A lot of visitors to New Zealand’s North Island go to Rotorua, known as the country’s geothermal headquarters. Centrally located with so many attractions, it’s a few hours south of Auckland and a big part of North Island itineraries. Known as “Sulphur City” for the smell produced by the geothermals, we spent a couple of days there ourselves, which is about the right amount of time. Here are our top things to do in Rotorua, New Zealand.
Rotorua, pronounced Row – tuh – roo – uh, is a couple of hours south of Auckland, in the heart of the North Island’s volcanic valley. The Maori meaning is ‘Two” or “second” lake, and is named for the adjacent lake.
It reminded me of Iceland, with the bubbling hot springs, geysers, and colorful volcanic walkways. Rotorua felt like a cross between an adventure town and a family fun zone. So many of the tourists we saw there were with children. And a lot of the activities in Rotorua, like zip lines and mini golf, seemed catered to families. But there’s still a lot of cool things to do in Rotorua for adults without kids. Here are our favorites.
Mountain Bike Park
One of our top things to do in Rotorua is spend time at the mountain bike park. This place is amazing, and these two North Americans were shocked that it was completely free. We spent hours with our two dinky bikes on the easy trails, often being passed by tiny children on big wheeled mountain bikes, and we had a ball. Our bodies were sore the next day, but we’re always happy to get on our bikes and explore new places.
We don’t normally get to spend large chunks of time in big cities on the boat, so we tried to maximize every minute in Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city. Our conclusion: we could live there! Auckland is a vibrant cosmopolitan city with a lot to offer, from museums to excursions to food. This post details our Auckland favorites.
I thought it was the capital, but that’s Wellington, at the southern end of the North Island. Instead, Auckland is New Zealand’s most populated city, with nearly 1.7 million people.
Located in the north of the North Island, Auckland is on a narrow isthmus between two large harbors and is known as The City of Sails. With it’s waterfront location, Auckland is home to beautiful beaches, waterfront trails, fish markets, and scores of sailboats. It’s also based around multiple volcanos, great for hiking.
Fiji is an amazing South Pacific island country, full of friendly people, beautiful beaches, and more. We spent a few months there, dodging the rain, arguing with biosecurity, and buying a new boat. We also explored major islands and minor, witnessed music and dancing, and partied with the Fijians. Read on to learn about our Fiji favorites.
Visiting Fiji Villages
Our delayed cruising permit kept us from leaving Savusavu, and buying a new boat meant we didn’t get to explore Fiji much. Still, one of our highlights was visiting a village and experiencing their ceremonies.
The custom when you visit a village in Fiji is called sevusevu. The protocol when arriving is to introduce yourself to the chief of the village and present a gift of kava. All the markets sell both kava powder and root, packaged nicely in ribbon for presenting to the chief. The giving of sevusevu is a longstanding tradition and shows respect for the people whose land we visit. Once we perform this gesture, the chief will welcome us into his village.
Savusavu is a convenient entry port for sailors coming west to Fiji, and it’s where we made landfall after Tonga. While our check-in experience wasn’t the best, we had a great time in this part of Fiji. If you ever get to Fiji by air or boat, don’t miss my top things to do in Savusavu.
About Savusavu, Fiji
Located on the southeast coast of Vabua Levu, Fiji’s second biggest island, Savusavu is best known for its volcanic hot springs and coastal waters. The population is small, only a few thousand people, but the town is bustling! With good restaurants and shops for provisioning, it’s a great stop for sailors, especially after the lack of choice in Tonga.
We were lucky to spend a year in French Polynesia, a beautiful and widespread collection of islands and atolls. While we didn’t improve our French language skills, we loved the excellent diving, hiking, and culture. From the Marquesas to the Tuamotus and the Society Islands, these are our best of French Polynesia.
About French Polynesia
French Polynesia has several island groups, but many visitors only go to the Society Islands. You’ve probably heard of Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora. If you can, I recommend exploring the ones you haven’t heard about. The more remote archipelagos of the Marquesas and the Tuamotus are unforgettable. These island chains couldn’t be more different: the Marquesas are lush, mountainous, and full of vegetation. Conversely, the Tuamotus are arid atolls with limited land life and clear waters. We didn’t even make it to other parts of French Polynesia like The Gambiers and Australs. Read on for which locales we think offer the best of French Polynesia.
Two islands in French Polynesia are our favorites for hiking. If you want to go hiking, visit Ua Pou or Moorea. Nuku Hiva also offers a good variety of hikes.
Some islands are just bad for hiking, full of private land and no paths for independent hikers, or they’re flat and featureless. In good news, most of The Marquesas islands have at least one or two hikes that are worth doing.
Ua Pou is good for hiking independantly, but for the big hike, hire a guide. All the hikes involve altitude, and everyone we know who did the cross-island hike alone got lost. The hills are high and the views are stunning, but there’s not much civilization so packing lots of water is a must for any of these treks.