Rotorua is an absolute must if you are visiting the north island of New Zealand. It’s a 3 hour drive from Auckland and offers many natural things to see, as well as adventures to part-take in.
You can spend a stack of money and try to do it all, or you can be selective and do many things for free.
This is what we got up to but is in no means exhaustive.
Visit the mud pools
On the way to Wai-O-Tea the thermogeographic springs are two sites that are free and definitely worth visiting. You can go into the tourist park for $32 per adult and walk around and see the colourful springs and geothermal marvels.
On the way to the tourist centre is a geyser (where Mother Nature lets of some steam in a long vertical “spit”). Called Lady Knox Geyser, this one sprays at 10.15am every day. But only once a day.
Another marvel is the mud pools on the way in. It’s barely a detour and worth getting out and witnessing mother earth as she let’s off some steam. The clay mud is used in beauty treatments and facial masks/moisturisers and of course for anti-ageing. You can purchase most of these at all the tourist shops but don’t be surprised to fork out a lot of dough in exchange for a dollop of mud!
Visit the Polynesian Spa
We arrive into town late from Auckland and are very happy to discover that the Polynesian Spa is open until 11pm.
With multiple hot tubs (more like pools) littered throughout the grounds and idealytically located on the rim of Lake Rotorua, it is the perfect place to relax and unwind.
The hot springs are straight from the earth subterran and are steaming hot and very smelly.
Bob around the various pools to find your temperature and don’t be spa rookies like us and find the “hottest” corner and nearly pass out from over heating.
You can take your own supplies in, so make the most of it.
There is another spa near Wai O Tea which is cheaper and apparently nicer according to a local, but I really like being able to sit on the rim of the lake.
There’s a bit to do here and a great place to defrag from life.
You can catch a shuttle to the top and ride a mountain bike through one of it’s many trails, or you can walk along the forest floor without paying an admission fee.
If you would like to experience the trees at a higher height, you can purchase a pass along the sky walk, or after hours you can walk through the forest top to an illuminated light show. It is actually very pretty and worth the visit.
Visit the thermal springs in town
If you are after something a little closer to town, or don’t have wheels, check out the Kuirau Park right in town. It is a large park with many geo active ponds and steaming creeks to give you an idea of the uniqueness of the area.
On Saturday mornings there is a modest food market and is nice to stroll around.
Visit Kerosene Creek
Out side of town is Kerosene Creek. It is definitely worth the effort and will take about 20 minutes to get there from the centre of town.
A slippery path weaves along side the warm creek and offers many places for you to enter and bath in the warm waters of the creek. It is only warm and can get quite busy but we venture all the way to the end of the trail and discover an absolute treat. A private part of the creek where there are no people and the creek bed is steamy hot. Relaxing in the waters in the middle of nature is truly amazing.
Unfortunately the down side is the human foot print – beware of broken glass and bottles that people have left behind and thieves working the car park!
There really are many things to do and the skyline is also a must. On the sky line hill there are activities such as mountain biking, luge,
A minimum 2 night stay if you are going to Rotorua.
It’s a dramatically cooling off day in Rotorua
and a must-do is the skyline hill. There are a swag of activities to part take
in, including wine tasting.
We head out to the Skyline and purchase the gondola ride (which is actually really worth it and reminds me of Switzerland) and 3 luge passes. The costings and options are here.
The wines are NZ wines and if you are not
planning on going to a specific wine region this is the next best thing.
It’s actually quite an OK deal if you are
traveling with children.
So off the gondola to the top. The ride takes
you over the international Mons Extreme sports track which is stunning. We spot
a herd of deers happily munching on the slops and as the climb continues draw
breath at the quite spectacular views.
Once at the top, the clouds open up! Like teaming rain.
So we figure a wine is a good pause, especially
as we are about to challenge ourselves to luge.
The staff at the winery are extremely friendly
and feel like old friends. Even Georgia who assures us she is an introvert.
Delightfully indulged with wines (very
approachable wines I might add), chit chasing with Johnny about his life and
him inquiring about our, we whittle away a lazy few hours taking in the views
It’s a wonderful incidental side trip.
OH – we decide not to luge as it was really cold
and raining and very nicely they staff extended our expiring on the luge so we
can revisit in a few weeks and use the passes then.
Over the years I have spent a couple of years all up, but is has been in 1-2 day short stays, or staying out of town and traveling in. There is always something to do, day or not.
This trip I was on the way to stay with my sister who now lives down in Cornwall. London seemed a logical stop over so she came up to play. Without much effort at all our day filled up with incredible sights, walks, foods and interactions.
Your 24 hours in London might look very different to mine. But can be equally as fun and packed.
Arriving from in International flight to Heathrow, getting into London is easy.
You just jump on the train which is right inside the airport.
The train takes you into town and then you simply train hop onto another line until finding your hotel.
This visit we stayed down near the Tower Bridge. Great hotel, good location and close to the river Thames which is always good for walking along. It is a long way fromBuckingham Palace and that side of town, but it suited us and we caught buses up to Trafalgar or the tube is never far a away.
Checking into the hotel at 330pm it was time to race off and explore.
The weather in London can be treacherous. The wind chill can be freezing and things can change quickly but if you are not prepared for the unpredictable wind changes of London. Fortunately most venues are warm once inside and there are plenty of shops if you are out and about, and need to buy a jacket. I think I am trying to say, don’t over think the preparation of a day in London. Just get out amongst it and don’t take your whole wardrobe.
It used to be akin to a goal letting people in and out of the old London. Conveniently located on the outside moat wall is a draw bridge so that boats (in years gone by) could bring criminals directly for hanging. It is affectionately called the execution door. Still with grills and water lapping at the sides of the castle, it is very easy to cast your mind back to a land and culture that sculpted our current politics and history.
From there we go for a “short” walk to St Paul’s Cathedral. On the way passing some new and old landmark buildings. The gherkin, the walkie talkie building and the older oblisk landmark called “ The Monument” which was erected following the great London Fires in 1666.
Along side St Paul’s Cathedral is a modern looking build called One New Change.
Find your way into it’s arcade and catch the lift to the top. If you are “appropriately dressed” (not looking like a tourist in sneakers) then you may enjoy a wine on their roof top bar. Otherwise they allow you to wander the roof’s side to check out the great views of St Paul’s Cathedral and London.
From there you are very central to many brilliant clothes shops. We bought a few things then headed back to the hotel for a cloth-change. Time to enjoy London night time.
Being a Friday night, beers at all the local bars, are the thing to do. People cascade onto the pavements, ale in hand and lots of chit chat. I would have loved to part-took but there was plenty more exploring to be done.
Wanting to chill and watch the sun set on a wonderful day , we headed to the Thames river and found on of the many venues where you can sit on a boat and enjoy a drink.Our vessel was called Hispanic beside Waterloo Bridge.
On the otherside of London – also known as the Southbank – is always a buzz of activity and things to do. The time we are there is a festival celebrating the river.
One great shows we saw was a film projection, with a back ground small orchestra, showing how Waterloo Bridget was built in 1944. IT was built my women as most of the men were at war.
Brick by brick, pylon by pylon.
It was an impressive slip show with much beautfiul imagery or women working together creating a massive sculpture.
You really can simply waltz along the river’s edge and participate in much. Even people watching is cool.
Time for dinner and we go to one of my sister’s old favorites, Trioia – a Turkish restaurant a block away from the Southbank but with it’s on great energy and vibe. The food is good, the pricing good and service quick. We order a Mezza (banquet) for 2 which more than fills us up.
Quite shattered at this point we call it a day and head back to our apartment to be gret with clean sheets and puffy pillows.
Up early on the Saturday we set off to explore the Tower of London again.
With barely anyone around it was quite a different place. You could imagine how it would have been hundred’s of years. ago. The well kept draw bridge is still in use today and walking across it is easy.
The other side has a few gems to explore. WE find the converted convent from 606AD , now an active catherdral stunning. It is the oldest standing gothic building from it’s time. Shakespeare, Dickens and Harvard were all associated with the church which is conveniently tucked away beside the Borough Markets.
We were there easy and didn’t see the markets in full swing but the foods were incredible. Everything from partridges, delicious pastries to wheels of mature cheese. A simply stunning array of food.
Back to the hotel to check out and my sister was off to get her hair attended to by her long term hair dresser (which sounded like she had followed all around the UK) in Notting Hill.
Notting Hill is a delightful suburb north west of the city.
The hair dressing salon is great and I am served a peppermint tea then treated to a shampoo and blow dry. My self esteem lifts as having my hair done well (and stylish) is not unfortunately something I have mastered yet.
I do a little bit of local exploring around Kensinnton Garden Square, where many of the consults live. Maple leaves drift from the skies reminding me that autumn is on it’s way and whilst today is warm, soon the days will be short and cold.
Back on the double decker red bus to Hyde Park. Which isn’t that far, but we are preserving our legs a little bit.
The War Memorial between Hyde Park and the start of Buckingham Palace is a sombre reminder of New Zealand’ and Australia’sinvolvement in all of the British Empire’s wars. The arch in the middle of the park is quite stunning.
A short wander brings one to Buckingham Palace. Today is it buzzing with people and the sun is shining and everyone is happy.
The park that guides you back to town is called St James Park and simply beautiful. Royal geese and swans make the lake a beautiful sight. Deck chairs for hire are a great option but we find ourselves to the kiosk for lunch, which serves a lovely chilled wine and good food.
I decide to do a quick water colour inspired by my favorite Claude Monet.
Once the sun has dried it off we venture towards town. Today they have the streets sealed off , with lambaginis and porches chasing each other in a movie being made. Lots of street fun for a short interlude.
We follow our noses to Horse’s Bridge which is beside 10 Downing St.
Here the royal guards sit on their magnificent horses, keeping watch. Tourists love the guards and I have a little horse whisper with both of them who both said they would rather be running around a paddock, then strung up on a warm Saturday in London. Surprise.
From here we are close to everything – Big Ben, Westminister and the Thames, but we head left for Trafalgar Square. I love going to the National Art Gallery. It’s pure size is hard to comprehend and art works one of the best (if not the best) collection of post impressionsm anywhere. I love it. And it’s free!
The Great Hall is a magestic set of rooms housing Vincent Van Goughs (such as the Sunflowers, Starry Night and his famous chair). Monets, Degas, Cezanne dominate the opposite wall. And then to remind you of what an absolutely incredible era it was a few guagins, Manet and Pissaros.
Just in one room!
Outside of the art gallery is a festival. There is always so much to absorb around Trafalgar Square, including the shrine landmark to Lord Nelson set up high.
Today we are privvie to an incredible musican playing with just his guitar. The sounds coming from his beaten up guitar are like those I have never heard before. Wonderful. We stay for a few tracks and I purchase his CD.
It’s time to find another wine so back to the Southbank to watch radio BBC hosting a rock n roll contest. The sun has bought our many smiles on the locals and tourists and everyone is happy!
Another little food festival is taking place behind the southbank but sadly we only have time to sample some curries and wild hog. It’s time to head our of London (via Gatewich) to Cornwall.
Any opportunity to learn new cooking styles (and get to eat the produce) is a big green light for me so I was keen to get involved at Ketut’s Bali Cooking School.
I actually chose this cooking school off the internet but was not disappointed.
We were collected from our hotel then taken around the food markets – the ones the locals go to for produce. It was really good travelling around with Made. His funny sense of humour and wicked laugh had me smiling from ear to ear.
After our walk through the markets, I felt I knew a whole lot more about a subject I am passionate about, food and nourishment.
Made taught us about different foods, how they are grown, what they are used for and more. It was like a short cultural tour.
Back into the airconditioned van we headed out to the cooking school. It was a short drive outside Ubud, which was really nice. Set in a rice field, the atmosphere was relaxed, open and cool. We all had our chef’s apron, we prepared and made 7 dishes.
There were a few people present but plenty of stove tops and lots of helping hands that cleaned dishes so that things never back logged and flowed really well.
Made explained all the spices and bases to be used in traditional Balinese dishes which we proceeded to make.
It was really good, efficient, funny and comfortable. Much better than what I was expecting. Check out the menu that you cook here.
After we cooked for a few hours, we sat down to a banquet. To come on a retreat with me to Ubud, click here.
Since a child I can recall art, drawing and painting. Maybe it had been due in part to having a grandma who is an artist, or maybe it’s because I find it nourishes me. Either way I love art and the knack it has of allowing one to relax and get totally lost in the moment.
It’s a chance for one’s inner child to play.
So recently when I held my Nourishment Retreat in Ubud, an art class was an obvious activity.
Ubud is a very ” arty” place and there’s no shortage of artist teaching classes.
There was no need to fret though, as I knew I would be guided to the best teacher, and so I was.
Nyoman is a local artist and has a great vision to one day have a cafe where people can go and pick up some paints and have a puddle on the canvas.
On this day I took a group for some fun on the canvas. Some were a little trepid and worried that they would be doing it wrong. But soon realised that there was no “wrong” and everything was fun.
Nyoman is a wonderful teacher and gently encourages your inner child to play. He picks you up from your hotel and drops you back. To contact him directly send him an email here.
When you arrive you can chose what style of painting you would like to do. He has batik drawing out the back and next time I will be doing batik for something different.
We all chose a different style and easily and effortless Nyoman helped us bring our tiny vision to reality.
All our art pieces could be hung on a wall and it’s not often when you do something so pleasurable and get to take a memory and souvenir with you.
Thanks Nyoman! If you are interested in coming to Ubud with me, check out here for my next retreat.
I love Vanuatu – a collection of islands in the South Pacific with some of the friendliest people in the world. I have been traveling to Vanuatu for years as it is close to Australia (under 3 hours from Brisbane) and many cruise liners stop into Port Vila.
On this trip we arrive by our cruise liner, Pacific Dawn with P & O.
Vanuatu was hit by a ferocious storm and cyclone in May 2015 , cyclone Pam, that pretty much decimated the villages and much of the town. 11 people died but apparently the damage was horrendous and many businesses have failed to re-establish.
I did experience a shift in the locals compared to previous years – maybe it’s money, or maybe it’s the desperation since the cyclone. Many locals, ne-vanuatu, see the ocean liners as exploiting their natural resources, taking money for pre-arranged tours on board and not filtering it back through to the locals. And they see all tourists as rich and may try to rip you off. This has become more of an issue and even 18 months ago we had an unsavory experience with our taxi driver.
We were stopped by two locals in town to be told how we should organised our tours directly with the locals and not through the cruise ship. I understand their concerns and do agree but negotiate with everyone!
We organised a kayaking experience before leaving Australia. But it was expensive even though not booked through the cruise.
For $70 per person and $10 park entry fee, we had a pick up in town and drive to a river where we went for a kayak. I love paddling and wanted the kids to have an encounter with nature and to see the lush side of Vanuatu.
Along the banks were children playing, shy this visit but caught up in their own little worlds of play and creativity. Some mums were washing clothes and chatting happily with other women, locals loafily walking around and no stress anywhere.
After kayaking the kids had a swing on a rope into the river and for a space in time were just kids having a ball.
After a fresh coconut collected by one of the guys who climbed a near by coconut tree, we extended our tour to stop by the turtle farm at Crystal Blue Lagoon.
The turtle experience was one of the most remarkable animal encounters I have every had. I am not sure if it’s because I have been drawing turtles lately and at the moment have 4 hanging on my walls, or if I have some connection with them. I have always loved them and yesterday I got to try out my turtle whispering talents.
The mum, whose name is Juliet, is 140 years old is pictured above!
I loved lying and talking with her. I think she is missing the open sea but is happy non the less as she gets lots of attention and fresh papaya.
The sanctuary offers a $20 BBQ lunch (which is very average if you arrive late but good if you are there as it is being cooked) and that price includes the turtle experiences.
The children can pick up little turtles, see a coconut crab, see some wild boars in a pen (this captured my son’s imagination the most) and try to spot the flat head shark (muliwong) that lives in the enclosure.
I am glad I swam with the turtles before being told about the shark. It seemed quite harmless but it caught MY imgaination when it surfaced and submerged doing that shark fin thing they do. I highly recommend this whole experience.
A taxi from town should only set you back $40-50 and will wait for you while you go into the sanctuary.
The Cascade Waterfalls are beautiful tropical experience only twenty minutes from town. We visited there last time and the kids wanted to go back again but because of low waterfalls, there was not water in teh falls. It’s really sad and the locals are blaming it on el nino – because the shelves in teh natural wonder need flushing (and that is not happening at the moment), algae is building up in the rock pools.
Everyone will know whether the falls are running or not (I can only imagine this isa short lived thing) and should be a place you visit. The rainforest surrounding the falls are devine and you will often encounter the local singersalong the way, which sound superb.
These pictures are from our last visit there and it is truly beautiful when the water is running. Oh yes, this is something you can do alone – you don’t need a tour as such, and again it should cost approximately $30 for a taxi to take you and wait while you spend an hour or two doing your thing. Take your time, set your own pace and check out some of the many walking tracks around the falls – they lead to villages and all sorts of surprises.
A favourite local escape is to Couran Cove on South Stradbroke Island off the Gold Coast.
Self contained apartments that are cool and offer all the necessaries (fridge, hot top, bath etc) with great views. Ramada Hotel Chain managed the property for awhile but I am not too sure who owns it now.
Sometimes I take the children, other times I go alone. Today was a short day trip.
A few hours on the island can feel like a substantial time. I catch the 930am ferry over and by 10.20am have set up pool side.
There are lots of things to do and the resort welcomes day trippers.
As a day tripper you can moor your boat at the marina and use the facilities.
There’s an easy walk (approx 45 minutes) to the other of the resort bringing you to the open sea.
The beach is beautiful and usually deserted.
If you bring children they can play in the adventure playground, ride bikes, run across the duck board walk, stand up paddle, kayak in the safe moat and play in the pool.
The pool in the middle of the resort is BIG. I love it for doing laps, for cooling off or playing with the kids. What I really like is the laid back Aussie atmosphere and chance to sip a cocktail pool side. It FEELs like holidays should feel.
Today I set up my temporary office and dive into some blogs and admin.
There is Australian wildlife every where. Milling around on the grass areas such as wallabies and kangaroos. Kookaburras, butcher birds and magpies. Very occasionally you will see a goanna runing across the sand.
It’s very cool, user friendly and relaxing.
Today I ate the Thai Beef Salad, which was really delicious and appropriately priced.