Guide to Ro­torua

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Your nose knows you’re in Ro­torua be­fore you do. That’s be­cause the in­fa­mous stink hits you well be­fore the sight of it does. But while bad smells of­ten serve as a nat­u­ral in­di­ca­tion to avoid a cer­tain thing, don’t take the pe­cu­liar aroma of the cen­tral North Is­land town as rea­son to stay away. Sul­phur is to blame for this smell, and where there is sul­phur, there are mar­vel­lous sights to be­hold. If you just pass on through as a few peo­ple do, you’ll find you’re mak­ing the mis­take of skip­ping all the fan­tas­tic of­fer­ings of Te Ro­torua-nui-a-.ahu­mata­mo­moe.


If you’re like me and think­ing “oh lord help me, I’ve got dol­lars and 0 cents in my bank ac­count, how am I sup­posed to have fun ” don’t fret. Ro­torua hasn’t for­got­ten about you. There are plenty of sights to see that won’t cost you a penny. Firstly, you need not even move an inch for your first taste of geother­mic ex­cite­ment. There is ac­tiv­ity oc­cur­ring con­stantly right be­neath the city cen­tre, and steam is of­ten waft­ing from the drains on the side of the road.

While it may not be some­thing to write home about, it does a great job of paint­ing the pic­ture of what to ex­pect dur­ing your time in Ro­torua. If the bil­low­ing steam is a taster, head to Wai-o-tapu for the full blown meal. Cer­tain mud pools in Wai-o-tapu re­quire an ad­mis­sion fee, but skip this non­sense and head to the Wai-o-tapu board­walk. This walk is so short it should al­most be called a stand. Take this as an easy op­por­tu­nity to check out the amaz­ing bub­bling mud pools. Be wary though. This is NOT the kind of beauty-mask mud you put on your face. 8nless you no longer want your face.

Now you might be think­ing “stuff this, I want to hop in!” Hold your horses. Wait till you find your­self on the banks of Kerosene Creek just an -minute drive away. This isn’t quite the devil’s bath­tub of Wai-o-tapu, more a pleas­ant nat­u­ral spa. The heat is spread through­out the flow­ing wa­ter, so have a wee swim-around un­til you find a cosy spot. Don’t for­get your bath toys. A stark dif­fer­ence to the murky brown sludge of the Wai-o-tapu pools, the wa­ter of the Ha­mu­rana Springs is a crys­tal-clear blue. In­stead of be­ing fe­ro­ciously hot, it is ab­so­lutely frigid all year round. Hold off on the touch­ing, go hard on the look­ing.

After a leisurely stroll through the grove dot­ted with mighty Cal­i­for­nian Red­woods, you’ll hit the Han­garua Spring. An im­pres­sive 15m deep (roughly 5 sto­ries), even the clear­est wa­ter can only re­veal the spring walls to a cer­tain level. It’s been tra­di­tion for decades to throw coins into the spring for good luck, so some al­tru­is­tic divers from Welling­ton col­lected 5000 pen­nies in 1 5 and do­nated them to lo­cal chil­dren’s char­i­ties. If you’re of the young and spritely va­ri­ety, chances are you’ll blitz th­ese walks in no time at all.

To sa­ti­ate your thirst for a longer out­doors hike, take the op­por­tu­nity to drive the 15 min­utes from the Ro­torua cen­tre to the reen and Blue Lakes. Lake Tik­i­tapu (the Blue Lake) is a loop track tak­ing roughly 1 and half hours re­turn.

True to its name, you’ll catch glimpses of the blue lake wa­ters through the gor­geous na­tive for­est. In the sum­mer, take a dip (not the skinny kind, the fat kind). If you’re go­ing to feel at one with na­ture some­where in Ro­torua, it’s likely to be here. Lake Ro­tokakahi (the reen Lake) is sa­cred, so swim­ming is not per­mit­ted. How­ever, there is a 1-hour track with equally won­der­ful land­scape if you’re feel­ing some­thing slightly shorter.


8nfor­tu­nately, not all the great things in life are free. Here are some ac­tiv­i­ties for those with a bit of dough to spend. Take the Sky­line Gon­dola up the side of Mt Ngongo­taha. Not only are there killer views from the top, but right here is the ex­tremely fun Luge. If you’re un­fa­mil­iar with the con­cept of Lug­ing, you’re es­sen­tially let­ting grav­ity hur­tle you down the hill on a small cart with only steer­ing and brak­ing ca­pa­bil­ity. How EPIC does that sound Be­cause it is.

If you don’t feel like rolling down the hill on a cart, how about on the in­side of a gi­ant trans­par­ent ball OGO was launched by the in­ven­tor of orb­ing, and the Ro­torua lo­ca­tion is now the largest down­hill park in the world. Take your pick of a dry, or wet and slip­pery roll. Ei­ther way, good luck re­main­ing stand­ing!

Take the time to check out the Cham­pagne Pools in WaiO-tapu. There is an ad­mis­sion fee ( .50 for an adult, 11 for a child), but there’s a lot more to see here than on the free walks. Th­ese pools present a beau­ti­ful ar­ray of vi­brant colours (here’s where the “no-fil­ter-needed” comes in).

FEELIN PECK­ISH Any­one who knows any­thing about Ro­torua knows that if you want a great cof­fee and a su­perb meal, you should hit up the Fat Dog Cafp. While it may not be the most en­tic­ing name for an eat­ing es­tab­lish­ment, you’ll feel like one your­self after din­ing there (in the best way pos­si­ble). The por­tions are huge, there’s an im­pres­sive range of meals on the menu, and the prices are rea­son­able. Packed out a lot of the time, but never long to wait for a ta­ble. They also won the Ro­torua hos­pi­tal­ity award for out­stand­ing barista in 015, so they’re do­ing some­thing right.

For din­ner, it’s worth­while tak­ing a short walk over to Eat Streat. No that is not a spell­ing er­ror we made, that’s how it’s spelt. For­give who­ever made that de­ci­sion, just be grate­ful for its ex­is­tence. Eat Streat is a wee boule­vard of bril­liant restau­rants that are per­haps a bit dearer but worth dish­ing out for. Think Thai, In­dian, Mediter­ranean, Mid­dle Eastern, Ital­ian and more. It’s as if the en­tire world came to­gether to dine in lit­tle ol’ Ro­torua.

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