It’s easy to see why Rotorua is known as the birthplace of tourism in New Zealand. From untouched valleys to New Zealand’s only living Māori village, Rotorua is home to a wealth of natural wonders and unique experiences that have attracted travellers from near and far for hundreds of years.
But as beautiful and fascinating as this wonderland is, Rotorua’s geothermal wonders are sensorial experiences that you can often smell even before you arrive. Thanks to a spectrum of geothermal activity, Rotorua is also affectionately known as ‘sulphur city’ due to its distinct sulphuric odour from the natural emission of geothermal gases.
Here’s the ultimate stinky bucket list for you to experience while in Rotorua.
Rachel Spring Whangapipiro
Located in the picturesque Government Gardens, Rachel Spring Whangapipiro is a historic alkaline hot spring that’s renowned for its therapeutic and nourishing skin properties. This boiling geothermal wonder can be viewed from a safe distance beside the Blue Baths. Its silica rich waters are channelled to nearby Polynesian Spa if you want to enjoy a hot soak and feel its skin softening effect first-hand.
This experience shows you how New Zealand’s only living Māori village makes its home in the middle of geothermal wonderland. Not just a village to admire from afar, you are welcomed onto Whakarewarewa Village and invited to explore and take it all in – with local residents ready to guide you around, children penny diving in the local stream, artists sharing their crafts with weaving and tattoo displays and watch how traditional Māori food is prepared using geothermal resources.
Home to 21 families, Whakarewarewa’s expansive grounds include a network of walking tracks that showcase the beautiful geothermal wonders abound. From spouting geysers and bubbling mud pools to steaming lakes and communal baths, this geothermal wonderland is an extraordinary a place to call home.
Te Rata Bay Hot Water Beach – Lake Tarawera
For a special place that feels like a world away, Te Rata Bay Hot Water Beach at stunning Lake Tarawera is a geothermal wonder you can completely immerse yourself in. These natural hot springs in Te Rata Bay is only accessible via water taxi or by hiking the Tarawera Trail. Hot Water Beach is also a campsite so you can book in an overnight experience through the Department of Conservation, but you’ll need to come prepared since these are non-powered tent sites only. Steaming hot springs along a pristine lake’s edge surrounded by lush native bush – this is the New Zealand you came to see.
Kuirau Park – free thermal footbaths
This geothermal wonder is one that literally takes your socks off. Tucked away in the centre of the town is this sprawling geothermal public park and is also home to Rotorua’s Saturday morning Farmers Market. A great time to visit Kuirau Park and enjoy some food, fun and festivities before enjoying these free, thermal foot baths. If you’re scouting out places to tie the knot, Kuirau Park is also available as a free wedding venue. Beautiful gardens, a crater lake, mud pools, hot springs and foot baths – it’s all here to discover, just an easy 15-minute walk from Rotorua CBD.
The world’s youngest geothermal system lives here in Rotorua. This geothermal wonderland takes you back to where the world began – an unspoilt wilderness that has not been altered by man since its creation as a result of the volcanic Tarawera eruption on 10 June 1886. Waimangu Valley is a true journey back in time where you can enjoy a day of discovery through a selection of walks and hikes ranging catering to all fitness levels. Or you can enhance this experience with a 45-minute boat cruise on Lake Rotomahana with highlights including a wildlife refuge, site of the famous Pink and White Terraces, Inferno Crater, the World’s largest geyser-like feature and Frying Pan Lake, one of the World’s largest hot water springs.