couldn’t have asked for a better spot to wind down with the kids. Our unit was perfectly suited to our family – large, airy, mezzanine style accommodation with three singles and a toilet upstairs for the kids. It was freezing cold in Taupo on Sunday but the kids soon found (separate! yay!) comfy spots to play and relax in our super cozy unit – it was sooo warm! The layers came off, Dave and I enjoyed a peaceful afternoon cocktail and I set off to explore the property.
Lake Taupo is literally at the bottom of the garden! Our unit’s patio bordered the walkway so it was steps to the beach and the water. This is another property we are definitely bringing the kids back to over the summer. Heated pool, spa, trampoline and of course the lake right THERE – I can see this being a favourite family spot for years to come. I took a peek inside the unit on the end in the image above – the lake view from the bed through those red patio doors is unbelieveable, you would want to stay there all day!
One more thing – full sized Whirlpool bathtubs. So RARE in a hotel! We have two full bathrooms at home but no bath so this was a little luxury enjoyed by all – as was the free wifi, blogger essential right there! Our hosts were lovely, our breakfast was delivered to our room on time and we were a little sad to leave to be honest!
Dinner at Plateau Bar + Eatery
We finished off our family road trip with dinner at award winning restaurant Plateau Bar + Eatery. I was slightly nervous about taking my two tired boys out for dinner at 6pm with no visible kid’s menu on the website, but, we were seated, kids menu’s were there (hooray!) and the wonderfully attentive staff did their thing. My kids eat anything, both boys have adventurous palettes and great taste in food, the kids menu for me isn’t about food selection, it’s merely a cue for me that a restaurant is kid friendly and able to cope with Nixon lol.
Dave, Ethan and I all ordered off the $55 Set Menu and enjoyed three stunning courses. Our favourites were the Prosciutto Wrapped Poached Pear, the Confit Duck Leg and the Citrus Iced Nougat, though every dish was incredible! We really enjoyed trying each others choices throughout the evening. Nixon was well looked after with a delicious chicken and cheese taco dish, perfect for little hands to hold on to.
We had a fabulous night at a very special restaurant, the perfect finish to a trip the kids, Dave and I absolutely loved.
Dave is wearing Macpac Ribbonwood 280 Pullover Hoody