Rotorua is one of the few places in the world that is extensively geothermally active and a must when visiting the North Island of New Zealand.
In some ways, Rotorua resembles a place where the Earth’s innards have eviscerated themselves just to show off as if to remind us just how fragile the Earth’s crust really is.
There are some places where bubbling mud, hissing steam and boiling water are seeping everywhere; sometimes this geothermal behaviour is quite benign, at other times it is terrifyingly threatening. Whatever its mood, to get up close to the plop-plopping sound of a bubbling mud pool, or to feel the force of a powerful geyser is always utterly fascinating.
And you can tell when you get close to Rotorua as the smell of sulphur seems to pervade everything. It is slightly off-putting at first, but it’s amazing at how quickly one’s nostrils seem to adapt, and the pungent aroma becomes barely noticeable.
The places to visit in Rotorua are obvious. Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland shows off the brilliant colours of the Champagne Pool, and Artist’s Palette, as well as the once a day eruption of Lady Knox Geyser. At Te Puia you can see scalding water being flung 30 metres into the air as Pohutu Geyser erupts almost continuously. And whilst we normally associate waterfalls with being cool and refreshing at Hell’s Gate Thermal Park you wouldn’t stand under the waterfall unless you want to be scalded as it is the only hot waterfall in the southern hemisphere.
Rotorua is also a centre where you can learn about Maori history and culture. The Maori are the first peoples of New Zealand. At Te Puia, you can visit the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute and see traditional Maori carvers and weavers in action. Today many Maori people are actively involved with keeping their culture and language alive. Within any Maori community, the marae provides a focus for social, cultural and spiritual life. The term marae describes a communal ‘plaza’ area that includes a wharenui (meeting house) and wharekai (dining room).
There are 16 lakes in the vicinity of Rotorua, many of which are fishable lakes packed with rainbow and brown trout. The lakes, all formed from the craters of extinct volcanoes, are a popular attraction for many water-based activities.
This being New Zealand, there is plenty of opportunity for thrill-seeking, particularly white water rafting and jet boating. For instance, it is possible to jet boat down the Waikato River through the spectacular Tutukau Gorge. See abundant bird life, pine forests, steaming volcanic river banks and trout feeding areas on your way down to Orakei Korako; one of New Zealand’s most popular geothermal attractions.
For a cruise that is slightly less chaotic board the Lakeland Queen, New Zealand’s only stern-driven paddle vessel. Journey to the sacred island of Rotorua’s Te Awara people. This mysterious island in the heart of Lake Rotorua is steeped in cultural history. It is an iconic Rotorua landmark dating back to 1350 AD. Learn about Mokoia’s tribal history and the epic journey to this special place and enjoy the birdsong from endangered species of native birds that now thrive on this protected wildlife reserve.
Rotorua is a place that should be experienced as it is awash with features that are naturally impressive, culturally interesting, and activities that are spine-tinglingly exciting. In short, the memories of your visit to Rotorua will remain with you for a long time after you’ve left.