Rotorua

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Rotorua is known as the thermal wonderland of New Zealand. Its hot springs and geysers have attracted tourists for over a hundred years.

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Points of Interest in Rotorua

As New Zealand's busiest tourist centre there are a variety of attractions ranging from free to quite expensive.

Free attractions

  • Government Gardens is an immaculate park near the CBD, where there is also the city museum (small entry charge) and the famous Blue Baths. Nearby is the Sportsdrome and one of the many golf courses.
  • The Lakes - there are 14 to choose from. Lake Rotorua gives its name to the city and boat trips can be arranged to Mokoia Island in the centre. The lakefront has a scenic promenade from where you can see Mokoia Island. From the Lakefront scenic floatplane or helicopter scenic flights can be taken. Alternatively a cheaper option is to take the Amphibious truck from Fenton Street, which does a 90 minute tour of several of the main lakes in the area. All the lakes are stocked with trout and fishing is very popular.
  • Motutara (Sulphur Bay) - Fantastic walkway starting just beyond the government gardens. The walkway passes through several geothermal hot springs and sulpher vents (the posted warnings to stay on the pathway at all times are no joke.) The bay itself hosts many waterbirds and other wildlife.
  • Whakarewarewa Forest AKA The Redwoods. accessible either from Tarawera Road (where there is a visitors centre) or from SH5 on the Taupo Highway. Around 1900 New Zealand began a program of planting imported trees here to see which species grows best in NZ. A 6 hectare grove of majestic redwoods is surrounded by forest with other types of trees. Spectacular walks, mountain bike tracks (over 60 km/37 mi in total) and riding trails. Bikes can be hired from bike shops in the city, although Planet Bike also usually have a truck with hire gear at the main car park.
  • Rotorua Walkway. A 26 km (16 mi) scenic walkway around Rotorua incorporating most of the above as well as several other parks and sights. Pick up a brochure for a map and explanations or download one in PDF format from the district council website in the above link.

Pay attractions

  •    Waimangu Volcanic Valley, 587 Waimangu Road (off SH 5, 25 km south of central Rotorua),  +64 7 366-6137. Born from the massive 1886 eruption of Mt Tarawera, is the world’s newest geothermal eco-system, and an exciting and dramatic destination that the whole family can enjoy. Whatever your age or fitness level, you'll find something that suits you - self guided and guided easy walks, advanced hikes and boat cruise experiences, ranging in duration from 45 minutes to over 4 hours. If you want outdoor activity, peaceful New Zealand bush, unique ecology, rare botany and stunning geothermal features, then Waimangu is the 'must do' experience. It is easily accessible, just 20 minutes south of Rotorua, and 40 minutes north of Taupo. Daily from 8:30AM. Adults from $34.50, children (6-16) from $11.00.
  • Okere Falls - approximately 20 km (12 mi) out of the city towards Tauranga on SH33 you will pass the end of Lake Rotoiti; most of the 14 lakes flow into Rotoiti, which itself heads off to the Bay of Plenty, descending nearly 305 m (1000 ft) in less than 30 km (19 mi). For this reason it boasts some of the most spectacular white water challenges available to the intrepid traveller. These range from dual kayaks, to white water sledging (hurling yourself down stream with a life jacket and float), or rafting. Tuteas Fall is the worlds largest/highest commercially rafted fall; with a 7 m (23 ft) drop, on average every fourth boat flips! If you don't want to get wet there is a pleasant 6 km (4 mi) walk though the forest where you can see the activities at close hand. There are also some small caves where glow worms can be found.
  •    Te Puia, Hemo Rd (SH 30),  +64 7 348-9047, toll-free: 0800-837-842. Home to the Whakarewarewa Valley of geothermal activity, including bubbling mud pools and geysers. There are regular, free guided tours throughout the park, including the geothermal areas, the marae, and the kiwi house. There are also Maori cultural experiences like traditional dances and meals available for an additional charge. Now under construction to become an even more mega-attraction. Adults from $48.50, children (5-15) from $24.50.
  •    Whakarewarewa Thermal Village, 17 Tryon Street, Whakarewarewa,  +64 7 349-3463. 08:30-17:00 (closed Xmas day). The main competitor to Te Puia - ironically two Maori iwi competing with similar attractions. Good, and appears less developed and maybe more "authentic" than the next door Te Puia. Adults from $35.00, children (5-15) from $15.00.
  •    Skyline Skyrides, Fairy Springs Road (SH 5),  +64 7 347-0027. 09:00-late. Located on the outskirts of town, this gondola ride up Mt. Ngongotaha offers a panoramic view of Rotorua and the surrounding mountains. Adults from $25.00, children (5-14) from $12.50.
  •    Rainbow Springs Nature Park, 192 Fairy Springs Rd,  +64 7 350-0440, toll-free: 0800-724-626. 08:30-late. Beautifully landscaped nature park featuring sculptured ponds with cuy fish and gardens including Kiwi birds and other native New Zealand animals. Adults from $40.00, children (3-15) from $30.00.
  •    The Agrodome, 141 Western Road, Ngongotaha (off SH 5, 10 km north of central Rotorua),  +64 7 357-1050. An agricultural park with farm animals, shows and exhibitions describing rural life in New Zealand both past and present. Both the sheep show and the farm tour are both exceptional! As well as the farming attractions, the Agrodome is home to the Freefall Experience simulator, the north islands highest bungee jump, a jet boat ride and the ubiquitous Zorb - where you are sealed inan inflatable ball and rolled down a steep hill! Adults from $31.00, children (5-15) from $15.50.
  •    The Buried Village, 1180 Tarawera Rd (15 km from central Rotorua),  +64 7 362-8287. Summer 09:00–17:00 daily; winter 09:00–16:00 daily. Self-descriptive, the village was swamped with ash by the nearby Mt. Tarawera in the massive 1886 eruption which killed 153 people. $32.00.
  •    Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, 201 Waiotapu Loop Road, Waiotapu (off SH 5, 31 km south of central Rotorua),  +64 7 366-6333. A great park to see a variety of geothermal landscapes and active volcano activities, including the Lady Knox Geyser, which is a famous geyser that erupts daily to heights of 10 to 20 m (33-66 ft). Adults $32.50, children (5-15) $11.00.

Blue Baths

Government Gardens

Polynesian Spa

Rotorua Arts Village

Rotorua Museum of Art and History

Tamaki Maori Village

Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve

Te Puia New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute

Waimangu Volcanic Valley

Kuirau Park

Springfield Golf Club

St. Faith\'s Anglican Church

Tamatekapua Meeting House

Lake Tarawera

Buried Village

Lake Okataina

Rainbow Springs Kiwi Wildlife Park

Hell\'s Gate and Wai Ora Spa

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

Lake Rotomahana

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About Rotorua

Background

Tourism is a major industry in Rotorua, so tourist services are well developed. The Tourist Information Centre on the main road, Fenton Street, is a good starting point.

Rotorua is built over a geothermal hot spot. There are numerous natural vents, hot pools and other geothermal features in and around the city. Many of these are in parks and reserves. Natural eruptions of steam, hot water and mud occasionally occur in new locations. Many places have their own private geothermal bores for heating and water for bathing although private use of naturally occurring geothermal water and steam is controlled.

Rotorua sits on the shores of Lake Rotorua, and there are several other lakes nearby. So along with the geothermal wonders, many water-based activities such as fishing, boating and white water rafting are available.

Geologically, Rotorua is in the middle of the Taupo Volcanic Zone, named after Lake Taupo, the largest volcano in the area. This geologically active zone produces the heat that is needed to drive all the geothermal activity. Along with many volcanic hills and mountains, the zone contains several major volcanic calderas (large subsidence craters). These are important for tourism because they host the region's largest lakes (including Lake Taupo and Lake Rotorua), and because geothermal activity tends to occur around their edges. Rotorua caldera, some 22 km (14 mi) across, contains the city and Mount Ngongotaha as well as the lake. It was created in a huge eruption around a quarter of a million years ago.

Activities

Your best bet is to spend some energy taking in some of the many day-time activities such as land-sledding down Mt. Ngongotaha at Skyline Skyrides Luge Ride[7], heli-touring or hiking through the abundance of parks often alongside thermal vents. Nearby is the curious forest of California Redwoods that was planted last century and has thrived in the ideal climate so that it appears to have been there for many centuries. The forest in this area has been developed to provide world-class mountain biking tracks, some of which are being used for the 2006 World Championships. Rotorua host several other adventure activities such as Zorbing, indoor rock-climbing and whitewater rafting or sledging. When deciding if spending $20+ per person for entry to "Volcanic Caldera Areas" remember that there are many free parks that have very similiar sights and smells, often with less walking and no charge.

One activity that is unique is the ability to play a round of golf amongst the mud pools. The Rotorua golf course has a public course where for $10 you can play 9 holes and attempt to avoid the mud pool hazards, a unique experience. The course is at the top of Fenton Street opposite Te Puea, the Maori Arts and Craft Institute and geyser.

  •    Polynesian Spa, Hinemoa Street,  +64 7 348-1328, toll-free: 0508-765-977. Daily 08:00-23:00. Provides a fusion of relaxing hot mineral spring bathing, spa therapies and picturesque lake views. Voted a World Top Ten Spa by Conde Nast Traveller magazine at the 2004-2007, and 2009 Annual Spa Awards. Relaxing hot mineral bathing is offered in 26 hot mineral spring pools in four areas – deluxe Lake Spa, Adult Pools & Priest Spa, Private Pools or Family Spa. The Lake Spa offers 4 alkaline mineral pools from 36-42°C (97-108°F). Well appointed changing facilities include towels, lockers, soap, shampoo and hairdryers, plus a lake view relaxation lounge with refreshments available. The Adult Pools & Priest Spa is a popular adult only area with 4 alkaline mineral pools, plus 3 acidic mineral pools with waters from the Radium hot spring. Six of these seven pools have views over Lake Rotorua. Privacy is offered in one of 13 Private Pools, set at 39°C (102°F) and available for 30 minutes hire. The Family Spa offers a large geothermally-heated swimming pool (with a small hydro slide) plus two alkaline mineral pools. Set amid native flora, the exclusive Lake Spa Retreat is an inviting relaxation haven, providing an array of enticing massage, spa and hydro therapies. All spa therapies include Lake Spa bathing and start at $85 for a half hour (bookings are essential). Also includes a café that serves light cuisine, and a spa essentials store. Adults from $14.50, children (5-14) from $6.50.
  • Bibleworld Museum & Discovery Centre, 1163 Eruera Street,  +64 21909842. Friday 11 - 3 pm; Saturday & Sunday 1 - 3 pm. A unique museum where adults and children can explore what life was like in the ancient world through a range of models, ancient artifacts and interactive activities. $3 per adult; $1.50 per child.

Food

There are numerous places to try the traditional Maori feast, the hangi. This "earthen oven" technique is similar to the Hawaiian umu and results in a very distinctive smoky earthy flavour - well worth trying.

In the last decade Rotorua has slowly acquired some nice cafes - good options include: Ciccio Italian cafe, Relish, Capers, ZIppy's or the Fat Dog. The usual generic chains for pizzas and burgers can be found.

Restaurants are slightly more scarce but several of the major hotels have good eating establishments (Novotel or Ridges on the raceway). The main centre for eating is lower end of Tutanekai Street (known locally as Eat Street), but beware, even after 9PM you may find little left on the menu. Popular restaurants on Tutanekai Street include: Triple 1 Five, Indian Star and Wild Rice.

Another option is to go for the buffet at Skyline Skyrides [8], as this saves the cost of the gondola ride and you can often get a spectacular view of the sunset over the lake. Prices are about $40 per adult, with children charged at $1 per year of age.

Drinks

Rotorua is sometimes referred to as Roto-Vegas because of the many neon-lit hotels along the main street, the numerous venues for gambling and the few brothels. Strangely though, there isn't much night life to speak of. The bar at the Hot Rocks Backpackers - the Lava Bar - is a good bet, alternatively you could try the Pig & Whistle, Fuse or the Fat Dog Cafe. Heaven & Hell is the only nightclub in Rotorua and is popular with local adults.

Shopping

There are numerous Maori arts and crafts on sale in the city centre and at the various tourist attractions. The quality varies from extremely professional contemporary artwork to cheap nick-nacks. Popular items include pounamu/greenstone (jade) or bone jewellery, traditional weapons and statues. This selection is accompanied by sheepskins and the normal tourist giftware of t-shirts, caps, mugs and pens plastered with "Rotorua", other words and pictures. More attractive and practical gifts can be found such as simple clothing (jackets, shirts, ties, caps) with abstract Maori designs on them.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Rotorua on Wikivoyage.

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