"How to make the most of an action-packed weekend in Rotorua"
I recently spent a long weekend in Rotorua and was completely blown away by the beauty of the region. Despite it being packed full of potential, it still feels somewhat undiscovered - which is a really great attribute about the destination.
There's plenty of keep you entertained in Rotorua, from the famous geothermal parks to adventure activities like quad biking, Luging or jetboating and then a lovely addition of thermal spas and scenic walks. There's truly something for everyone in Rotorua!
Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland
This is the world-renowned Champagne Pool in the heart of the Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Park. Reaching 65m in diameter, it has a surface temperature of 74'C and gives off bubbles which are formed by carbon dioxide. The pool is quite deceiving too, while it looks like a shallow depth, the centre reaches a huge 62m beneath the surface.
There are magical pools of colour, reflecting the different minerals found in the region. There are striking greens, to yellows, firey oranges and blues - I was in heaven!
I walked through the entire park, which should usually take around 75 mins, although if you're like me I'd allow at least two hours. There are so many fascinating sites and I couldn't get enough of the natural beauty and how close we could actually get to it!
The bubbling pools and steam pouring off them make for a really eerie setting and feels like you're in a wonderful open-air sauna at times! This is truly a bucket-list destination.
Just a 10 minute Gondola ride up the side of Mt Ngongataha, you'll find the Skyline Rotorua complex. The views reach out over Lake Rotorua and its township - you're even able to catch a glimpse of White Island on a clear day.
I had the best day trying out all of the activities here - meeting the alpacas, the Luge tracks are epic fun, the Zoom Zipline definitely got the adrenalin rushing through my veins and then it was all topped off with the wine tasting and best buffet dinner ever!
This place is ideal for people of all ages and interests and you could easily spend an entire day/night here trying out all of the activities on offer and eating up a storm at the Stratosfare Restaurant.
You've all seen this, now you need to try it! OGO is owned and operated by the inventors of this unique New Zealand activity.
It starts with a drive up the hill, a dive into the OGO, a top up of warm water and then you're off down the specially designed track!
You have two options - a steep and straight downhill, or a 'sidewinder' with plenty of corners to get you spinning. I recommend trying both for the ultimate experience.
This was the ultimate combination of scenic cruising down the river, an experience called 'The Squeeze' and a thrilling jet boat ride back. Just a short and very scenic drive from Rotorua, you'll reach the Waikato River crossing, the start point of your jet boat journey.
We journeyed through the Tutukau Gorge while taking in the spectacular scenery lining the edge of the river. Our driver pointed out some unique birds & ducks before giving us a bit of history about the legends of the area.
The Squeeze was a guided tour through moss covered rock formations, along a thermally heated creek that led to a magical little waterfall. We were able to take a dip under the thermally heated waterfall - a rejuvenating feeling! It was then time to adventure back through the narrow crevasses to our boat. The way home was foot-to-the-floor, zooming back to the jet boat base. It's safe to say our wet hair and clothes were certainly dry by the time we got back to base! This was an unreal and truly unique experience, I haven't come across another company that combines two epic activities like this into 2 hours of fun!
Closer to town you'll find a completely different type of geothermal park - Te Puia. Here you'll find bubbling mud, pools of boiling water and spectacular geyers like the one erupting in the background of the photo above. This is the biggest geyser in the Southern Hemisphere and can reach heights of up to 30m, erupting once or twice each hour.
This particular setting (above) was one of the highlights of my day at Te Puia. We were lucky enough to have exclusive access to this mangnificent aqua blue pool, usually off limits to the public.
Something I've never done while living in New Zealand is experience a Maori cultural performance, or visit a Marae. I find the deep meaning and significance of the Maori culture so incredibly fascinating, and after taking a walk through the arts/craft school, the Marae, trying some traditional weaving and seeing a Powhiri process (welcoming ceremony), I felt a great level of respect for this culture. This was such an enlightening experience.
We also enjoyed a freshly cooked Steam Box lunch by the master chefs - see middle photo above. We started our day by packing our own lunch where it's then placed into a steam vent to cook. Looking out over the geyser, watching it erupt while enjoying this delicious meal was a memory that will last a lifetime!
I was lucky enough to go claybird shooting at Adventure Playground, trying out the pump action and semi-automatic shotguns. The adventure didn't stop there - we went for a buggy ride to the top of Mt Ngongataha through many rolling fields of green filled with farm animals and even up to a magical forest on some awesome off-road trails.
The views looking out over Lake Rotorua were truly magical - it was the best day exploring an authentic New Zealand farm!
Resting on the shore of Lake Rotorua, the Polynesian Spa was the perfect place to sit back and relax after a day exploring the region. The timing was perfect too, the sun was setting over the lake and began painting the sky with pastel shades of pinks and orange.
This particular area has five shallow hot pools which are fed with mineral water from the Priest and Rachel Springs. I highly recommend a visit here after a day full of adventure, it's the ultimate way to unwind and rejuvenate your energy for the next day.
The Mud Spa at Hells Gate
I enjoyed a Twilight Spa at Hells Gate. We started in a healing and revitalising mud spa, before moving across into the sulphur mineral pools.
The mud was so relaxing, and as soon as it was washed off my skin was left feeling soooo silky smooth. Going to the spa at night made for some brilliant views of the night sky, and garden lamps lit up the plants giving a wonderfully relaxing vibe to the park This geothermal bathing experience is one to add to the list while visiting Rotorua.
This is the longest river in New Zealand, running for 425km through the North Island. On a calm day, the river is like glass creating the perfect reflection of the scenery lining the banks. This magic location was also the beginning of our journey with NZ Riverjet - a combination of scenic cruising, a secret adventure in the middle and a thrilling jetboat ride back to base.
The Redwoods Forest
With over 5600 hectares of forest to explore, you could spend an entire day wandering through these magnificent trails. It's one place that makes you feel so tiny as you're dwarfed by the towering redwoods around you. You're able to explore on foot, mountain bike or even on horses! This is one way to experience the best of nature.
This gorgeous little car was my ride for the duration of my stay in Rotorua. They team at Rent-A-Dent were kind enough to sponsor my journey and help get me from A to B. Transport is one thing that will really help you out on your visit to Rotorua as most of the sights and attractions are dispersed throughout (and outside of) the town.
Check them out here: www.rentadent.co.nz/branches/rotorua
Millennium Hotel, Rotorua
The Millennium Hotel was the perfect base for my whirlwind trip to Rotorua. The rooms were nice and modern, siutated right on the lakefront and there's a even pool!
The beauty about Rotorua is that you can fit so much into a tight timeframe. I got up to all of these activities in just two full days, which made it the perfect destination to spend a long weekend! I already can't wait to go back to re-visit some of these amazing attractions and discover more that I didn't get the chance to get to!
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