New Zealand budget trip – Rotorua and Taupo

Coming back from a year of travel, I am now home and looking for a new job. Because I did not know when the job will come, I decided to turn my waiting time into traveling within New Zealand. There is so much to discover here in New Zealand. Every turn has its own beauty. I decided to explore Rotorua and Taupo. These are two known tourist destinations in the North Island. New Zealand can be expensive to travel in because of the cost of accomodation, transport and food. I am currently travelling on a shoestring budget because I am jobless.

As two of the main tourist destinations, Rotorua and Taupo have many commercial touristic destinations. They charge steep price, and adding accomodation, tours and meals… it is not a holiday I can afford. But as I said earlier, there is beauty in every part of New Zealand. Let me take you through to my findings in Rotorua and Taupo that make them places to visit even for people on a budget.


Rotorua and Taupo are located in the Taupo Volcanic Zone. The two cities are marked by their respective lakes. Those lakes are giant craters of large volcanoes. The area has tall mountain ranges, green hills, valleys and geothermal activities. Those make these cities top destinations in North Island.

Rotorua is famous for its geothermal activity (geysers, thermal hot pools, mud pools) and has strong Maori culture. Visiting Maori cultural centres are not on my list. I have experience the Marae (Maori house), Hongi (Maori greetings), Hangi (Maori food) and have friendship with them. It is certainly something to consider. However, if your budget is not up there, perhaps you can visit different Maori settlement in other parts of the country.

There are many geysers, thermal hot pools and mud pools in Rotorua. The best place to see the geyser is Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland. It has the most colourful geothermal activities and famous Lady Knox Geyser. There is entrance fee to enter Waiotapu thermal wonderland; but definitely worth the visit! In saying that, it is still in my bucket list!

As for this visit, I discovered some amazing places without any entrance fees-all I have to pay was petrol for my car. My first destination was Hamurana Spring. It was located on the north side of Lake Rotorua. The spring was 15 metres deep with constant temperature of 10 degrees Celsius. About 4,500,000 litres of water flows out of the spring every hour to a very clear river to Lake Rotorua.

Hamurana Spring
Hamurana River Walk

It was an easy 15 minutes walk to the Spring and your eyes will be pampered with the clarity and colour of the river leading to the spring.

While staying in the city, take a walk on Kuirau park and the Government Garden to discover steaming and bubbling pool in the park. The beautiful government building is surrounded by well maintained garden.

img_1106 Rotorua Government Garden

img_1110Lakefront at Rotorua city centre offer variety of water activities and playground for children to play while the parents strolling along the lake. I chose to have my breakfast while watching the sunrise on the lake front. It was a cloudy day and this was the view I got. It certainly looks stunning even in bad weather.

Making the most of my day, I head down to Rainbow Mountain scenic reserve for another 15 minutes easy walk to Rainbow mountain-crater lake. It was 9 am and I was the only person there. I got the view and the song the birds sing all to myself. What a wonderful morning!

Rainbow Mountain – Crater Lake

Maori name for rainbow mountain is Maungakakaramea which means mountain of coloured earth with the top known as the owl’s perch shape.

Kerosene Creek

Holiday in Rotorua is not complete without thermal hot pool, so I went to Kerosene creek which were still empty when I arrived there in the morning. Coming at the right time, you get to enjoy all these natural goodies for yourself. The serenity, the beauty and the warmth rejuvenate not only your body, but also your soul.



img_1148On my way out, I found another thermal hot pool with Rainbow mountain as the background setting. I could not help but to stop and took another shot.



My last stop in Rotorua was bubbling mud pool at Waiotopu.


From Rotorua, I drove down towards Taupo. The drive itself was beautiful and I had to convince myself not stopping too much to take photos. My trip to Taupo started with Huka Falls. It is a series of waterfalls with the total height of 11 metres and is New Zealand’s highest volume waterfall with 220,000 litres per second of crystal clear water. The water flows from wide Waikato River that narrows drastically causing a huge amount of water passing through narrow funnel forming powerful rapids.


Huka means Foam. The last series of waterfall is 6 metres high







Few hundred metres from Huka Falls, there is a prawn farm for those who are into fishing; especially prawn fishing. There is also a Huka Honey Hive store that offers largest selection of New Zealand honey products including honey spreads, condiments, skincare products, meads and liqueurs. The shop offers free testing of most of their products including honey, ice cream, meads and liqueurs. You can also see their showcase of bees and hives. Certainly a place worth visiting while you are there.

Another place to visit while you are there is Aratiatia Rapids. The rapid is formed when the dam from Waikato River is opened several time a day. Check their website to find the time and make sure to arrive in time for the gate to open. As for me, I was 5 minutes late and decided not to wait for the gate to be opened again.

Taupo city centre is just few minutes drive down the road. The centre offers variety of shops from souvenirs, NZ clothing products to music stores. There are fast food chains, cafes or restaurant for good dining experience. The centre is located by Lake Taupo. So it is a good idea to get a takeaway and have meal by the Lake in a good weather. As you drive along the Lake (193 kilometres), there are various spots where you can have picnic, swimming or fishing. As for me I ended my trip in Taupo by finding quite spot  to have my lunch and nap.

My Dolly, Katerina posing on Lake Taupo

If you are an outdoor enthusiast, Rotorua and Taupo have numerous tracks and lakes nearby to explore ranging from easy walk to more difficult ones. Most if not all the tracks are free. There are also water and land activities being offered by various private companies. If you are a Lord of the Ring fan, do not miss a short trip to Hobitton at Matamata which is about an hour drive from Rotorua.

There are something for all budgets, age and interests. You can certainly have amazing trip in New Zealand even with limited resources. This is just a fraction of Rotorua and Taupo. There are so much more to discover in this little country!


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