Rotorua: A romantic rendezvous

By Shandelle Battersby, Alex Robertson

Alex Robertson and Shandelle Battersby travel to Rotorua - on different weekends - to see the two sides of the honeymoon experience.

Take a scenic flight over Mt Tarawera, Rotorua, with Volcanic Air Safaris.  Photo / Supplied
Take a scenic flight over Mt Tarawera, Rotorua, with Volcanic Air Safaris. Photo / Supplied

I'm standing, blindfold, on a ledge 46m above the ground. This is what it feels like at the end of a pirate gangplank, but I'm more Jack Sparrow than Errol Flynn.

The platform sways a little in the breeze - or did my knees buckle slightly?

I scream: "What am I doing here?" But I don't wake up. This is real.

The blindfold bungy jump seems like almost the perfect metaphor for marriage: leaping into the unknown. It's the brainchild of Melissa, camp mother to a clutch of youthful, energy-drink charged minders at Agroventures on the outskirts of Rotorua. It will test the mettle of anyone preparing to say those two little words.

"You can do this. Raise your arms for me." A voice comes behind me. "I'll count you down."

I spread my arms. I'm Jimmy in Quadrophenia. "Three." Do I... "Two." Really want to... "One." Do this..."Bungy." I DO. Aaargh.

- Alex Robertson

I brought the car to an abrupt halt halfway up the long, winding drive that wraps around a fraction of Hamurana Lodge's 6ha of landscaped gardens, to jump out and say hello to the trio of inquisitive donkeys that had ambled across their paddock to greet us. The donkeys live at the lodge, a grand Tudor-style manor house built in the 1980s which has been converted into a luxury boutique hotel accommodating up to 14 people, and the perfect place to enjoy a honeymoon.

Owners Fred Novella and Alex Sogno have worked magic on the retreat to deliver a charming, personal experience that can be as private or as social as you wish.

Chef of the on-site fine-dining Le Manoir restaurant, Charlie Brown, will knock together a gourmet picnic basket for lovebirds to enjoy in the lovely grounds.

But keep an eye out for those hungry donkeys and their latest addition, an SPCA-rescued goat called Horse, who'll want to join your picnic.

- Shandelle Battersby

Houses in bush above a huddle of yachts in a bay, sun dancing on the water, it's so romantic we could almost be on the French Riviera. But we're only 15 minutes from downtown Rotorua at Okawa Bay on Lake Rotoiti.

Tiua, 16m of pure, multihull luxury, sits at the end of a short dock. Skipper and co-owner Matt and Jane (cabin boy) welcome us aboard.

Heading upwind on the lake we nip over to one of Rotoiti's many bays for a close look at classic boats rafted up for their annual meet. They could have motored out of a 1950s film set.

We lounge in the sun nibbling canapes as Matt and Jane prepare lunch: New Zealand lamb, beef, chicken, grilled vegetables, salad, wine and beer are presented in the cockpit, in the shade.

We hardly notice the sails drop or the motor purring, but suddenly our heading has changed and we float up to a jetty. It's Hot Water Beach. With the mercury pushing the mid-20s, why would you even want to sit in a hot pool? But the geothermal spring water soon eases any tension from the body.

Later, a quick jog down the wharf and dive into the crystal-clear lake revives the senses. It's time to go.

- Alex Robertson

What better way for honeymooners to enjoy this beautiful part of the country than with a view from the air?

We buckle up in Volcanic Air Safaris' 1950s' De Havilland Otter floatplane to enjoy their most popular trip, which takes in Mt Tarawera, Waimangu Volcanic Valley, the Blue and Green Lakes and the puffing and spurting white geysers of Whakarewarewa.

Afterwards, as we coast to a halt on the glassy surface of Lake Rotorua back at the jetty, it feels like a very special way to cap off a milestone weekend.

- Shandelle Battersby

Romance isn't always candlelight dinners and hushed voices. Sometimes bright lights are in order. Cue Rotorua's hippest joint, The Regent: part New York swanky restaurant with its black and white modern dining, part gothic Parisian salon of ornate chandeliers and rococo sofas. The rhinestone encrusted horns of the plaster rhinoceros heads add a little Vegas.

This is a place to see and be seen in, a chance to put on the glad-rags and sip cocktails pre-dinner. Down a couple of these and the bright lights seem brighter.

The wines are predominantly Kiwi and the food is made for lovers: entrees of poached pears in red wine (they look like love hearts) served with goat cheese on rye and sauteed scallops on corn fritters are plates made for sharing.

If dessert seems a loving spoonful too far, then try the dessert cocktail: a shot glass of lemon meringue-inspired heaven that will make you weak at the knees..

- Alex Robertson

CHECKLIST

Where to stay: Hamurana Lodge is at 415 Hamurana Rd, Rotorua.

Where to eat: Regent of Rotorua Restaurant & Cocktail Bar.

What to do: Check out Pure Cruises, Agroventures' blindfold bungy and Volcanic Air Safaris.

Further information: See rotoruanz.com.

- NZ Herald

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