A personal guide to Travelling in Rotorua, New Zealand
Travel Rotorua This article is a basic tour guide to traveling in Rotorua highlight and evaluating the main sites in the district. Introduction: If you had only one day in the North Island of New Zealand and you asked me where should one go for that day I would without hesitation say Rotorua. This article is my personal guide to Rotorua from someone who has visited it more times than I can remember and if given the chance I would visit it again. This article is non-commercial and is intended to be for general information. Location: Rotorua is approximately 2.5 - 3 hours drive south of Auckland.
Head south through Hamilton and Cambridge, or for a quicker route via Mata Mata. Shortly after Cambridge turn left and take the number 5 which will lead you right to Rotorua. Coming up from Wellington head to Lake Taupo and take the number 5 to Rotorua. Train and Bus routes also service Rotorua. Attractions: Rotorua is a jewel in the North Island, with geothermal wonders, a center of Maori Culture, Parks, Lakes, Natural History and numerous modern day attractions.
Most visitors comment on the smell when they arrive. It is Hydrogen Sulphide (rotten egg gas) and while distinct at first, if you stay for any length of time you will adapt and seldom notice it. Geothermal Parks The main geothermal parks in Rotorua and its surrounds include Whakarewarewa thermal area, Waimangu Volcanic Valley, Waitapu Thermal wonderland, Orakei Korako Geyserland and Hell's Gate. All these required payment. Whakarewarewa: Visiting this site used to be standard fare in any visit to Rotorua. Unfortunately the park has now divided into two parts, and I personally don't believe either site has enough to stand alone. So what you used to get for one entry price now costs two (be warned). On the Hemo Road entrance is the NZ Maori Arts and Crafts Institute with its master carvers. Also includes a weaving house, kiwi house, and Maori meeting house. Pohutu (big splash) and the Prince of Wales geyser are also on this side.
(Prince of Wales geyser so named because the 3 directions the geyser shoots out resembles the feathers on the Prince of Wales crest). On the Tyron street entrance you get another meeting house where a cultural show is put on, a village, shops and some hot pools, etc. Also here outside school hours you may find the local Maori children willing to jump off the bridge into the stream below in return for chasing your loose change thrown into the same. Waimangu Volcanic Valley: A nice walk along a valley with numerous hot pools, lakes, and near the end of the track the Warbrick thermal terrace - a multi coloured silica terrace, probably the most colourful terrace in Rotorua. Worth a visit if you have already seen some thermal parks and want more, or like a more expansive tour, you can link with a boat tour. (see the gallery for some photos courtesy Waimangu's website). The pink and white terraces once existed in the area prior to the 1886 eruption. Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland: My personal favourite, about 20 min. south of Rotorua towards Taupo. Be prepared to walk abit.
Numerous rainbow pools, the huge champagne pool, artist palette, sulphur vents, boiling mud and a huge silica terrace. If you arrive early in the morning, before 10am, a short drive leads you to the Lady Knox geyser that gets set off once a day by them feeding it with soap, cost of this is included in your admission (was $25 an adult). Also on this road is a natural mud pool which is the best display of boiling mud I have seen and its free. Orakei Korako Geyserland: Closer to Lake Taupo than Rotorua on a side road connecting route 5 to the main route 1. You need to catch the ferry across the lake to begin exploring the park. Like most of the parks good tracks requiring you to walk to see mud pools, a large cave, the emerald terrace and the largest silica feature in the country. Worth the visit if you are passing that way. Hell's Gate: Another thermal park with numerous boiling things, including Adam's frying pan, a mud volcano, hot water falls and one of the few places I found I could buy the multi-colour sand in a glass container (quite pretty). Once visited by Mark Twain who stated he would have gladly paid not to have gone there. I'll have to disagree; I think it’s worth the visit.
Maori Culture Rotorua has plenty of Maori based attractions. These include Tamaki Maori Village (I've yet to visit). The NZ Maori Arts and Crafts Institute (already spoken about), the Buried Village and numerous Hungi and Cultural Performances. The Buried village is what it sounds like, a half buried village. During the 1886 eruption a number of local Maori perished buried in mud. Some of the village has since been dig out and rebuilt to give tourists an idea of a Maori village. I haven't been to Tamaki Maori Village so can't give a review. If you really want to get a good taste of Maori culture food and hospitality then book one of the many feasts and concerts put on by the local hotels. The food, music and friendship are always top rate.