As one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, New Zealand is full to the brim with exciting places to go and beautiful sights to see. One of these places is the stunning city of Rotorua, located 140 miles southeast of Auckland in the Bay of Plenty region, right in the heart of the North Island. A thriving hub of geothermal activity, the “Sulphur City” has been a major tourist attraction since the 1800s due to the lure of its hot mud pools, thermal springs, erupting geysers, volcanic crater lakes, and bubbling pits of steam located around this sprawling metropolis. This unusual mix of natural spas and bustling city life make it the number one holiday destination for New Zealanders, and if the locals are spending their holidays here then it must be good!
To get up close and personal to the geothermal activity, head to Waimangu Volcanic Valley, which allows visitors to take hikes along carefully-planned trails to see the hot springs, steaming geysers, and bubbling craters. For picture-perfect views of the famous Champagne Pool and The Lady Knox Geyser, head to Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland where you can see naturally colorful geothermal hot pools, boiling mud, and springs containing arsenic and sulfide, all set against the background of gorgeous green forests.
To fully immerse yourself in the hot spring experience, check out the Polynesian Spa where you can soak in one of the seven mineral pools available. Choose from an acidic or alkaline water with either cascading marble pools or shallow rock pools overlooking the lake.
Recently a host city for the Lions Tour 2017, in which the Maori All Blacks played against the British & Irish Lions, Rotorua has one of the largest Maori populations in New Zealand. Spending time in a traditional Maori village is one of the biggest appeals of coming to this beautiful city. You can also head to the outskirts of the town to the Tamaki Maori Village to steep yourself in Maori culture, with traditional ceremonies, music, art, food, and dance provided by the Maori hosts.
For breathtaking beauty, nothing quite beats riding the Skyline Gondola up the side of Mount Ngongotaha to see the city from the sky. Taking one of the 8-seat gondolas gives you a stunning 180-degree panoramic view of the region, and once you have reached the top there are plenty of eateries and facilities to enjoy, such as the sky swing. This well-equipped look-out spot is also where you can take the Skyline Luge, a purpose-built luge ride that allows sightseers to take a cart down the tracks at varying speeds. The “scenic” track is a slower ride designed for the smaller, safer travelers, while the advanced track is for those looking for a more adrenaline-fueled experience.
Anyone visiting Rotorua would be missing out if they did not spend some time on Lake Rotorua. The largest volcanically-formed lake in the region, the high sulfur content along with the mountainous colors reflected in the waters of Lake Rotorua give it a beautifully distinctive hue, which is best observed from the Lakeland Queen, a vintage-style paddle boat offering great food along with a selection of bars.
For those seeking to get away from the hustle and bustle, Whakarewarewa Forest offers the peace and quiet of the enormous Californian Coast Redwood trees, just 5 minutes’ drive from the city center. Make sure to take your camera as the 60-meter-tall trees provide an otherworldly experience, which is only intensified during the changing seasons when the trees and surrounding bush put on a wonderful color-shifting display. Lastly, if biking is your thing, over 60 internationally-acclaimed mountain biking tracks are situated throughout the Whakarewarewa Forest, while other activities such as horse riding are also available.