Hot pools and top cafes in the North Island

An adventure into the world of top cafes and the best in holiday park hot pools scattered throughout New Zealand's North Island.

Traveling through the North Island last July and August we have labeled the “hot springs and top cafés” journey. Thanks to the weather our usual forays into the far reaches and side roads were very limited.

We did get to enjoy what is offered throughout the North Island in the way of holiday parks with hot and cozy respite from the rains and cold. We got to check out how bad our bus handles rain-soaked greasy grounds and get to know the campground operators better when they fired up the tractor to give us a helping hand. All were always pleasant and accommodating. Thanks to all of you.

Our stay at the Awakeri Hot Springs near Whakatane was a luxury. As the weather cracked up we luxuriated in the thermal pools. A great place with fantastic hosts Kevin & Fiona Haig.

Having to spend some time in Tauranga this trip we chose to be close to town with handy access of the Silver Birch Holiday Park where Reece and Judi are the gracious hosts. Oh, by the way, there also is a comfortable thermal pool. As I mentioned earlier one of our daily requirements is to enjoy well made coffee. In Tauranga we always make sure to go to Alimento, 72 First Avenue. We consider this one of the finest in the country for the food, coffee and staff.

For a top thermal resort it is hard to beat DeBretts in Taupo a Four Star Holiday Park on St Hgwy 5 overlooking Lake Taupo. Soak away here at the adjacent Taupo Hot Springs.

Downtown Taupo we discovered a café with a top notch owner and barista who really knows his stuff when it comes to creating a delicious coffee, Dean at the Brew Café on a small side street - 4 Marama Arcade. If you enjoy the best in your espresso don’t miss this one.

If heading south give the spa pool at the Tongariro Holiday Park a go off SH 47 via Taupo. Not a bad place to hang out also during trout season and if you enjoy walks I understand the Tongariro Crossing is one of the best.

Heading on north still dodging weather a stop at the Rotorua Thermal Park that has always been a top favourite that has a wonderful spa pool that helped us forget it was nasty out there.

Still treating ourselves to a hot springs winter we decided to stop at the Opal Hot Springs

Just outside of Matamata. With the stars out bright for a change we spent a part of our evening taking full advantage of the pools. Dave and Gwyn are fantastic hosts. Thank you for the tractor pull. In Matamata you have one of the finest coffee cafes in the country at Espresso to Go. With both the hot springs and the top coffee in this area it was hard to move on.

Discovered a new (to us) café in Waihi Beach called the Hot Pipi that we truly enjoyed for their coffee and their friendliness. Be sure to stop by if in the area and coffee is your thing.

The next hot springs we headed for was the Miranda Holiday Park one of our favourites. Hard to pull away from there when the hot pools are perfect. Every night after dinner we had our treat in hot pool luxury. Great people in charge also.

The weather took a break and gave us some fine sunny days so we headed over to Port Waikato where we stayed at the Port Waikato Holiday Park next to the famous “sunset” beach. Talk about congeniality - you won’t do better than with the owners Colin and Christine Brock. They took the park over in 2002 and by 2004 they had won Jason’s Business Turnaround Award and the AA Guides Spirit of Hospitality award. It is a family affair with children Clinton, Kaylene and Louisa. Kaylene has a couple of friendly goats that are really hard case but not much help. Colin told me he had been coming to this camp for 35 years before buying it and Christine’s great great grandparents were married in Port Waikato in 1866. I guess that is as local as it gets!

Our tour took us all over the area to the west of Manukau Harbour visiting the Manakau Heads and the towns of Pukekohe, and Waiuku plus spent an evening at the Clarks Beach Holiday Park. Mark, the owner, has done one fine job of creating a superb park that is surrounded on two sides by water and the third side by a golf course. All in all the area is a surprising place that is still very country but so close to the big city.

Another place we really enjoy touring around is north of Auckland in the Matakana and Leigh area. Matakana has one of the best Saturday Farmer’s Markets and is becoming a wonderful place to visit with the wineries, galleries in the area and for us two new cafes that had just opened the Black Dog, who roasts their own beans, and the Matakana Patisserie where you can find the best of pastry. In Leigh the well known Sawmill Café has become nationally known for its food and ambience. We also enjoyed the coffee that was a blend provided by the Black Dog Roastery.

So even though the weather kept me from doing much photography we took advantage of its temperament and tried to soak away our disappointment in as many hot springs as we could and discover as many of the best cafes as we could. By the way we just put on line for the coffee industry our website that introduces all the best cafes and the roasters in New Zealand. If you would like to know of our finds as we travel please have a look at the coffee site at: New Zealand Coffee Guide.

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