Explore Rotorua

Rotorua is one of the most exciting tourist destinations in New Zealand despite the fact that it smells like rotten eggs! This is because Rotorua is a city bubbling with geothermal activity: hot pools, mud pools and geysers release hydrogen sulphide into the air, which is responsible for the sometimes pungent aroma and adds to the city’s charm. It is a constant reminder that you are in another world.

Here are some of the places you can visit in Rotorua:


Kuirau Park is free to enter, and contains wonderful examples of exactly what you come to Rotorua to see. The park is an uneven patchwork of steaming, yellow rocks, native scrub, boiling pools, geysers and wonderfully smelly mud pools. There are barriers separating visitors from the dangerous patches of the park, but these don’t seem to mean much to small children, so, if there is a small child in your party, it is important not to let them out of your sight.



The building that houses the Rotorua Museum is essentially Tudor in style, with magnificent windows and a warm, terracotta roof, topped with a spire. Walking up to it, you’d almost think you were in Victorian England; the paths are lined with old-fashioned lampposts, traditional-looking flowerbeds and perfectly manicured bowling greens, but the towering presence of palm trees reminds you that this definitely isn’t England, rather one of “the colonies”.

The building used to be a Bath House, which is both romantic and creepy: romantic for the image of Edwardian elite taking to the geothermal spring waters; creepy for the image of mental patients being held down in pools and subjected to electroshock therapy. The museum, while not free, is well worth a visit. The Tarawera exhibition in particular is a must-see, as it brings to life the most disastrous volcanic eruption in New Zealand's recorded history. If you don’t want to pay to get into the museum, however, it's still worth a visit to the area it’s in, and not just to gaze upon the building. The museum is situated in the historic Government Gardens, which are free to enter and very nice to walk through, with an array of beautiful flowers and geothermal features.



Another thing you can do for free in Rotorua is take a walk around Lake Rotorua. The water at the edge of the lake is a strange colour - a sort of creamy turquoise - from the sulphur. Steam rises from it in places and, as you walk, you will stumble across miniature hot pools.

Plant life at the rim is stunted and burned from the acid, but there are lots of seagulls around and, on the cooler parts of the lake, swans drift serenely along. If you look out across the lake, you’ll see an island in the middle, which, aside from being as beautiful as a painting, is the setting of a really sweet Maori love story.

Essentially, there once was a fair maiden called Hinemoa, who lived on the shores of Lake Rotorua. She was in love with a guy who lived on the island, but her father didn’t want them to marry, so he made it impossible for her to access a canoe. But Hinemoa was clever. She made herself a raft and reached the island, falling into her lover’s arms.



The Luge is operated by Skyline. There’s one in Queenstown as well, but Rotorua was the first. It is basically a cross between a go-kart and a toboggan, and with it you can go hooning down the side of Mt Ngongotaha, winding through a picturesque forest and taking the corners as fast as you dare. Don’t worry, there’s a “scenic” track for those prefer to take it slow, and there’s plenty else to do at the top of the mountain, which is reached by a pleasant gondola ride.

The Luge

Article by Abigail Simpson

Image Credits
Charlie Brewer from Sydney, Australia, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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