For someone that is perpetually cold, Rotorua was my heaven. I’m not talking about a tropical climate, but rather 360 degrees of geothermal activity. Still volcanically active, Rotorua [or Rotovegas as the locals like to call it] is literally bursting with geothermal wonders and activity. In fact, much of the North Island can be accessed via the Thermal Explorer Highway. It overwhelms your senses. Everywhere you look, you can see steam rising. Each breath you take is filled with rotten eggs whether you like it or not, and if you listen closely, you’ll probably hear mud bubbling and boiling, maybe even hissing. Be careful what you touch, though, as it might be scalding, although there are plenty of hot springs you can enjoy, and as far as taste goes, well, I’ll let you figure that one out on your own.
Rotorua is otherworldly. Standing amidst the steam and being surrounded by colorful sulphur pools and bubbling mud is so bizarre. Reason 430398727 New Zealand seems unreal. But lucky for all of us, it’s not too good to be true, and we can all soak up Rotorua’s warmth.
What’s Hot in rotorua [AKA Top 8 Things to do]
One of the Thermal Wonderlands in the area, complete with crazy colored pools, from lime to purple, and Lady Knox Geyser. Each day she erupts at 10:15am. [Full disclosure: they give her a little nudge by adding soap, but regardless, it’s still very cool.] There are 3km worth of paths that weave you in and around the thermal attractions, and we did all 3 paths in about an hour. Highlights include the Champagne Pool, which is 62m deep and 74 degrees celsius, the Devil’s Bath, which is eerily green, and 20+ other steaming wonders. ($32.50NZD/adult)
Detour to Kerosene Creek
Right near Wai-O-Tapu is this natural hot waterfall. Yep. It doesn’t get much better than that. I’d like to say it’s a hidden treasure, but the secrets out, and there are now sign postings for it. But hey, it’s still free, and in the middle of the woods. Take Old Waiotapu Road, and about 2km down the gravel road, there’s a decent sized carpark. You can’t miss it, just follow the path down along the stream until you reach the nice warm natural hot pool and waterfall.
If you want a little introduction to Rotorua or have some time to kill, Kuirau Park is worth checking out, especially since it’s free. It’s located right in the center of town and is a pretty expansive garden/park. Little pathways guide you around, and the amount of geothermal activity surprised me for being right in the city center. There were so many bubbling pools of mud, and steam was rising in every which direction, not to mention the smell of rotten eggs was always present.
soak in hot pools at POLYNESIAN SPA
According to Conde Nast Traveler, it is one of the top 10 day spas in the world. Not that I need much convincing for visiting a spa, but that definitely made it a “must-do” in my book. It’s situated right on the edge of Lake Rotorua, so we soaked in multiple hot pools of varying temperatures, enjoyed the lake views, and although we didn’t have a starry night, the rain made the hot pools that much better. We chose to go the Lake Spa route which consisted of four shallow hot pools surrounded by rocks, waterfalls, and trees. They also had private pools, an adult spa, and other combo deals. I loved the Lake Spa, but I don’t think you can go wrong. Check out all of the options and prices here.
Chow down at Eat Streat
We stumbled upon this goodness just while strolling the city one night, and it’s awesome. A whole street dedicated to cafés, bars, and restaurants, and it’s all covered and heated so you can dine al fresco year round. Each restaurant has their own heaters, too, making it the perfect place to eat, drink and people watch. We loved CBK, but there’s a little something for every taste bud on Eat Streat.
“is arguably the best thermal area left in New Zealand” – Lonely Planet
If heading to Taupo this is a good stop on the way, as it’s about 45 minutes from Rotorua. It’s known as The Hidden Valley and is another geothermal area in/around Rotorua. Like I said earlier, Rotorua is bursting with geothermal activity. As we had already visited Wai-O-Tapu, we were a little hesitant to visit another geothermal park, but it was definitely worth it. Not only was it nice to break up the drive, but it was very unique and a bit off the beaten path. That, combined with the fact that it was almost winter, meant we had the place all to ourselves. It’s out in the middle of nowhere right on Lake Ohakuri, and you have to take a ferry across to explore the thermal park. It’s known for its silica terraces, and we especially loved the gigantic, geothermal cave.
New Zealand’s finest invention, rolling down a hill in a rubber ball. You can decide to do a sidewinder track, roll straight down, be strapped in, go with a friend, have water added, etc… In winter, they add warm water…but unfortunately, we never got the chance to do this. There are a couple different places to zorb, but OGO has the longest runs.
Lady Jane’s Ice Cream Parlor
So this is more of a way to cool down after all the geothermal-ness, but it’s worth mentioning. At the end of Eat Streat is this wonderful ice cream shop with too many options to pick just one flavor.
Rotorua has plenty more where that geothermal action came from…
Other geothermal parks include:
Other natural hot pools:
- Waiotapu Stream aka Hot ‘n’ Cold (right near Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland is a hot stream that mixes with a cool river so you can find your perfect temperature).
- Waikite Valley Thermal Pools, while not as natural as the stream or Kerosene Creek, is another way to warm up.
Rotorua is the “adventure capital” of the North Island with so much to do. Make sure to spend at least a couple of days in this hot spot, but be warned, you never really get used to the smells.