Rotorua and Surrounding Lakes
Rotorua, set in the heart of New Zealand’s North Island is famous for its natural geothermal wonders and Maori Culture. Erupting geysers, boiling mud,
adventure activities, picturesque lakes and so much more combine to make this one of the countries most popular destinations. Also located in the central North Island means it is the ideal place for exploring other regions. Fly into one of the busiest domestic terminals, drive or take a tour to this iconic tourism destination to have an experience like no other.
History and Culture
For over 200 years the people of Rotorua have been welcoming visitors and providing Manaakitanga (hospitality) to this special part of the country. The history and culture of this region can be learnt through various activities and attractions on offer. Popular ways to experience Maori culture in Rotorua are enjoying a cultural performance and a hangi (Maori method of cooking in a steamed pit underground) as well as experiencing traditional massage.
Before European settlers arrived in 1830 the Te Arawa Maori people occupied Rotorua, settling around the lakes and geothermal spots. Villages at the time also thrived off the fertile soils, especially on Mokia Island out from Rotorua also known as the Green Jewel of Te Takiwa Wairaka. This Island has a beautiful love story that became so popular two streets in Rotorua were named after the lovers – Hinemoa and Tutanakei. The lovers were from different tribes but fell so in love that Hinemoa swam over 3 kilometres following Tutanake’s flute to Mokia island. On arrival she was so cold and found a pool to warm up before finally being reunited with her love. Today, visitors can dip their feet in what was Hinemoa’s pool and learn of the myths and legends on Mokia Island. To preserve the beauty of this island there are strict conservation rules in place so future generations can enjoy this island too.
Another significant element of Rotorua’s history was the 1886 Mt Tarawera eruption which sadly killed over 100 people and buried the magical pink and white terraces. The terraces attracted countless visitors to the region for years and were only rediscovered 125 years later deep under Lake Rotomahana. Although you can’t see the terraces you can visit the buried village of Te Wairoa and learn about the history and the people that lived there. A visit to the Rotorua Museum and Whakarewarewa where many of the descendants live today are also significant places to visit to learn of the history.
Geothermal comes from the Greek word geo meaning earth and therme which refers to heat. Sitting in the Pacific Rim of fire Rotorua is arguably the world's best place to experience a geothermal wonderland. Bubbling mud pools and steaming vents can be found in parks and on the streets, even in residents back yards. The top 5 main geothermal areas include; Whakarewarewa, Tikitere (Hell’s Gate), Waimangu, Waiotapu and Orakei.
For something truly spectacular watch the world's largest geyser erupt at Whakarewarewa which is also home to hundreds of hot springs and unique local Maori cultural experiences.
Tikitere (Hell’s Gate):
This is New Zealand's most active geothermal reserve. Learn about the unique healing properties and legends of the pools at Hell’s Gate. Offering mud pools to bathe in that have healed battle scars for years is a popular option for visitors. The pools are said to relax the body and exfoliate the skin.
At Waimangu volcanic valley visitors see the world's youngest geothermal system. Understand the history and legacy while taking in the fascinating crater, hot springs and interesting plant life.
See the world famous campagne pool at this colourful geothermal area. Just a short 20 minute drive out of Rotorua visitors arrive at arguably the prettiest geothermal location.
Orakei Korako (The Hidden Valley):
Parts of the ‘Walking with Dinosaurs movie’ documentary were filmed here and it's not hard to see why with stunning landscapes. Lonely planet argues it is the best thermal area in New Zealand and one of the best in the world.
Lakes and rivers
Rotorua is surrounded by numerous breath-taking lakes which allows for plenty of activities on and around the water. On the water activities include; boat cruises, luxury yachts, paddleboarding, kayaking, fishing, rafting, jet boating and for something a bit different hop on board the Rotorua amphibious Duck Tour. Off the water there are stunning bush walks and cycling tracks. The sparkling lakes also provide a great base for many of the events that take place all year round , in particular marathons and boat races. discover the 18 lakes and three main rivers that the Te Arawa people treasure. The main lakes include; Lake Rotorua, Lake Tikitapu (Blue Lake), Lake Tarawera, Lake Rotomahana, Lake Okareka.
Other Land based activities:
The unique Maori culture, lakes and geothermal activities make Rotorua a great destination but also the adventure activities. There is a lot of open space which has been converted into activities for all ages. Ride the mountain bike track through native bush and connect with nature at Redwoods tree top experience. The luge is also a popular activity for the family, if you aren’t up for these land-based sleds the gondola trip to the top is well worth it to see the views. Don’t miss seeing New Zealand's native kiwi and other interesting animals at Rainbow springs. For the adrenaline junkies ziplining through the forest is great fun. Rotorua has something for everyone.
New Zealand’s two largest cities are found in the North Island- Auckland City and Wellington City. Both cities have various activities on offer making it hard to decide where to start. A helicopter flight is the perfect activity to familiarise yourself with the area. With the help of the pilot guide you’ll have all the information you need to find the best spots when returning to ground. Learn about the history, culture and the countries environment while taking in the beauty of these cities from above. For the more adventurous don’t miss the Heli-Fishing or Heli-Surfing in Auckland city with Heletranz.
Tongariro National Park
The oldest national park in New Zealand, Tongariro is a popular hike for tourists but you can also catch a flight to the top. Enjoy aerial views of the stunning volcanic scenery, Lake Taupo and native bush then land on the snow at the top for another perspective of the diverse landscape. Boiling mud pools, emerald lakes, unique wildlife, culture and an active red crater are all reasons why this location is acknowledged by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a World Heritage site.