Top of the world in Rotorua
Despite being only three and a half hours south of Auckland, a trip to Rotorua is something of the level of an “overseas holiday” for us, in terms of the excitement that the children hold. We went there last year closer to springtime and this year went in mid-June in the depths of New Zealand winter. I was pretty much coughing so constantly that pianists were using me as a metronome. The Saturday was raining all day which made our car trip to Lake Okataina a bit wetter than you’d usually want, but added to its eerie eighteenth century Jane Campion vibe no end. Of course, the rain didn’t matter one iota once the family was firmly ensconced in warm water at Polynesian Spa – where the Family Pool is under cover inside anyhow and doesn’t matter outside as you are wet regardless.
The favourite activity of the children was the Family Pool at Polynesian Spa ($15 admission per adult, $7 children aged 5-14 years and $39 for a family) with its fun retro concrete painted slide. The Lake Pool ($45 per person) at Polynesian Spa is in this completely breathtaking and unique-in-the-world natural setting overlooking a geothermal lake and has a variety of pool temperatures to choose from; the one I’m in pictured below, is just under 40C.
For dinner we had the fantastic opportunity thanks to Skyline Rotorua of riding the gondolas (cable cars with two bench seats seating about 4-5 people comfortably) up Mt Ngongotaha at dusk, and seeing the sunset over the town, and the lights come out, through the floor-to-ceiling windows of the restaurant. Interestingly, I see Stratosfare also just won the hospitality awards last week, and you can read the article on it here- NZ Herald and the $2million redevelopment finished in November 2014 has improved it out of sight. Forget what you think about “buffet restaurants” from those awful work buffet dinners and instead, expect fresh salads, curries, cheeses, cook-to-order meat stations, and fresh seafood. The desserts are also amazing, with a serve-yourself icecream shop counter with cones, and a chef making hot crepes in front of you. The children were so excited they could hardly contain themselves. I think we had about five plates of food, each. The interior redesign features a lounge bar lined with Volcanic Hills wines, and my fave – the David Trubridge curved plywood lightshades.
After dinner, we headed back to the Novotel Rotorua to stay. It was our first time ever at the Novotel and I would not hesitate to recommend it to both families as well as individuals and couples. It was very well set up for families, with a children’s area at the breakfast buffet with good quality books (and my children got to read with the offspring of a top All Black who was staying there but I’m fairly certain they can’t guarantee this every week!) We also enjoyed the hotel’s geothermal pool (which my son called “Thermos pool” instead of thermal) area with a large pool and smaller spas, and a small gym with ample towels and water coolers around. The rooms we had adjoining via a closing door meant the children could go to sleep and we could watch the television, and we had a couch in ours too so we got a great chicken pizza on room service and relaxed. The bathrooms were fantastic and I liked the small touches like a retractable clothesline to dry our swimming costumes on overnight. The first night, after our big drive down, we had fries and wines and the children had fruit salad and icecream in the hotel bar, which we were saying was one of the best designed areas in the hotel, with its central feature of a raised gas fire, and cool pendant lights hanging down over the fire – and lovely comfortable lounge chairs to have bar snacks and wines on.
Here are the highlights in pictures, taken with my Samsung Galaxy S6.
22nd June 2015
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