Some may say you know when you arrive in Rotorua, the distinctive smell that envelopes you like a fog can be a bit off putting …but Rotorua holds so much more than just those mud pools that geothermal earth forces bubble under the surface.
With sixteen lakes and some of the world’s best mountain biking trails, Rotorua offers a unique splash of New Zealand.
For anyone visiting Rotorua, the stand-out attractions have got to be the geothermal playground that offers a range of affordable to luxurious treats for the body.
The geysers, mud pools and thermal springs fires a waft of sulphur that shrouds the whole city. As you drive by, thermal pockets hiss out excrements. Steam escaping from roadside vents, gives you a glimpse of what could happen if one of the volcanoes decided to erupt.
Clouds of steam drift from the many thermal parks scattered around the region, shrouding you in a thin layer of haze, emerging into a forest of trees and native life.
Cultural and Thermal Tu Puia
Experience the two most known activities Rotorua has to offer through Tu Puia. Bubbling mud pools greet you as your guide takes your through a Maori village. Meander through Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley; where you can experience the healing waters of the cooking pools. Sit back and relax through midday and evening cultural performances. And watch as the Maori cook your food the traditional way; a hangi, cooked under layers of earth, the moistness of the food is something definitely worth the wait.
The Polynesian Spa
But perhaps what any visitor could not forego are the many thermal hot pools that boast the spectacular forces bubbling within.
Stroll through Sulphur Bay, overlooking the volcanically-formed lake, picking up sulphur crystals formed into sinter rock on your way to relaxing in the twenty-six mineral bathing pools and spa therapies, fitting any one’s expectations.
Unwind in the four rock pools of varying degrees in the luxury Lake Spa, with private changing rooms with all the utilities.
Immerse under the warm waters in the Lake Spa Retreat; the hot pools loosening tight muscles, continuing on to experience an array of spa therapies. The legendry Aix spa massage provides a rejuvenating water therapy that uses Rotorua mud wraps and New Zealand manuka honey polishes and wraps.
For something a little more affordable, chill out in the large hot alkaline mineral pools, three cascading pools, and three Priest spa acidic pools overlooking Lake Rotorua.
But don’t dismay if you brought the kids, because the Polynesian Spa offers a Family spa that has two alkaline pools overlooking the large fresh water pool, with small hydro slide for the children.
The Gift Shop contains one of the most comprehensive ranges of spa related products, sure to delight friends when you return home.
But wait, there’s more. Hell’s Gate and Wai Ora Spa encompasses the fiercest thermal area and largest mud volcano, New Zealand’s whirling pool, and largest hot water fall in the southern hemisphere.
Bathe in the mud spa complex, or stroll through the thermal heated rocks and steam vents; touch the soft hot water of the medicinal sulphur lake; peer closely at steaming fumaroles, violent pools of boiling mud threatening to overflow. Or get lost amongst the tame birds that fly from tree to tree.
Waikite Valley Thermal pool offers a slightly more down-to-earth experience. With a passive bathing pool, tranquil garden pool and a covered pergola pool.
Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland
Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland is just that. New Zealand’s most colourful natural volcanic area, with a natural bush setting. Walks taking thirty to seventy-five minutes through volcanic craters, close to bubbling and erupting mud pools.
Relax in the multi-coloured champagne pool, your senses being suddenly interrupted by the Lady Knox Geyser erupting daily.
If you have had enough of relaxing in the thermal pools, then stroll through Waimangu Volcanic Valley, the world’s largest hot water spring. Birds singing in native bush forests, as plant life regenerates around you. Walking tours and boat cruises allows you to get up close and personal to what this valley has to offer.
New Zealand Riverjet
Cruise along the Tutukau Gorge on the New Zealand Riverjet. Watch colourful bird life soar around you, pine forests shading the embankments and steaming volcanic river banks. Meander along Orakei Valley – New Zealand’s most popular geothermal attraction. Stroll through the valley to the thermal Ruatapu cave; extending 120 feet down to a hot pool named ‘Waiwhakaata’, ‘pool of mirrors’.
Walk down steps between a narrow passageway surrounded by moss-covered jagged rocks and volcanic cliffs. Crouch down at the cave pool, amongst pink cliff faces, arching over clear still waters. Stand back to view the diamond geyser raining pools of crystal light down the volcanic rock. Steam rising up as though it will envelop you, bringing you precariously close to the bubbling mud pools.
At stops the driver will tell the history of the location. Then suddenly, the driver will power through the water, taking you eerily close to obstacles, spinning the boat in 360-degree spins.
Feel the water spraying against your face in a terrifying, yet exhilarating ride.
Flying to Your Destinations
The Volcanic Air Safari will fly over thermal pools, taking you fishing in remote fishing spots, enabling you to sample the wine at the vineyards, or be whisked to a river cruise. They can even land you on the ‘Buried Village’, strolling through excavated sites that land was destroyed from the volcano eruptions.
Or Elite Adventures takes you to natural geothermal parks, exotic and native forests; the afternoon tour to the variety of lakes scattered around Rotorua.
The Helipro Helicopter Adventure flies you over powerful volcanoes, close to thermal reserves and tranquil wilderness. Walk through active steaming crater floors, stand on rugged summits, or meander through Mokoia Island, seeing the most endangered species.
But there are so many more adventures to choose from. River rafts and kayaks, skydives, duck tours, off-road tours or parasailing.
One for the kids is Skyline Rotorua. The Gondola carries you 487 metres above Rotorua in small eight-seater cabins, as the kids excitedly peer down below them. Reaching the top, the kids can have a ball jumping on a luge, and propelling down the slopes on three separate concrete tracks.
The scenic luge is ideal for the adults wanting to take photos, while the intermediate and advanced routes take you through tunnels, tight bends and dips. Or sit back in the 4D motion theatre and have the sensation of flying over Rotorua.
After all that excitement, delicious food awaits. Stop in at the café to get a bite to eat of fresh sandwiches, cakes, muffins, fish and chips, gourmet pizzas and ice creams.
Even if you don’t want to go on the luge, lunch or dinner out is still worth the trip. Overlooking the stunning views of light flickering in the distance, enjoy a buffet meal with crusty rolls, soups, salads, cold meats and seafood, variety of hot dishes, roast or grilling options and luscious desserts.
For those that want a bit of culture in their visit then explore the Buried Village, the museum offering information on how this village come about, scenic pathways, tea rooms and souvenir store.
Or visit Mitai Maori village; a natural bush setting, with warriors in traditional dress paddling a waka. Visit the glow worms, and eat a traditional meal cooked in the ground.
Mamaka Blue Winery
Mamaka Blue Winery is a unique winery producing only blueberry and gooseberry fruit wines. Tour through the blueberry orchard, factory and winery to see how these exceptional concoctions are grown and made.
On a hot summer’s day relax on the café’s patio and savour a real fruit ice cream. Wander around the farm and bush to pet donkeys, sheep, lambs and cattle grazing the countryside.
On a cold day warm up in the café with a hot cup of coffee or tea, and their ‘world famous’ succulent blueberry muffin or pancakes. Devour venison and blueberry pie, or a gooseberry cream cheese muffin.
Sip a glass of Sparkling Golden Gooseberry wine. Indulge in a blueberry cocktail.
Don’t forget to take something home with you. The shop offers free tastings of everything they make. Blueberry and gooseberry chutneys, jams, liquors, fruit wines, juices and chocolates filled with liquor-soaked berries to create a fondant filling. Or soak up the antioxidant properties for your skin with shower gels, creams and bath soaks.
Whatever your tastes, Rotorua won’t miss anyone out.
Rotorua, “Things to see and do”, Accessed 11/08/11
Rotorua Skyline, Accessed 11/08/11, http://www.skylinerides.co.nz
Mamaka Blue Winery, “Tours and Products”, Accessed 11/08/11