Otherwise known as the Sulphur City, Rotorua is one of the most geothermal active towns in New Zealand. With it's bubbling mud pools, hot springs and geysers, it's a destination not to be missed while exploring the North Island! Of course, if you ever paid attention in your science lessons at school, you'll know that sulphur has quite a distinctive smell... Don't let it put you off though, the culture that can be found here along with soaking your worries away in the hot springs is certainly worth it.
Don't be concerned by the steam coming out of the ground here, even though it is literally coming out of the storm drains at times - it is seriously geothermal galore! Within a few minutes walk from our hostel were bubbling mud pools and geysers shooting up steam and scalding water up into the air. You know that scene from Ice Age where the Dodo's dance around with the watermelons (I didn't get this part either) but then become extinct because of the boiling water shooting them into the sky? Pretty much what it looks like here, minus the death of course.
The local Mauri name for the town is Whangapipiro which essentially translates to 'evil smelling place' - once again, thank the sulphur. As with all of New Zealand, there certainly is a Mauri presence here and it's so awesome that they're still in touch with their traditional roots despite all the European settlers history. One of the best activities to try here is the cultural experience evening so whack it into your diary. Tamaki Maori Village is a reconstruction based on a 1600s Mauri settlement and is full of a traditional dinner and an interactive evening experiencing this ancient culture.
There's lots to do here other than soaking away in a natural hot tub and exploring traditional villages, especially with Hobbiton only a short drive away! You've got a few shops, stunning hikes and trail walks around the geothermal features along with wildlife sanctuaries to see kiwi birds. Since their habitat is decreasing, so is there popular so it's increasingly hard to see them in the wild, this is really the only place to see them without days of searching. Not as wonderful as seeing them out in their natural home of course, but if you're going to New Zealand it's worth seeing the bird the nation is nicknamed after.
Other awesome things to try if you're slightly more of an adrenaline junkie would be heading over to zorb Rotorua to race down in huge plastic bubbles or to skyline Rotorua luge to speed down on a go-kart / toboggan hybrid! Also, with some serious rapids nearby Rotorua is a great place to try some white water rafting on the Kaituna River. With a 7m drop over one of the falls, you're sure in for a ride!
Of course, the true highlight of the area is the geothermal activity going on here and the perfect place to see it is Waitotapu where water turns to orange, and geysers are formed in the middle of lakes. Found south of Rotorua, it's the perfect day trip! Tread carefully though, this ground is sacred to the Mauri people and is very much alive.
Below I’ve outlined a list of some of the things you can do in the area while staying here to help you decide how to spend your time best.
Nature Walks - $ FREE
Tamaki Village Tours Hangi & Concert - $105
Explore Picturesque Tairua - $ FREE
Zorbing - $45
Agrodome Farm Show - $29
Gondola Skyline - $25
Luging - $33
Kaitiaki White Water Rafting - $95
Trip to Hobbiton - $110
Te Puia Gate Entry - $47
Soak in a Hot Spring - $0-$20
Meander through Kuirau Thermal Park - £0-£8