Rotorua, a town with about sixty thousand inhabitants, is one of the main tourist destinations in New Zealand, famous for its geothermal activities, including geysers and boiling mud pools. The city is located along the southern shores of the lake of the same name in the Bay of Plenty region, in the thermal heart of the North Island about 230 km south-east of Auckland.
Rotorua Lake (79 km²) is one of the 16 lakes in the region, at its center is the island of Mokoia. The lake is volcanic in nature and formed within a crater, the last eruption of which occurred 240,000 years ago. Several other lakes of volcanic origin are located, not far east of that of Rotorua, around the base of the active volcano of Mount Tarawera (1,111 meters high). The largest are the lakes of Tarawera (41 km²), Rotoiti (34 km²), Okataina (10 km²), Rotomahana (8 km²), Rerewhakaaitu (8 km²), Rotokakahi (Green Lake), Tikitapu (Blue Lake), and Okareka.
THE SPIRITUAL HOUSE OF MAORI CULTURE
Rotorua is the spiritual home of the Maori, who represent a good portion of the population of the town. Over a million people visit Rotorua every year, and the Maori culture and heritage influences most of the activities that Rotorua offers: from Polynesian-cooked meals in ovens under the ground with hot stones, to music and dance, to museums with arts and objects of the Maori people. In Tamaki Maori Village it is possible to visit the reconstruction of a Maori village and live for a few hours immersed in the culture and life of the Maori.
The Rotorua area was inhabited by the Maori tribe of the Te Arawa, who settled there about 600 years ago. The first white missionaries arrived there in 1835, with their arrival the hot springs of the area were developed from a therapeutic point of view. The ancient Rotorua spa (Rotorua bathhouse), is located in the Government Gardens, in a large Tudor-style building. This building now houses the Rotorua Museum of Art and History. This museum displays collections on figurative arts, photography, social history, and objects from the Maori culture.
GORGEOUS ORCHID GARDENS
Near the museum there are also the so-called Blue Baths, the Orchid Gardens, where you can admire a wide variety of orchids, and the wonderful Polynesian Spa with swimming pools and thermal springs, for adults and children. These are among the best known attractions of Rotorua. Among the historical buildings, in addition to those of the thermal baths, the Maori meeting house of Tamatekapua, dating from 1873, the Anglican church of St. Faith, built in 1910, and the nearby park of Kuirau, with small geysers, are worth seeing thermal springs and an aquarium with tropical fish.
Rotorua’s attractions include Rainbow Springs Kiwi Wildlife Park, where streams and fish-filled lakes are crossed along a pedestrian path. You can admire rare birds such as Kiwis and Tautara, while in the adjoining Rainbow Farm it is shown how sheep are shorn.
THE GEOTHERMAL AREA
One of the most famous geysers in the world is located in Rotorua and is the Pohutu Geyser in the thermal area of Whakarewarewa. This geyser erupts to heights of 30 meters with a frequency of about 20 times a day. The spa area of Whakarewarewa has around 500 pools, most of which are thermal springs of alkaline chloride. There are also about 65 geysers of which 7 are active.
The whole area around Rotorua is full of thermal and natural wonders, where you can walk along well-kept paths. Among the most beautiful areas are those of Waimangu (Waimangu Volcanic Valley) where Frying Pan Lake, Cathedral Rocks and Hell Crater are located. Another area to see is that of Waiotapu (Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland), rich in colors and with geysers, fumaroles and volcanic lakes. Here among the places to visit are the Champagne Pool, the Artist’s Palette and the Primrose Terraces. In the Tikitere area is the Hell’s Gate, the most active geothermal area of Rotorua, and where are the Kakahi Falls, the largest hot waterfalls in the southern hemisphere.