Popularly nick-named as the Sulphur City of New Zealand, a visit to Rotorua affirmed why it is called so.
Before I visited Rotorua, I’ve had several people tell me that the entire city smells like rotten egg because of the geothermal activity and I thought it was an exaggeration. Well, “how can an entire city emit bad smell”? I learned there is some truth to it, only after I visited Rotorua. Here are a few places we visited during our recent visit to Rotorua in the end of spring.
Watch the geothermal activity at Kuirau Park
Our first stop at Rotorua was Kuirau Park. It is open to the public with no admission fee and no closing hours really. What surprised me about this place was that, there were fumaroles emitting from every nook and corner of this huge park.
Don’t worry though, as long as you stay on the boardwalks and don’t walk beyond the safety fence, you are good.
The legend has it that in early Maori times, when a beautiful, young woman named Kuiarau was bathing in a lake in this park, a legendary creature named Taniwha dragged her to his lair. The irked goddesses made the water boil to destroy the creature. From then on, the water continues to boil and is named after the gorgeous woman, so the legend goes.
The park is still alive with vigorous geothermal activity; take a walk around to see the fumaroles, steam vents, mud pools and boiling lakes up close. When the wind blows, the steam swirls around emanating the rotten egg. Trust me when I say this – the smell during the first few minutes is unbearable, but you’ll get used to it when you spend more time in Rotorua.
Stroll through the Government Botanical Gardens
The grandiose Rotorua Museum welcomes you into the gardens. Previously a bath house, and now a museum, this enormous, yet magnanimous structure is the highlight within the gardens.
Watch out for little ponds inside the gardens and all the flamboyant flowers around. Just walk a little further to see the rose garden, which boasts roses of several shades of red, pink, yellow and white. Take a walk amidst these beautiful rose plants. Even if you are not a fan of flowers, you will still enjoy it. Just make sure you squeeze some bug spray on yourself.
A short walk behind the Rotorua Museum leads you to the Rotorua Lake. Be careful though, there are steam vents and boiling mud pots even here. Rotorua is just one of those places you always need to be vigilant of any active geothermal activity.
Hike through the trails in Wai-O-Tapo Geothermal Wonderland
After seeing pictures of thermal pools with eclectic brown, blue and lime green color, I was bent over backwards to visit Wai-O-Tapo Geothermal Wonderland, though we were running short of time that day.
Good thing we had sunscreen, caps and water bottles with us; there is no shade at all and it does get pretty hot.
The trail map provided at the Visitor Center is very helpful, and the different thermal pools and caves are clearly marked. I always love seeing geothermal activities; really amazes me and reminds me how brittle our earth is, and that the molten magma is not too far below from what I stand. The formations of the mud pools and sulphur caves emitting smelly fumaroles are pretty cool to see. A few of the pools are very colorful emanated by the different chemicals.
This was really not my first time watching geothermal activity, especially after my recent visit to Lassen Volcanic National Park, however, this one in New Zealand is a lot bigger and there’s more to see!
One of my favorites here is the Champagne Pool, which has a dark brown outer crust that strikingly contrasts with the turquoise blue water, constantly emitting fumaroles. Not too far below is the magma that heats up this pool, forming water boils and fumaroles on the earth’s surface.
My other favorite is the Devil’s Bath that emits a shockingly neon green color. It looks too pretty to be called a Devil’s Bath, but well, it is named so for a good reason.
Enjoy the Te Puia experience and an authentic Maori cuisine
The Pohutu Geyser, which can spurt up to 100 feet is the major attraction in Te Puia. The geyser comes into action every 30 min or so, and we were lucky to watch it when it’s spurting action was at its peak.
You are sure to get sprayed on, when trying to take a picture with the geyser in the background. If you are in a mood to get wet (or wetter) from the geyser water, go close to it and I promise you’ll be drenched, completely!
Then we walked around Te Puia to see the intricate wood carving and weaving arts & crafts that were hand made by the students studying traditional Maori carving and weaving.
The latter part of the day inside Te Puia was my favorite, where we were greeted to dinner in a traditional Maori style, then had folks dressed up and do Maori performances (singing and dancing). They even invited volunteers to join them and dance for a few minutes and that was so much fun! After the performance, we were treated to an elaborate and delicious buffet dinner cooked in the hangi style.
Spend the night at Eat Streat
First up, notice the spelling of “Streat”. It is a pedestrian-friendly block in downtown Rotorua, with awnings stretching across the entire block, with several restaurants offering any kind of cuisine you could possibly imagine. This place comes to life in the evenings, when the lights are up and when there are people walking in and out of the Eat Streat, either walking into a restaurant and simply walking around, trying to figure out where they wanted to dine in that day.
Of all the restaurants in the vibrant “Eat Streat”, we chose Atticus Finch because of the lamb dish and a specific cocktail on their menu. And I’m so glad the meal turned out to be fabulous, considering this was our top choice among several other restaurants in the neighborhood.
We got seated outside and I ordered a Lemongrass & Chilli Mojito. The drink hit the spot; just what I needed-spicy and lemony.
Our choice of main dish was the lamb sirloin, which was served on a bed of eggplant puree (tasted like hummus), and a side of roasted red peppers, olives and capers. Light, yet so delicious!
Great service. Great food. Fab location. Highly recommend dining at Atticus Finch or any other restaurant of your choice on Eat Streat.