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This week I have been checking out Rotorua. This Kiwi city is well known for its mud pools and unique sulphurous aroma, but the place is much more than a geothermal destination! Before you head for that soak in one of the area’s famous hot pools there’s plenty of other things to see and do – and plenty of fun to be had!
Try kayaking or rafting on the Kaituna River and brave the Tutea Falls – at seven metres it is the world’s highest commercially rafted waterfall. Go white-water sledging (boogie board style) down challenging rapids, and black-water rafting through the spectacular Ruakuri Cave, or get the bird’s eye view of Rotorua with a tandem skydive from 15,000 feet. My personal favourite was the ever-popular Zorb – you are strapped into a transparent plastic ball and rolled downhill!
If you feel the urge to unwind after participating in those action-packed Kiwi adventures, Rotorua is also home to the Whakarewarewa Forest. This is an avid walkers’ and mountain bikers’ dream with an abundance of tracks to explore. Or how about a stroll through Rotorua Museum, located in the historic Bath House? Here, you will learn about New Zealand history, the people, and the city’s unique geothermal landscape. It’s the perfect place to start exploring the cultural side of Rotorua. Mitai and Tamaki Māori villages offer cultural shows to broaden the mind, and another crowd pleaser is the Blue Baths – Cabaret Dinner Show.
I found Rotorua boasts some fabulous bays too. The road to stunning Blue Lake (Lake Tikitapu) is a popular scenic drive and takes you there in a short 10 minutes. Nestled in native bush, the lake is a great spot for boating, swimming, relaxing or taking a stroll on the beautiful white-sand beaches. Down the road from Blue Lake is Lake Tarawera and Hot Water Beach, where you can relax and soak in the warm atmosphere of natural hot springs. Back in town, a mud bath and sulphurous spa experience at Hell’s Gate and WaiOra Spa is an absolute must-do.
Hungry after exploring the region? Rotorua dishes up great cafés and restaurants, especially on Eat Street. This popular and pedestrian-friendly place is lively and close to the city lakefront. Rotorua has a choice of accommodation to suit all types of travellers, from backpackers to exclusive lodges and resorts. But most of all, the people are friendly, welcoming and proud of what their city has to offer. On a beautiful day you hardly notice the sulphur smells lurking in the air, and when they do it’s only a reminder that you are visiting a magical place!
– Jane Dennis