Rotorua is a land of geysers, mud pools, and sulfur smells. It is also a land rich in Māori culture. We arrived in Rotorua and had our fingers crossed that we would be able to find a spot to freedom camp near the lake. Unfortunately, the designated spot only had a few stalls and they were taken. We drove to another area and met a Māori man who not only told us to park next to him by the lake, but also shared stories at sunset about his time in Antarctica.

Waking up on the lake was great because we caught sunrise on the water with black swans floating idyllically by. We took a walk around Rotorua lake until we got hungry enough for breakfast. Luckily, breakfast was right back at our camp spot. We made our food and coffee and ate on the benches by the lake.

Kuirau Park

After breakfast we stopped at Kuirau Park to soak our feet in the free geothermal public foot baths. The foot baths are shallow (too shallow for swimming) and a towel to sit on will prevent a wet `okole (butt). What a relaxing way to spend the morning!

Visiting Te Puia

Our first stop was Te Puia in the Te Whakarewarewa Valley. We really enjoyed our visit. We don’t have geysers and boiling mud pits in Hawaiʻi, so we enjoyed seeing the sights and the free guided tour brought it all to life. After we spent a few hours here we decided to head to Waiotapu.

Pro tip: Visit the Kiwi birds when a tour group is not stopping there. You can linger as long as you like and the Kiwi birds are not being startled by so many people.