Newest Review: ... setting. A few minutes ferry ride takes you across to an amazing wonderland. A path leads you round various pools and formations but it'... more
Rotorua (New Zealand)
Member Name: jade17
Rotorua (New Zealand)
Date: 24/08/12, updated on 24/08/12 (31 review reads)
Advantages: Activities galore to suit everyone
Disadvantages: It stimulates all the senses (smells!)
Rotorua is a must-see destination for anyone visiting the North Island for the first time. Yes there is a smell of bad eggs that comes and goes in the wind (you will wonder if it is your travelling companion at first!). However, this is a small price to pay for the mind-blowing geo-thermal wonderland that makes Rotorua so special. There's something very Jurassic about bubbling mud that the mind and eyes just can't take in!
Although you can see plumes of steam coming out of the earth in various places for free, a visit to one of the tourist attractions is a must. I have been to both Wai-O-Tapu (($NZ80 for family)and Orakei Korako(NZ92 for family)
Although Wai- O- Tapu is more touristy, I would probably recommend this to a first-time visitor or family. The Lady Knox geyser is primed to go off at set times so guaranteeing the spectacle and there are numerous bizarrely coloured pools tainted by various minerals. For anyone who saw the Billy Connolly NZ tour, this was the attraction he visited. By contrast Orakei Korako is a beautiful, more natural, peaceful setting. A few minutes ferry ride takes you across to an amazing wonderland. A path leads you round various pools and formations but it's luck whether one of the 23 geysers will erupt while you are standing there. You may have to listen for the rumblings and double back!
I would think there is something for everyone in Rotorua and I certainly haven't seen or tried even a quarter of what is on offer . Action people may choose zorbing, or head to the Agrodome for one of their adventures. There are zoos and wildlife parks for animal lovers.
The Skyline Luge is great fun and suitable for all the family. A kind of go-kart takes you down the side of the hill on a choice of 3 routes (depending on you sense of adventure) where you catch the gondola back up to the top to do it all again. The top of the Luge a gives you great views over the city. There is a wide array of price options for this activity but it is certainly value for money.
Rotorua also offers a variety of cultural experiences. Many of the hotels have dinner and shows so tourists can see traditional Maori dance and haka. There are 3 main cultural evenings that I am aware of which have a show, dinner and demonstrate aspects of Maori culture. I have been to Tamaki Maori village. Yes, it is touristy but if it is your only chance of seeing a powhiri, wero and haka (welcome, and challenge )and to sample a hangi, (traditional meal cooked in the ground) then it is worthwhile. The ride in the waka (modern day bus) to the evening is fun with great drivers getting the group into the spirit ready to be transported into the recreated Maori village.
On a sunny day just wandering around the lake and seeing the black swans is pleasant. There is also a paddle steamer cruise with various buffets, dining options located there. Government Gardens are attractive and you will find Rotorua Musuem there, also worth a visit.
There is a wide range of accommodation to choose from. Most motels and hotels are situated on Fenton Street . Many of the motels will have a thermally heated spa pool, some individual to the rooms. I have stayed at a couple of the hotels and the YHA but the motels do tend to offer great value for money if you are going to self-cater. Fenton Street is a good half hour walk into town if you are staying at one of the motels furthest away from the town centre (CBD).
There is a wide and confusing array of discount packages and offers for the attractions. Check out the leaflets in hotel, motels and the I-Site. The I-Site (tourist information) does get very busy here with a large number of coaches transiting through each day.
Although the town centre is pretty compact many of the attractions are spread out around the city and require a vehicle to access them (geothermal parks in particular). Some of the attractions do offer free transport e.g. some cultural evenings.
I would not recommend Rotorua as a long-term base for touring unless you don't mind the smell. However, you can certainly fill one or two days of activities here quite easily.
Rotorua is not a place for shopping other than for tourist souvenirs. Dining options other than cultural evenings were hard to find other than a couple of Irish pubs, Asian Cuisine and the usual chains. However, there was a great food market on Thursday evenings in Tutanekai Street - well recomended.
Summary: Highly recommended place to visit in the North Island.