Galley Wench Tales

Exploring the world through the people we meet
and the food they eat.

Wayne enjoying Rotota’s
hot waterfall.

In the heart of New Zealand’s mystical geothermal territory lies a  hidden gem where for $25 a couple can 

  1. shower in a hot waterfall
  2. lounge in natural hot springs pools
  3. shimmy standing up in a warm stream through the moss-covered “squeeze” (~7 minute video from another visitor)
  4. skirt the lily pads for a swim or paddle in beautiful Lake Ohakuri
  5. enjoy the lake view from a communal hot tub
  6. hike a scenic overlook trail to fumeroles (natural steam vents) where some guests even cook their meals
  7. head over to one of New Zealand’s best rated, least commercial and most uncrowded geothermal wonderland, Orekei Korako ($36 NZD/adult, $15/child).
  8. join a welcoming happy hour at lively yet comfortable clubhouse
  9. pitch a tent for the night (or book a basic caravan for $40 or simple cabin for $60)
  10. cook in one of the small shared kitchens
  11. enjoy a natural hot stream-fed shower and drink cool rainwater
  12. at night, check out the glow worms, and if you’re really lucky, kiwi birds and shooting stars 
Entrance to Rotata’s hot waterfall.  Member Graham in background..


At Rotota, a naturist club*.  Rotota’s name’s derived from the nearest towns, Rotorua + Tokoroa + Taupo.  

*What is a naturist club?  Click here to learn more about naturist resorts in New Zealand.  At their core, naturist clubs – also referred to as sun clubs — are clothing optional spots — a nudist resort.  For those new to the “go natural” concept, if you’re feeling shy or chilled, no one expects you to strip down.  However in swim areas specifically, some naturist resorts request birthday suits only.  Lewd behavior, however, is actively discouraged.  Privacy is respected as no guest or visitor photos are allowed without prior permission.  

Natural hot soaking pool above hot waterfall.
Rotota, New Zealand, North Island.

Steam rising from the creek that flows into  Lake Ohakuri.
Rotota, New Zealand, North Island.

Remote. Gated. Primitive.  Rotota’s not for everyone.

Remote.  With the road from to Rotota to Taupo periodically shifting to gravel there is a definite “out there” sense.  Not the place one who needs to be a hop and a skip from the grocery store should go without some careful consideration.  Like most naturist resorts, a Google Earth search is a good idea; hardly the kind of place you’ll spot if you’re expecting big visible signs or neon lights.

Squeeze walls – a bit fuzzy due to steam fogging my camera.
If you have the bandwidth, check out this 7 minute video
another visitor shot of Rotota’s Squeeze
Fumerole (steam vent) from Rotota’s Billy’s Track.
Lake Okahuri in the background.  New Zealand’s North Island,
geothermal country.

Gated.  Rotota’s a locked gate community resort, so unless you’re willing to walk a kilometer or so past the gate, you’ll need to contact the club for the entry combination ahead of time.
Primitive.  Propane and solar powers the bare basics at Rotota; it’s wisest to arrive self sufficient,  much like backpacking, but with shelter options and basic backpacker lodge/ hostel style amernities (shared bathroom, kitchen, commons living room).  If you can’t disconnect from phone or wifi for a while, Rotota is not for you.
Instead, mother nature amply provides the starring attractions, enhanced by lovely member-built trails, serenity spots and natural social get-together areas.  

Amid the primordial steam and lush foliage, I half expected giant dragonflies and dinosaurs to rise out of the mist to join the tuis, California quail and nocturnal kiwi birds.

Rotota’s naturally heated hot tub, alongside Lake Ohakuri.

Despite our rush to make it back to Whangarei to ready for our sailboat’s boat maintenance haul-out, even in rainy weather we spent a couple days at Rotota.  It wasn’t long enough.

We only hiked a few trails.  We didn’t check out the glow worms or encounter a kiwi bird.  We never made it to Orekei Korako, just across Lake Ohakuri.  We never detoured from Lake Taupo for the thunderous blue Huka Falls, an award-winning free attraction.  We also skipped the affordable otherworldly ~hour-long Craters of the Moon ($8 NZD/adult) hike.

Quail Cottage, our shelter from the rain at Rotota, New Zealand.

Lake Ohakuri from of Rotota New Zealand’s tent pitch sites.
Click here for another view of the lake from my prior post.

Besides, Rotota’s an incredibly beautiful spot and I’d be hard pressed to find a better place to unwind among a welcoming community.

We hope to make it back to Rotota before we leave New Zealand.  It’s my first choice of where to return to of all the places we’ve visited.

Location Location

After our near month-long road trip blitzing New Zealand from Northlands to its Southernmost mainland tip, at Bluff, South Island, we’re back.  Currently we’re in Whangarei’s Riverside Marina (S35.43.674 E174.20.17), doing some much needed boat work before we resume cruising.  We hauled out today.  More on our haul-out surprise in my next post.

Oh to be back among Rotota’s water lilies, rather than cleaning out
foul stinking muck from the bilge!  Refreshingly,
Rotota is not sulfur-y smelling at all.

Sailing by the Numbers

Last year, between December 2014 and November 2015 we sailed from Florida USA to New Zealand, over 10,000 miles (visiting USA, Cuba, Colombia, Panama, Galapagos [Ecuador], French Polynesia, Cook Islands, American Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand).  We will resume serious cruising when cyclone season ends in ~April 2016.  We have not yet decided whether to sail to Fiji, New Caledonia, Vanuatu then Australia (~4,000 miles), or just to Australia (~1,500 miles).  We’re leaning toward the former, then selling our boat and going back to work.