While you’re here, you won’t want to miss –
When you visit Rotorua, a very popular tourist center a few hours south of Auckland, you’ll understand perfectly. While the throngs of tourists on large motorcoaches may clutter some places, you’ll be able to find gems in this active town.
The first thing you’ll notice as you near Rotorua is the strong smell of sulfur – caused by the thermal activity. Tourists have been coming to this region for well over a century for the healing benefits of the thermal springs. Clouds of steam mark out valleys where thermal parks are packed with geysers, hot pools, mud pools, fumaroles and strangely colored crater lakes.
If you’re seeking thrills and spills, you’ll find a huge variety of activities to select from. One of the most accessible and popular is mountain biking catering to all levels of expertise. Tracks wind through thousands of acres of forest with views often overlooking Rotorua’s beautiful lakes or sites of geothermal activity.
Rotorua’s wide range of extreme activities include white-water rafting, sky diving, bungy jumping – and zorbing.
Zorbing? Not for the faint-hearted – it’s a downhill ride in a 12 foot inflatable globe. Choose from a wet or dry surface or ride with a friend – all are equally and terrifyingly enjoyable.
From thrilling jet-boat rides and canyoning in geothermal areas to zip-lining over pristine native forest or a helicopter flight over a steaming volcano, there’s much to see and do.
For a tamer – but still one of a kind experience – play a game of golf at Rotorua Golf Club Arikikapakapa amid steaming crevices and bubbling mud pools. Or perhaps you’ll prefer keeping your feet on the ground in aMAZEme, the Southern Hemisphere’s largest and hugely popular hedge maze. (You are guaranteed to return from this one!)
Rotorua’s 16 beautiful lakes are peaceful in comparison. They can be reached with a 20 minute drive from the city center. Depending on your tastes, you can go cruising, swimming, water skiing, kayaking, and fishing. Explore the many walking tracks and the quiet bush-surrounded beaches, where you may find a natural hot water pool to relax in.
Cruise Lake Rotorua on a genuine stern wheel paddle driven Mississippi River style boat and time your trip to take in breakfast, lunch or dinner on-board. The ultimate experience for fishermen is to charter a boat for a trout fishing adventure – led by an experienced guide, you’ll be in some of the best trout waters in the world.
For those interested in the conservation of declining species, the Wingspan Center is New Zealand’s only center that caters to native birds of prey – the care of falcons, hawks and owls.
The center’s modest appearance belies the importance of its work, which is to secure the birds’ long-term future through practical research-based conservation action. Volunteers use age-old methods of training falcons to prepare the birds for their release into the wild. Stop by to see one of the daily flying displays.
With its sizable Maori population and history, Rotorua is often considered the Maori cultural capital of New Zealand. There are so many opportunities to experience the traditions, it will be easy to spend several days here taking them all in –
- Watch student carvers and weavers master their traditional skills at Te Puia, the Maori Arts and Crafts Institute;
- Walk through the history of the region with a Maori guide;
- Dine on food cooked by age-old methods combined with a performance featuring Maori music and dance – or
- Stroll through the Buried Village – a Maori village buried during the 19th century volcanic eruption – and view the artifacts on display.
The Maoris of Rotorua delight in sharing their legends, music and arts with visitors and will encourage you to take part in traditional singing, dancing and games.
Hospitality is a deep-rooted Maori cultural concept. A unique offering is the Maori hangi, a traditional method of cooking an array of meat and vegetables.
A hole is dug in the ground with red-hot stones placed in the bottom. Food is lowered in baskets onto stones and covered with vegetation. The cooking process takes several hours, but is worth the wait – the resulting food is perfectly cooked with a subtle smoky flavor.
To help you remember these unique experiences, you’ll find stunning examples of local crafts and art works on sale in the city and art centers.
Rotorua may be a small city, but its attractions are worthy of somewhere five times its size. It’s simply a natural paradise of lakes, forests and mountains with the added excitement of thermal springs and some of the strangest physical activities you’re likely to find anywhere.
A truly unique experience. It’s not to be missed.