With hundreds of kilometres of trails, Rotorua is often billed as a mountain bike destination. And while Whakarewarewa Forest is impressive, there are plenty more biking, cultural and geothermal reasons to visit this intriguing region.
With a large Maori population, Rotorua offers numerous cultural experiences, and two popular activities are concerts and hangi (meals cooked in an earth oven). Various operators offer packages, or pay a visit to Te Whakarewarewa, a living Maori village which is also home to numerous geothermal features. Most impressive of these is the Pohutu geyser, which erupts between 10 and 20 times a day. Cultural performances by one of Rotorua’s leading Kapa Haka groups take place daily at 11.15am and 2pm, and feature traditional song and dance (including the fearsome Haka).
Rotorua is part of the Taupo Volcanic Zone, a geothermal field extending from White Island off the Bay of Plenty coast to Mt Ruapehu far to the south. The geothermal features of this region are some of the most concentrated and dramatic in the world. Kuirau Park, close to town, is home to a crater lake, pools of boiling mud, and small mineral baths. Further afield, Waiotapu, (meaning Sacred Waters), offers the large, boiling Champagne Pool, craters and blowholes, colourful mineral terraces and the Lady Knox Geyser, which performs punctually at 10.15am every day.
Te Ara Ahi – Thermal by Bike
One of the best ways to discover the sights of Rotorua is by bike. Te Ara Ahi – Thermal by Bike is one of New Zealand’s Great Rides. The 48km trail takes in four significant fields: Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve, Waimangu Volcanic Valley, Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland and Waikite Valley Thermal Springs. The route is easily split into one-day or half-day rides, allowing you plenty time to soak up the scenery and culture along the way.
Talking of soaking, Rotorua also offers some exceptional hot pools. Popular spots include the Polynesian Spa in Government Gardens, the open-air pools at Waikite Valley Thermal Pools, and Kerosene Creek, on SH5, where you can bathe for free.
Have a great week,
Image: Te Puia. Robert Linsdell