Previously reserved for the adrenalin junkies and international visitors, there’s a lot to be said for uncovering hidden gems in your own backyard. And when it comes to weekend getaways, Rotorua has nailed the perfect blend of relaxation, adventure and romance.
Nestled in the Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley, Te Puia is mecca when it comes to uncovering the magic of geothermal activity bubbling beneath the earth’s surface. Home to silica terraces, bubbling mud pools, and the world-renowned Pohutu geyser, Te Puia captures the best Rotorua has to offer.
Boasting a delicious spread of salads, frittatas and other cabinet fare, as well as an a la carte menu, Capers Epicurean is the perfect spot to refuel. The intolerant and allergy ridden will appreciate the selection of dairy, gluten and sugar-free treats available, too.
Situated in the heart of Rotorua, the Regent of Rotorua is boutique accommodation at its finest. A mere stone’s throw away from popular dining precinct, the Regent presents a luxe reprieve during an activity-filled weekend away.
Next up was a romantic stroll through the newly minted Redwoods Treewalk, a 553m walkway through the Redwood Forest, comprised of ecologically friendly engineering. Arriving at dusk meant we got to enjoy the spectacular forest views in the daylight, and revel in the magical light display as the night set in. Note: don’t park at the very first carpark you see or you’ll be walking for a LONG time before you get to the Treewalk, instead keep driving down the turnoff until you see the suspended bridges.
In the heart of Eat Streat, Atticus Finch proffered dishes that were second-to-none, complemented by a comprehensive wine list. We ordered a selection of dishes to share, including the haloumi salad, mixed in with chargrilled broccoli, rocket, quinoa and a handful of sunflower seeds and cranberries, which was so delicious we could have eaten one each. The ginger sesame fried chicken, served with lime mayo, was divine – and incredibly hard to believe it was totally gluten free. The pork belly was served on a bed of fennel and red slaw, and drizzled with a generous amount of orange star anise dressing. For sides, the chargrilled kumara with smoked cashew and orange chilli butter had us well and truly satisfied. The service was outstanding.
The sure-fire highlight of our weekend excursion was our experience with Canopy Tours – worth the early wakeup call on the morning of our second day. Situated opposite the Skyline, our incredible instructors Scott and Tom briefed us on what our morning adventure would entail – three hours ziplining through 1.2km of native forest, suspended up to 22m high amongst the ancient trees. Bound for Damsey Road Forest, the hilarious duo had our tour group in stitches. We were challenged to let go of our inhibitions (and the safety rope) as we sped through the air from platform to platform, learning more about the incredible bird life that inhabits the forest, and Canopy Tours conservation efforts to keep it that way.
A welcome reprieve after our morning of adventure, we drove out of the city to Lake Tarawera, where we were greeted by David from Totally Tarawera, who treated us to a private tour of the stunning lake. Our tour included a cultural and geothermal commentary of the sacred area, including a history of the pink and white terraces’ demise. The highlight? Stopping off at a private geothermal pool, where you could sit and soak for hours.
Heading back into the heart of the city, we visited Skyline Rotorua, where we ended our day by exploring the best this famous hotspot had to offer. After a hoon down the luge, we indulged in a cheese platter with matching wines at the Volcanic Hills tasting room. Easily the best Pinot Gris I’ve ever tasted (trust me, I’ve tried a few), the knowledgeable staff talked us through the flavours, textures and provenance of every glass. My partner (usually a rum drinker) was a huge fan of the Tawny Port. Skyline Rotorua has over 1.8 million visitors annually, and it’s easy to see why. Adventurous types will love the Sky Swing and Zoom Zipline, while foodies will revel at the spreads on offer at the Stratosfare Restaurant & Bar, which includes the option to upgrade your meal to include prime cuts like angus steak or venison for only $10.
After our late check-out at the Regent of Rotorua, we dashed over to check out fashion designer Adrienne Whitewood’s boutique store, Ahu Boutique. Maori for fashion, the clever 27-year-old combines her extensive knowledge of the industry with inspiration from Maori kapa haka for a truly beautiful result.
A visit to Joe Kemp’s open-air gallery is worth the hike out to Lake Rotoma. The talented, self-taught carver and sculptor has been working with Totara and stone for more than 18 years, and has built up a series of work scattered throughout the native bush by his home.
Our incredible weekend getaway ended with a relaxing soak in one of the 28 thermal pools at Polynesian Spa. Each with their own therapeutic properties, the healing mineral waters had us floating on cloud nine before our quick trip back home.
Planning your next winter getaway? Head here for all the romantic winter weekend inspo you’ll need.
Check out the full story in the LOVE issue of Remix, on sale in all good supermarkets, book stores and news agents now.