If you’ve brought your campervan across on the ferry from Picton to Wellington you still have a 5-6 hour drive to Rotorua for the next Lions Game. There’s plenty to see on the road north but depending on your timeframe here are some suggestions for coffee stops and freedom camping spots along the way...
Taihape ‘Gumboot City’ (244km from Wellington)
With a nickname like this you simply have to stop and visit Taihape! NZs very own Gumboot City would be an ideal place for a cup of tea and a cake and to perhaps test the ole arm out with a gumboot* throw or two!
Taihape is a town (not really a city..) that sits at the southern edge of the magnificent volcanic plateau
Its the only NZ town to celebrate an official Gumboot day (the first Tuesday after Easter)
Even though you might say everyday is essentially a gumboot day in Taihape. On this day in particular, Taihape residents turn out for this family festival to celebrate everything gumbootie.
It is also, importantly, the day of the famous gumboot throwing (Wellie wanging) contest! Oh yes and people do come from far and wide to attempt to break the world record for the longest gumboot throw set by Teppo Luoma (63.98m) and Sari Tirkkon (40.87m) in Hämeenlinna, Finland in 1996 according the Guinness Book of World Records!
* Kiwi lingo for what Brits might know as wellington boots :)
The good news is you don’t need to be at Gumboot day festival to try your arm at gumboot throwing as you can do it any time in Taihape's official gumboot throwing lane open all year round! It’s located just behind the main shopping centre. If you get lost (and there’s no way you really could) just ask a friendly local!
Just a 20 minute drive north of Taihape is the township of Waiouru home of NZs primary military base. Although the town itself serves for not much more than buying supplies (there’s nowhere else for the next 70kms), the highly regarded, Queen Elizabeth II Army Memorial Museum is excellent and definitely worth a visit especially if you are particularly interested in war history. Find out the role NZ played in both world wars fighting alongside the Brits.
Waiouru museum has a fantastic backdrop with the Moutains Ruapehu, Tongariro and Ngarahoe (Mount Doom in the the Lord Of The Rings film) at its front door! Facilities include: Cafe, Gift Shop, toilets and If you decide you’ve driven enough for the day or you want an easy free place to freedom camp it’s great to know that there is ample parking for Campervans and they are welcome to stay overnight for free.
If this is your case you won’t find it too hard to find a pint and a good fish n chips in the township all within walking distance!
If you’re continuing on the next place you simply have to stop at is Lake Taupo. If you have a spare night to stay before the next Lion’s game and are looking for somewhere to freedom camp then stop in Taupo because it's one of the best places in NZ to freedom camp.
Taupo is the North Island equivalent to Queenstown. But unlike Queenstown, freedom camping is very accessible and easy to find. You could choose to park on the lakefront itself or park your motorhome at the popular Reid's farm right on the banks of the mighty Waikato river (NZ’s longest) and take in the awe inspiring Huka Falls one of the most visited places in NZ.
There are superb short or longs walks along both sides of the river one which leads to one of Taupo’s best kept local secret, the ‘hot spot’ a thermal spring which pools and blends with the river. Bathe and relax in thermal waters in a natural environment. It's completely free and a great spot to drink a beer and socialise with other tourists! You can walk here from Ried's farm (approx 1hr) or chose to drive there directly by Spa Park. If in doubt ask a local!
Taupo town itself is an extremely vibrant township with a great nightlife with lots of choices for restaurants and bars. Most are all situated in Tuwharetoa St. Like Queenstown, Taupo has panoramic views of mountains and the lake. It's famous for all sorts of adventure sports and is reputedly the cheapest (and most beautiful) place in the world to do a skydive!
For a full list of all the things to do in Taupo (and there are many) click What to do in Taupo
The first thing you will notice when arriving in Rotorua is the awful pong! Kiwis nickname it Rotton-rua due to it’s rather disturbing rotten egg smell.
But don’t worry after 20 minutes you won't notice it! The smell is due to the thermal activity (sulphur) which you will see just about everywhere around you. Rotorua is a veritable geothermal wonderland – a place where geysers erupt dramatically 100 feet into the air, hot mud bubbles and boils, steam hisses as it escapes from deep in the earth and natural mineral pools are commonplace.
Lions Vs Maori All Blacks Rotorua International Stadium July 17 2017 Kick off 7.35pm
You'll be in need of refuelling either before or after the game and probably both. You could try the aptly named ‘Eat St’ (Tutanekai Street) if you like upmarket bars and restaurants all in one convenient location. Eat St Directory
However If a pub meal, a pint of Guinness, live music and sport on the big screen is more your cup of tea then there are several to chose from. Try The Pig n Whistle, or Hennesy's Irish Pub, and if you're going until the wee hours there is a nightclub called the Lava Bar which is popular with tourists and locals alike.
For breakfast in the morning DO NOT MISS The Fat Dog Cafe - It's the best and great for nursing a hangover! Here's THE MENU
What to do in Rotorua
There are just a ton of things to do in Rotorua and something for everyone, from adventure, to watching a Maori cultural show to relaxing at the Polynesian Spa. As the next Lion's game is in Hamilton you've got time to spend at least a couple of nights here and it's well worth it to do so. Even then you still won't manage to do everything that Rotorua has to offer! You will find that most things don't come cheap in Rotorua however there are some great free or less expensive choices too. For a full list of everything on offer click including the top ten free activities to do in Rotorua click here
Where to stay in Rotorua
Check out the map below to see where the motorhome holiday parks are located in comparison to the Rotorua stadium. Most places will be offering free shuttle services to and from the game or at worst Taxis are very affordable in NZ
All Seasons holiday park http://www.allseasonsrotorua.co.nz/home Close to airport, good for kids, free pool, spa bbq facilities.
Fancy a game of pool? There's a good games room at Holden’s Bay Holiday Park http://www.holdensbay.co.nz/rotorua-holiday-park-accommodation/welcome
Rotorua Top Ten Holiday Park https://www.rotoruatop10.co.nz/ is the closest Motorhome Park to town and just 800m away from all the bars, pubs and restaurants. It has mineral pools and a 50” flatscreen plasma in the games room.
Rotorua Thermal Holiday Park is the closest Motorhome Park to the stadium and also close to Rotorua's quality 18 hole golf course
Cosy Cottage Thermal Holiday Park is a bit further out but quiet and has a trout stream and lakefront access to a hot water beach where one can dig their own hole and bath in thermal waters
NEXT MONTH - Lions Tour Part 6 Lions Vs Waikato Chiefs.
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