Rotorua had been on my list of places to go in New Zealand for many years. As a small child, a visit from my uncle who lived in Rotorua had sparked my interest. On one of his trips to visit us in Australia, my uncle had brought with him stories of his hometown and had gifted me a beautiful Maori doll that was a much-loved treasure of my childhood.
As I drove into Rotorua, I was amazed at the extraordinary volcanic and geothermal environment I was seeing.
The North Island of New Zealand, provides a different experience from the South Island. Rotorua and it’s surrounding region sits on the edge of the Pacific Ring of Fire and has one of the world’s most active geothermal fields. I had been told that the smell of sulphur can be overwhelming in Rotorua, and was surprised that it wasn’t as bad as expected. Being on a very tight budget this trip I had brought along a little tent and easily found a great camping ground to set up for the night. I hadn’t been camping since I was a teenager, so this was an adventure in itself for me and I was pleasantly surprised at the great amenities and friendly people I encountered in the camping grounds.
It was still light after I had set up my tent, so I decided to go for a drive around Rotorua to check out the sights and soon found myself at Lake Rotorua. The lakefront is a great place to sit and have a bite to eat you’ll find local markets there on a Sunday morning.
The next morning I set out to discover more of Rotorua.
I was on a mission to find free and cheap things to do and was pleased to find the Rotorua Government Gardens. The gardens are a peaceful place to take a walk and you’ll find plenty of things to photograph in the gardens.
I had wanted to see the thermal activity that Rotorua is famous for and had been told that Kuirau Park was a great place to witness these wonders.
Kuirau Park is filled with walkways that wind their way through the geothermal setting, offering views of mud pools and boiling lakes. The smell of Sulphur wafts through the air here, but it is well worth a visit to see the environmental phenomena for free.
After a short drive out of Rotorua, I found the Blue (Lake Tikitapu) and Green Lakes (Lake Rotokakahi). There is an easy walking track around the Blue Lake and it’s a great place for a swim. The area is full of Maori history and surrounded by unique flora and fauna. From the lookout, you can see the distinctly different colors of both lakes.
Rotorua is not just a beautiful place to visit, it has a proud Maori history, which is evidenced around the city. A visit to the Tamiki Maori Village, Te Puia or Mitai Village will give you a taste of this rich and enduring culture.
Spend a little time or stay a few days, there are plenty of great things to do in Rotorua New Zealand.