Rotorua Tourist Attractions


Due to the crowds of visitors coming to take the cure or merely to see the sights, Rotorua has now grown into a town of 54,000 inhabitants, with numerous hotels, motels, motor camps and other accommodations. There are pubs and restaurants of all types and various souvenir shops. For visitors approaching Rotorua from the south on Highway 5 it is like entering some kind of theme park.

As a result of the many private boreholes that have been drilled to supply water for baths and for heating, geothermal activity has declined sharply in some places. There are now restrictions on the use of thermal water.

Government Gardens

The magnificent Government Gardens, which include a park and sports grounds, lie directly on the shores of the lake. They are trim and well cared for, the flowers providing a riot of color. Visitors can simply stroll in the park or play golf or games if they prefer.

Arawa Memorial

The memorial set up in 1927 to commemorate those who fell in the First World War depicts the varied links between Maoris and whites (the Arawa ancestral canoe, the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, British kings and queens, a missionary preaching).

Rotorua Museum of Art and History (formerly Tudor Towers)

The most eye-catching feature in Government Gardens is the old half-timbered Bathhouse of Rotorua. Since the opening of a new spa establishment in the 1960s the former Bathhouse now contains the Rotorua Museum of Art and History. The promenade of Rotorua's famous Bathhouse is open to the public to access the roof of the iconic building.
Visitors are given a cinema experience through 'Rotorua Stories' which highlights the world famous Pink and White Terraces, the devastating eruption of Mount Tarawera, the story of the Bathhouse and the history of the Arawa people.
Official site:
Address: Private Bag, Government Gardens, New Zealand

Polynesian Spa

Behind the Rotorua Museum of Art and History is a modern spa establishment, providing for a variety of sports. Its particular attraction is the three Polynesian Pools, which are supplied with water by three different springs. The whole area is pervaded with the scent of orchids.
Polynesian Spa is New Zealand's leading international spa. Overlooking Lake Rotorua Polynesian Spa offers relaxation in 26 hot mineral spring pools in four areas (deluxe, adult, private, family pools), a Hot Springs Café and a Spa Essentials store. Visitors can indulge in a range of sumptuous hydro and dry spa relaxation therapies.
Official site:
Address: Hinemoa Street, Box 40, New Zealand

Mount Ngongotaha

Northwest of the town is Mount Ngongotaha (757m). From its viewing platform there are marvelous views of the town and the lake. The easiest way up is in the Skyline Gondola (lower station in Fairy Spring Road).

Maori Arts and Crafts Institute

The Maori Arts and Crafts Institute is designed to preserve the heritage of Maori people and help promote the skills of Maori arts and crafts. Visitors can tour the Arts and Crafts Gallery and watch craftsmen at work. There is also a lunch time concert.
Official site:
Address: Box 334, New Zealand


Rotorua SurroundingsRotorua Surroundings

Waimangu Valley

The Waimangu Valley was completely reshaped by the eruption of Mount Tarawera in 1886. Old photographs show the splendor of the sinter terraces described by Ferdinand von Hochstetter, which no longer exist. The Maori villages of Te Wairoa, Te Arihi and Moura disappeared under masses of lava and ash, and roads and bridges were destroyed.
There are organized excursions to the volcanic features in the Waimangu Valley. The tour includes a walk along the shores of Lake Rotomahana, passing the Waimangu Geyser, now inactive, which in the past shot water up to a height of 400m. Other features are the Waimangu Cauldron, a 4ha lake of steaming hot water, the Cathedral Rocks and the Warbrick Terrace. Below Mount Tarawera (1111m), at present quiescent, is Lake Tarawera, on the shores of which (particularly round Tarawera Landing) there are Maori rock drawings. Finally a boat takes visitors across the lake to the buried village of Te Wairoa, now partly excavated. At least half a day must be allowed for the tour.

Te Wairoa

This buried Maori village lies on the southwestern shore of Lake Tarawera. 14km southeast of Rotorua the road (signposted) runs past Tikitapu (the Blue Lake) and Rotokakahi (the Green Lake) and comes to Te Wairoa. Here a small exhibition of old photographs and objects found under the lava gives some impression of what the village was like before its destruction. Among the houses that have been excavated is the one occupied by the tohunga who predicted a great calamity. There are also remains of a mill and a tourist hotel, as well as an ancient stone Maori storehouse with archaic figures.
On June 10 1886, the serenity enjoyed by the inhabitants of Te Wairoa was shattered by a violent eruption. Over 5,000 square miles of scenic countryside was destroyed including the Te Wairoa village and the Pink and White Terraces.
The museum highlights remnants and artifacts of the village, and the excavated sites can be toured.
Official site:
Address: 1180 Tarawera Road, RD5, Rotorua, Bay of Plenty 3076, New Zealand

Waiotapu, New Zealand

30km south of Rotorua on the road to Taupo (Highway 5) is the village of Waiotapu, famed for the spectacular post-volcanic features in the area.

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland is New Zealand's most colourful natural volcanic environment. It is home to the world famous Champagne Pool, geysers, bubbling mud, steaming ground, huge volcanic craters and terrace formations.
Official site:
Address: Box 1992, New Zealand

Lady Knox Geyser

Waiotapu's top attraction is the Lady Knox Geyser, which spouts with almost unvarying punctuality at 10.15am and sends a jet of water high into the air.
This punctuality is achieved, however, with a little help. Soap powder must be thrown into the water: the sodium carbonate therein decreases the surface viscosity and sets the geyser off. This was discovered by convicts who used soap to do their washing in pools of thermal water.

Artist's Palette

The silicate terraces known as the Artist's Palette shimmer in all the colors of the rainbow, as the pink-and-white sinter terraces destroyed by the eruption of Mount Tarawera must have done.

Champagne Pool

The effervescent thermal waters of the Champagne Pool, highly charged with minerals, have earned it its name. Like other pools in the area, it sparkles in many colors, predominantly yellow, green and blue.

Tikitere (Hell's Gate)

In the north of the Rotorua area is Tikitere, known as Hell's Gate because of its evil-smelling springs of sulfurous water and vigorously bubbling pools of mud. The geothermal field here covers some 10 ha, with seething mud springs, a charming warm waterfall (Kakahi Falls), pools of sulfurous water and clouds of steam hovering over vegetation resembling a primeval forest. A small exhibition illustrates the character of the area.

Rainbow Springs

5km north of Rotorua, at Rainbow Springs, are a number of attractive trails running under tall tree ferns. The pools and streams in this area teem with rainbow trout. At Rainbow Farm visitors can learn about sheep and cattle farming in New Zealand, with demonstrations of milking and sheep shearing.

Agrodome, Ngongotaha, New Zealand

7km north of Rotorua, on the western shore of the lake, is Ngongotaha, with the Agrodome, which puts on shows (three times daily) of many different breeds of sheep. Expert sheep shearers and self-appointed sheepdog trainers demonstrate their skills.

Lake Roroiti

Northwest of Lake Rotorua, some 20km from the town of Rotorua, is Lake Rotoiti, near which are a number of carved Maori meeting houses. Here too, on a northwestern arm of the lake, are the Okere Falls.

Hongi's Track

Through the forested area that extends eastward from Lake Rotoiti to Lake Rotoehu runs Hongi's Track, on which Hongi Hika and his warriors carried their canoes overland from one lake to the other during his expedition of conquest in 1823. On the track is a tree sacred to the Maoris, said to have been planted 400 years ago by Hinehopu, a chief's wife.
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