Lower North Island road trip: Napier to Rotorua (Day 3)

National Aquarium of New Zealand

A visit to the vast National Aquarium of New Zealand on Marine Parade kept us busy for a couple of hours. It’s an awesome attraction for both kids and adults, and has an amazing array of fish, reptiles and aquatic creatures. We found Dory (which seems to be a regular theme at aquariums), but alas, no Nemo. I guess he’s still missing. The boys were glad when the huge sea turtle woke from his nap for a swim around. The walk-through tunnel under the main tank meant that we could watch fish, stingrays, eels and sharks swimming above and around us.

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The aquarium also has a kiwi house and dinosaur exhibit (which includes some hands-on fossil displays), but far and away my favourite thing was the reef tank feeding. The scuba diver hand-feeding the fish was extraordinarily funny, and had the kids watching his every move. It was superb entertainment!

National Aquarium of New Zealand. Image: Bigstock

Rotorua (220 kilometres)

We set off for Rotorua around mid morning. I made the rookie mistake of letting one of the kids make up a car game, and can now vouch for the fact that counting real sheep will actually put you to sleep.

A quick stop for lunch at a cafe halfway along the Napier-Taupo road broke up the journey, and we were soon making our way into Rotorua.

Related: Top 4 places to see in Rotorua

Pohutu Geyser, Rotorua. Image: Bigstock

Polynesian Spa

A visit to Rotorua, also known as ‘Sulphur City’ due to its incredible geothermal activity, isn’t complete without a dip in a thermally heated pool. The Polynesian Spa is one of the best in the area. There’s a range of pools to enjoy, including the comfortably warm and chlorinated family pool, and the luxury Lake Spa (which offers superb views across Lake Rotorua). We were lucky enough to be in the lake view pool as the sun was setting. What a magical experience!

I’m sure it’s incredibly invigorating, but none of us was game to try out the cold plunge pool. However, Paul suggested that I ‘test’ one of the surrounding heated sun lounges. After about 10 seconds, I found myself making ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ noises, and a connection was formed with my fellow loungers as we collectively hogged these much-sought-after seats.

Polynesian Spa, Rotorua. Image: Fraser Clements

The kids loved the family pool. As it’s chlorinated they could put their heads under the water (essential for a game of shark tag!), and they were happy to play for ages. But all too soon it was time to depart, and we headed for the Lake Spa changing rooms. Warm fluffy towels were provided and the showers came kitted out with shampoo and shower gel. Even though my husband is far from the metrosexual type, he was raving about the herbal ingredients and the difference they made to his hair and skin!

Cobb & Co

I’m such a huge Cobb & Co fan, but even I was astounded by the quality of the meals that we had that night at this popular eatery. I ordered the roast pork dinner and was delighted to be offered extra crackling. Who turns down extra crackling? According to our friendly waitress, no one! While we waited for our meals, Lee headed off to the play area to play Playstation games, while Jason tackled the puzzles on the kids’ activity sheet. Well, I say ‘kids’, but actually it turned into a word search battle between Paul and myself to see who could finish it first. Our meals were full of flavour and the surroundings were comfortable and relaxed.

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Day 2: Palmerston North to Napier

Day 3: Napier to Rotorua

Day 4: Rotorua to Taupo

About the writer

This blog was written by Julie Scanlon from Kidspot. Julie and her family were sponsored by Choice Hotels Asia-Pac on their five day road trip of the lower North Island. We acknowledge the support of Hawke’s Bay Tourism and Destination Rotorua in providing activities during the road trip, and thank them for their assistance.

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