Today I’m resuming my recaps of our family’s trip to New Zealand + Australia last month, and this post will center on a packed day we spent driving from Havelock North (where we had stayed for a week) up to Rotorua.

After a wonderful week in Hastings/Havelock North, we said adieu to our sweet host family and kicked off a journey driving northbound in New Zealand’s north island.  The goal was to take the scenic route up to Auckland, where we would fly out to Sydney, Australia.  My mom + stepdad came out to join us for this portion of our trip and it was SUCH a blessing having them along.  In addition to having four more eyes on our energetic toddler, we enjoyed taking them on an adventure that was quite distinct from the way they typically travel.  They both shared that their favorite part of our entire trip was the driving in New Zealand, just having conversations with us and gazing at the sheep-dotted rolling hills passing by.  For a couple who never rents a car when they are traveling (taxis and chauffeurs are more their style), it was freeing to be able to set their own pace and course for the journey.

cows and a gigantic tree stump — just another roadside view in New Zealand

We picked them up from their hotel that morning and they raved (and raved) that they had both seen the most incredible and breathtaking sunrise of their lives from their hotel window.  Erik and I were able to watch the sunrise in NZ and I have to agree, it was something majestic and awe-inspiring, watching God’s artistry revealed in the pastel skies coming ablaze with light.  We set off to Lake Taupo first, and were sort of bummed to find that it was extremely grey and dismal there.  The fog made it nearly impossible to see the lake, in fact.  Our yummy lunch at Dixie Brown’s made up for it, though.  It was there that I had one of the best burgers of my life (hands down) and discovered a love for the beautifully-branded Antipodes sparkling water.  Before we got back on the road, we stopped at the self-proclaimed “World’s Coolest McDonald’s” down the street.  It features a gigantic DC-3 aircraft that you can dine-in, a large play area and a swanky McCafé that is completely on par with any stateside Starbucks… overpriced macarons and all!  We skipped on the food but did grab flat whites and cocoa for the continued drive.

juicy, savory, full of earthy flavor… my mouth is watering!

From there we narrowly made it to Aratiatia Rapids, a stop that Erik was tempted to skip (he didn’t see what the fuss was about) but one that ended up being a highlight of our trip.  Three times a day (4 in the summer), they open the spill gates of the dam there to harness the hydroelectric power of the rushing Waikato River.  The last one of the day was at 2p and we literally arrived when there was less than 2 minutes left on the large countdown clock.  90,000 litres (or 23,775 gallons) of water come rushing out per SECOND.  It is a thrilling display of raw natural power.  Erik stood on the dam side of the bride, watching the water pour in.  I stood across the bridge where there is a tiny pond that quickly is transformed into a foamy bubbling river carving its way into the rocky canyon.

before: a placid pond

after: a rushing river

gotta love my half-grown-out bangs in the rain 😉

We paused briefly to sneak down onto a dock where we spotted black swans by the dozen (so serene and lovely).  I stuck my hand in the water and found that it was quite warm.  This is due to the geothermal activity in this part of New Zealand; so fascinating!

Our next stop was Huka Falls, which is apparently New Zealand’s most visited natural attraction.  Here the rushing water flows down at a rate of 220,000 litres per second… enough to fill TWO Olympic-sized swimming pools each SECOND.  It was nothing short of breathtaking.  Erik said he could have stayed there all day, and I feel the same way.  The sheer sound of the rushing water was so overwhelming, yet calming at the same time.  The crystal blue water flowing through the gorgeous green forest canyon: I mean, come on.  These are views that travel brochures are made of.  There is actually a walking trail between Aratiatia Rapids and the falls that takes about 4 hours to complete.  I’m hoping we get to take that walk on another visit.

the water was the loveliest shade of emerald-aqua

my parents walking to the next view point

one-arm portraits are sort of our thing

At this point we drove to Rotorua, where would spend the night.  We made it just in time to catch the final tour of the day at Te Puia, a Maori cultural center that showcases bubbling mud, geysers, kiwi birds and native crafts of the indigenous Maori people of New Zealand.  It was pouring rain but we made it through, and I still think the brief visit was worthwhile.

See Olive at the other end of the canoe??

admiring a knife carved from jade

the National Carving School (Te Wananga Whakairo) // students at work

steamy geothermal pools

bubbling mud, like something out of a sci-fi flick

lush jungle landscape

After an absolutely jam-packed day, we dropped off our luggage at the cozy B&B @ The Redwoods (LOVE this place…more on it soon) and headed out to dinner at Urbano Bistro.  It was a recommendation by Vivien, our hostess at the B&B, and she was spot-on.  I had an aromatic crumbed chicken breast with pappardelle, fried capers and roasted garlic + parmesan cream.  Perfectly comforting ending to a long, rainy day!

Olive was amazing at dinner, despite the crazy day we had put her through!

yum!  Crispy fried capers = best idea ever!  Crunchy, salty tidbits of YUM.

Whew!!  Now you can get a sense of how fast-paced our travels were!  Erik and I are definitely the go-go-go type when it comes to travel.

Thanks for swinging by the blog!  If you haven’t already, make sure to enter my Dior lipstick giveaway.  Don’t forget to snap a photo of all the lip products in your purse right now and post it on Instagram — use #longlostlippies so I can see it!  See you soon!

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Comments (5)

  1. julie martin: July 16, 2013

    looks amazing!!! so so beautiful!!! I love that navy silverware wallpaper too!! 🙂

  2. julie martin: July 16, 2013

    candelabras… I’m a dummy 😉

  3. diana elizabeth: July 17, 2013

    You’re making me want to go and visit NZ!!! So bad!

  4. Jaclyne: July 30, 2013

    Beautiful pictures!! I want that chicken dish so badly I can almost taste it…

  5. Kel: July 31, 2013

    WOW! What beautiful sights! Bookmarked for my someday trip to NZ! 😉 Rob & I have a very similar “go go go” travel style. We figure that we’re (fairly) active and (sort of) young so we have to take advantage while we can.

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