Rotorua- Natural Spa of New Zealand

When it comes to Hot Mud Pools and Hot Spring Geysers, few places on Earth can beat Rotorua. Located in New Zealand, Rotorua is a hotbed of geothermal activity and home to the world famous Pohutu Geyser located at the tongue twisting town of Whakarewarewa. Rotorua is also a great place to get acquainted with the rich culture of the Maoris. A distinctive smell of Sulphur together with drifts of steam escaping into the air, as many as 15 lakes, the warm & proud spirit of Maoris, natural spa and mountain biking trails are just a few of the things that make Rotorua distinct and unforgettable.

Reaching Rotorua

Rotorua is easily accessible from Auckland. Situated 234 Kms away from Auckland, Rotorua is a 3 hour drive away. Coaches are also available from Auckland , Wellington and other North Island Centers. It is also connected by Flights from Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington and Queenstown.

What to see and do at Rotorua 

Hot Springs of Whakarewarewa

Whakarewarewa is the center of geothermal activities in Rotorua. It is actually the short form of the original Maori name “Te Whakarewarewatanga O Te Ope Taua A Wahiao,  which means “The gathering place for the war parties of Wahiao”. The Maoris have been living in Whaka for over 200 years as its hot surface made cooking and other household chores very easy! There are more than 500 pools of alkaline chloride hot springs and 65 Geysers in this area.

Pohutu is the most famous Geyser here, throwing up to 30 meters every hour. It is the world's second tallest Geyser after "Old Faithful" in Yellow Stone National Park in the US. 

Whaka is a living thermal village. The residents double up as guides for tourists. You can visit Pa, the model Maori Village to get an idea of how the Maoris lived in harmony with nature for hundreds of years. There are several different types of Maoris Houses built in the traditional architecture styles.

An interesting spectacle is to watch the ladies boil corn in the natural boiling pool. Once the village closes in the evening for the tourists, the villagers get back to their chores of cooking, washing and cleaning. There is also a historical site you can visit where the tribes used to meet before going into War!

Te Puia is another must visit. It is an arts and crafts facility developed to ensure the Maori traditions of carving and weaving  are kept alive. Several scholarships are awarded every year to promising students so they can hone their skills and keep up the tradition for the next generation.

Before leaving Whakarewarawa make sure you experience some authentic Maori cuisine. Head to Ned’s Cafe to experience corn on the cob cooked fresh in the hot springs and  a traditional Hangi meal which is cooked in a pit with hot stones.

Paradise Valley

Paradise Valley is a beautiful wildlife park with the scenic  Ngongotaha Stream running across. In fact Paradise Valley is the largest Trout display in New Zealand, with more than 20000 Trouts visiting annually. There is an underwater cave which provides a great viewing gallery to spot Trouts as well as Long Finned Eels which grow up to 80 years old.

The other inhabitants of this lovely Park are Golden Opossums, Kunekune, Captain Cooker pigs, Fallow Deer, Dama Wallabies and even Thar the Himalayan mountain goats. In terms of birds, some of the varieties seen here are Tui, Bellbird, Kereru, Grey Warbler , Robin,  Paradise Shelducks and Swans. Thirsty travellers can take a drink directly from Te Waireka, the beautiful freshwater spring which in Maori means “Sweet Water”.  

Do not miss the Lion feeding that is scheduled every day in the afternoon at 230 PM. If you are lucky you can even pat Lion Cubs and take photographs!

An Ancient Bath House

Rotorua Bath House is a magnificent building designed in Tudor Style. It was built by the government to position Rotorua as a premier Spa destination for both domestic and international tourists. It had opened in 1908 as The Great South Seas Spa. The interiors of the Bath House are plush with marble sculptures, magnificent porcelain baths and couches. There is a viewing plaform on the roof of the Bath House which provides panoramic views of the City, Government Gardens, Lake Rotorua and Sulphur Bay. The Attic of the building has an insight into the construction, lighting and ventilation techniques used in the Bath House.

Museum of Art and History in the Bath House is a great place to catch up on the history of Rotorua. The best way to experience the Museum is through the Cinema. The Cinema takes you on a journey into the volatile past of Rotorua with computer imagery and surround sound. I found the active’ portrayal of the eruption of Tarawera Mountain, most fascinating. Another interesting Cinema is ‘The Story of 28 Maori Battalion’. This features the story of World War II veterans from Rotorua and other places,  through battles in Greece, Crete, North Africa and Italy. Te Arawa gallery is another interesting section which captures the life and times of the Maori ancestors in the form of  historic carvings, weaponry, weaving and photographs.

A Discovery in Rotorua

Rotorua seems to attract tourists not only from all over the world but even from out of it. On March’30th,2011 Craig Baird a native of Rotorua and his 2-year-old daughter Ashlee, saw what was possible a UFO on Waikite valley. The photos he took show a bright object leaving an orange stream on its path. What is intriguing is that the object seemed to stop and hover for about two minutes when it reached the clouds!

Brief History of Rotorua

Located in the North Island of New Zealand, Rotorua in Maori means "The second great lake of Kahumatamomoe". The Maori Chief and great explorer Ihenga discovered a second lake in his expeditions and named it after his uncle Kahumatamomoe. In 1883, a special district was created to promote Rotorua as a natural Spa destination to use its geothermal resources. Rotorua never looked back since then and has flourished as one of the world’s most popular natural Spa destinations.

For more of my travelogues across the world, visit Great Vacations.

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