We cheaped out in Rotorua (it's super touristy and everything's expensive) and checked out the free Kuirau Park which had lots of bubbling pools and steam vents. It was my first time in a thermal area and the sulphuric smell was interesting. I got some great shots of the pukeko bird -- there were lots of them rummaging around for food. They have such pretty purple coats and that bright orange beak.
The Rotorua Museum was an iconic building, formerly the bath house that drew tourists to the area to receive all kinds of "medical" treatments, like being given electric shocks while soaking in the baths, or being spun around in a machine to relieve you of constipation. I wonder if people will look back on our time and consider our modern medicine to be so crazy.
There was a surprisingly cool corrugated art exhibit by Jeff Thomson. I enjoyed the animals and the submarine thing. Although we ran out of time to see a lot of the museum, there was a substantial Maori section which I'd like to return to see. The North Island does have a noticeably larger Maori presence which is nice to know exists since Christchurch doesn't emphasize their culture much.