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Trip Report New Zealand (Rotorua and Auckland) + Australia (Gold Coast and Sydney)

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I wanted to write a quick trip report pertaining to our trip to New Zealand and Australia. I will include some comments about things I would have liked to have known about when planning our vacation. We took our children with us so many activities on our itinerary revolved around the kids and doing things we thought they would like.

We started our trip by flying into Auckland, New Zealand. I had prearranged a rental car at the Auckland airport when still in the US. I found a company called Nu Rental Cars (Scottie Rental Car) on a couple of the websites (? Expedia, etc) but booked with them directly online. Nu (Scottie) was quite a bit cheaper than all the other companies so we went with them. I have to say upfront that this was the strangest experience I’ve ever had with a car rental.

Upon arrival into the airport, we called the toll-free number that was listed on our reservation, per the instructions. We waited almost an hour for a man to show up with the car. The older model car was driving on a spare tire and we noted it had 125,000 Kilometers on it. The first stop the man made before taking us to his “office” was to what we surmised was the government car registration office. The man told us he needed to pay a fee for the days we were to use the car and inserted a sticker or paper on the front windshield.

Afterwards he drove us about 5 miles to his “office,” which turned out to be the broom closet under the stairway at a hotel. There were no signs indicating that it was a car rental office. I asked the man for a business card and he told us he didn’t have any. The “office” only had a desk, laptop and some boxes. I told him I was leery about renting from a company where the circumstances seemed so unconventional. His hands started to shake and he told me that no one else had any problems with it. We decided not to proceed and instead left and took a cab back to the airport.

I’m not sure what was up with the whole rental thing. The only small talk the man made with us was to ask us details about what hotels we were going to stay in and what days we would be there. There was also a requirement that we pay for mandatory full insurance without any exceptions. The whole thing didn’t feel right to us… It might not have been a scam, but my hackles were up about the whole situation.

Anyway, back at the airport we went to some kind of travel service in the international arrival area where we rented a car from Gateway 2 NZ. They were fantastic and extremely helpful and professional. They were also much cheaper than Avis and the other onsite companies.

We drove directly to Rotorua, which was about 3 hours from Auckland. We stayed at the Best Western Braeside in the family room and paid around US$150 per night. It was slightly dated but clean, spacious and comfortable. We had two bedrooms, living room and a full kitchen. The owners were extremely nice and helpful. The grounds are beautiful as well. If you stay there (actually anywhere in Rotorua) you need a car rental since we didn’t see any signs of public transportation.

Rotorua is a very volcanically active area. There is a huge park in the middle of town with multiple fenced-off areas with bubbling ponds. It was quite cool! We paid around US$30 to go to the Polynesian Spa in the family area. There was a big (heated) pool and two natural hot springs hot tubs (warm, but not hot). There was a more expensive area you could pay to go into but we looked at it and decided it wasn’t worth the price. Our guidebook sounded as if the Spa was amazing. I would only call the experience okay.

We also rode the tram up and went on the luge. This was very fun and certainly worth the money. Skip the beginners’ run and go straight to the intermediate run. We checked out the Zorb attraction but were told the only feature the kids were tall enough for was the water ride down the hill inside the big ball. They didn’t have their swimsuits with them so we passed on it. The cost was US$48 for a 25 second ride down the hill. Yep…. $48!!!

On Thursday nights there is a street fair in Rotorua with lots of booths, music, food and fresh produce for sale. It was fun and I’m glad we were there on a Thursday.
After Rotorua, we drove back to Auckland and stayed at the Celestion Waldorf Apartments. The price for our fantastic 2 bedroom, living room plus kitchen apartment was around US$160 per night. It was worth every penny. The place was brand new and extremely modern in décor. The location couldn’t have been better and the view was amazing. Highly recommended!

We actually liked Auckland, contrary to some reviews I read. We went to the top of the sky tower and had coffee in the coffee shop while enjoying the amazing view. We also went to the penguin museum/attraction (Tarlton something or other). I can’t recall the exact name but it should be easy to Google. Worth the money in my opinion. The Auckland museum was also on our agenda. It was just okay although I did enjoy walking through the beautiful green houses on the property.

In Auckland, we made breakfast and dinner every day in the apartment. The Celestion Waldorf is a mere 5-10 minute walk from the Countdown grocery store. We bought New Zealand mussels for very little money and steamed them in butter, wine and garlic. Fantastic!

We also spent some time in Australia that I will detail when I get the time. I’ll just write a message on this same post for continuity.

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