Both Waitomo and Rotorua are towns near the middle of the North Island that we hit on our tour south.
Waitomo village consists of companies that cater to tourists wanting to visit the glowworm caves. This was one of the destinations at the top of our lists, but in reality, it’s quite a scam. There are glowworms all over New Zealand, and we saw them several times in the bush all over the country. It’s not worth spending the money on the overdeveloped cave tours. However, as geologists, we did enjoy the caves in the area.
Rotorua is known for its Maori culture and geothermal activity. There are plenty of Maori cultural museums and attractions in the town of Rotorua, but the Kiwi Experience tried to pressure us into an excursion at a “living Maori village” where they do traditional arts, crafts, performance, and meals. To us, it seemed very expensive and touristy, as opposed to a real Maori experience. However, the geothermal activity in the area was much more appealing.
Additionally, there was a redwood forest in Rotorua. We spent a much needed day away from our tour group walking through these tranquil woods, which were a New Zealand spin on the California redwoods (the area from which the trees were imported).
After Rotorua, we stopped at the Huka Falls and received our first taste of the incredibly blue waterways of New Zealand.