Drafting this post was tough. The title alone almost seems sacrilegious and offensive. With its turquoise blue lakes, green meadows, dramatic mountains, friendly locals and bustling cities, how in the world could anyone consider New Zealand “underwhelming?” Let’s be clear. I don’t; we don’t. As a whole, New Zealand is jaw-droppingly beautiful and we may or may not be making plans to return to the island nation soon.
But, there are “sights” that were just “meh” for us. This post isn’t about persuading you to skip these places, rather, this post is to help manage your expectations and give you our two cents. Because, after all, that is why you’re here, correct?
Te’Puia is an attraction in Rotorua. Rotorua is known for its geothermal activity and forests. In its defense, Te Puia offers a glimpse at bubbling mud pools and geysers. However, in scope and grandeur, the geysers and bubbling pools are low and underwhelming. In retrospect, we should not have used road signs to help us make the decision and in many ways I felt the park was like the “Disney World of Rotorua.” Sure, it’s features were natural phenomenons, but you didn’t feel like you were in nature. Sure, there were clean bathrooms, but crowds and ticket prices went along as well. Case and point, there was bus parking. Mike and I usually shy away from places with bus parking. But, you live and learn.
Huka Falls is pretty. The water rushing through the rocks is bright blue and frothy. The sound of the water is like a roar and the green forests surrounding the falls is dense. You couldn’t ask for a more picturesque sounding place. But, for whatever reason, we did not see why it was New Zealand’s most visited natural attraction (according to www.greatlaketaupo.com) Maybe the website got a little carried away. Or, maybe the stat is accurate and Mike and I are just ignorant. With alllll of the great places in NZ, Huka Falls, while pretty, does not rank as high as the hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing or cruising Milford Sound or a road trip to Glenorchy.
Tauranga is a coastal town with one good hike, but that is about it. Being a Florida girl, I am a sucker for coastal towns. They are usually busting with fresh seafood restaurants, quaint shops, and miles of beaches. Tauranga is not a town, it is a city, with a port and lots of traffic, especially for New Zealand standards. True, we were there during peak season, but except for our hike up Mount Maunganui, I did not see the appeal to the town/city at all. Our hotel was overpriced and mediocre, at best, and the restaurant selection was not what we had hoped for.
When it comes down to it, New Zealand is the opposite of underwhelming. Most of our moments in the land of Kiwis were full of overwhelming beauty, kindness and excitement. We spent two weeks road tripping around the islands and want to go back for two more as soon as possible. And when we do make it back, we will return to a few places, but these will not make the cut the second time around.