Hot Chocolate at The Landing Cafe, Rotorua, New Zealand

IMG_2776

Rotorua is a crazy place. It has a lot going for it. There are 16 beautiful lakes in the area perfect for swimming, fishing  and boating. 35% of the population are of Mauri descent, meaning there are plenty of opportunities to learn more about the Maori culture (we chose to do the Mitai Cultural Performance which surprisingly didn’t feel that touristy at all, was incredibly educational and a really fantastic evening). You really couldn’t get bored here. IMG_2771

IMG_2772

But the main thing about Rotorua  is that it’s a geothermal paradise. When you first drive into town you can’t help but notice the strong smell of sulphur. Driving through the center of town you will see a little city park, normal right? Except this one is sitting on active geothermal land meaning there is boiling mud, hot pools where you can soak your feet and others that you can’t go near because they go up to 100 degrees Celsius. There are thermal springs and mud pools where you can pay to sit and relax for the day or you can choose to take a hike around one of the many thermal parks in the area (we choose Waitapu and loved it).

IMG_2773 IMG_2774

Sometime in between all of this we did a short scenic drive towards Lake Tarawera. At one of the car parks for this lake is The Landing Café where they sell food, drinks and ice cream. If you take one of the tables outside you can watch as a steady stream of boats arrive at the dock to either be put into the water or taken out of the water. Its amazing how time passes while you watch this activity. There are drivers who know exactly what they are doing and others that seem to have no clue and take 4, 5 even 6 tries to back the boat into the water – quite entertaining! If you get bored of watching them of course you have the scenery which, in true New Zealand style, is stunning. There is a volcano in the background, the bright blue waters of the lake and the electric green tree covered hills surrounding it.

Screen Shot 2013-01-27 at 4.49.34 PM

It was too hot today for a hot chocolate so I tried, for the first time ever I believe, an iced chocolate. I didn’t think you would mind since it is really the similar idea to a hot chocolate, just one you have left to cool down. I realized after I got mine though that it is a little different because this iced chocolate is made up of chocolate, milk and icecream, but it was great for an afternoon on the beach.

Screen Shot 2013-01-27 at 4.50.27 PM Screen Shot 2013-01-27 at 4.50.57 PM

Verdict: Really nice break in the middle of a busy afternoon and a beautiful drive to get to. The Landing Café, Rd 5 Tarawera Road, Lake Tarawera, Rotorua

Hot Chocolate at Knoll Ridge Chalet, Tongariro National Park, New Zealand

IMG_2874

While driving down the North Island of New Zealand, I was really keen to visit Tongariro National Park. Unfortunately we didn’t have time this trip to go hiking across it, apparently one of the most beautiful hikes in the world. Turns out it didn’t matter anyways, because most of the tracks were closed since one of the nearby volcanos had erupted only a few weeks ago, and it was still smoking pretty strongly.

Screen Shot 2013-01-27 at 4.55.04 PM

We took the road up to nearby Mt. Ruapehu which is an active ski resort in the winter. Of course, being summer, there was only snow right at the top and the houses and ski chalets were all nestled amongst the black volcanic rocks making it look a bit like a movie set for a star wars or other intergalactic movie. At the end of the road there was a car park and a little coffee shop and we went in thinking we would get a hot chocolate there. We quickly realized that the ski lifts that bring skiers up the mountain in the winter also operate all summer long. Not only that, but the highest café in New Zealand is almost at the top of the mountain (at 2020m). So we paid the 30 dollars each and took the two chair lifts to the top.

IMG_2861

The ski lodge at the top of the chair lifts is big enough to welcome the winter skiers but a small part of it is open all year around including a little coffee shop with sandwiches, drinks and treats and of course an incredible outdoor terrace . We ordered lunch and drinks and sat on the terrace outside. From here we had the most incredible view. We could see the other mountains in this area, which is all part of a World Natural Heritage Site. We watched the smoke coming out of the nearby active volcano, and could even see as far as Lake Taupo and beyond. My hot chocolate was exactly what you’d expect after a day of skiing on the mountains. It was hot and sweet and kind of perfect for a ski resort, even in the middle of summer.

IMG_2864 IMG_2867

IMG_2871

IMG_2881

Verdict: Can’t beat the view, plus the café here has one of the best paninis I have ever had anywhere!! Knoll Ridge Chalet, Mt Ruapehu, New Zealand