-This itinerary is best in sunny or overcast weather-
Rotorua (‘second lake’ in Māori) offers an abundance of experiences, attractions and a beautiful landscape to be admired. It can be very overwhelming when time is of the essence to decide on what to do.
The city has been attracting people for many centuries. The local Māori settled on the lakes shore in the fourteenth century and for the last two hundred years people from around the world have been drawn here. The reason lies beneath the surface – Rotorua’s geothermal activity and hot mineral pools. The smell of sulphur hits you when you first enter town and you are never very far from a hot bubbling pool. With only a couple of days to explore Rotorua, for me, the top things to do are around our geothermal landscape. I have put together my top spots below for you to truly experience what it is like to live on a volcanic plateau.
To begin your geothermal experience a visit to a geothermal field is a must. There are a few to choose from and they all have their own highlights – Hell’s Gate, Waimangu (‘black water’ in Māori), Wai-o-Tapu (‘sacred water’ in Māori), Te Puia (‘geyser, gushing waters’ in Māori) and Whakarewarewa The Living Maori Village.
To learn how the local Māori have tapped into the geothermal activity as an amazing resource for day to day life I recommend a visit to Whakarewarewa Village, known locally as Whaka Village.
-For more details on what makes the other geothermal parks special (because they all are!) please ask us-
Whakarewarewa The Living Maori Village (7 mins/car from Aura)
For over two hundred years the local Māori tribe (Tūhourangi/Ngāti Wāhiao Tribe) have lived on Rotorua’s most active geothermal field. Your ticket includes a free guided tour of the village where you see how they use the hot mineral pools and steaming vents to cook their food and bathe. There is the option of watching a cultural dance performance and trying a hangi meal, food cooked in an earth oven, at the café on site. Also, you can see Pohutu (‘big splash’ in Māori) geyser which can reach up to a height of thirty metres.
Sulphur Mineral Pools (just a few steps from your room)
During your stay with us be sure to experience a soak in our indoor sulphur mineral pools. We bring the water up from our bore one hundred and twenty metres below ground. Rich in minerals these waters have been renowned for their therapeutic and curative properties.
-Historically Rotorua is a spa town so dip into one of the magical mineral pools and see what it is all about-
Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner at Terrace Kitchen (5 mins/foot from Aura)
My go to place is Terrace Kitchen, no matter the time of day. From the perfect coffee to the best slow roasted NZ lamb you are sure to find something that takes your fancy. Near the lake front it is the perfect opportunity to take an easy stroll with a great view after your meal.
Treewalk Night Lights (8 mins/car from Aura)
After spending your day immersed in geothermal activity and with the lingering smell of sulphur never far, a walk in the Redwoods forests is a great way to end your day. When in the forest you will notice the sulphur smell is absent. The sulphur binds with the abundant oxygen, and you would never guess you were in a geothermal bubbling area. I highly recommend the Treewalk Nighlights, a bridge walk high amongst the 117 year old majestic Californian Redwoods and illuminated by lanterns at night. You can also get a combo and come back to see the Treewalk during the day.
Visit the Lakes (13-18 mins/car from Aura)
The first lake you will come across is Lake Tikitapu (‘sacred greenstone neck ornament’ in Māori or commonly known as Blue Lake). This is used as a recreational lake and keen walkers are able to walk around it on an easy one and half hour walking trail. Walk through native bush, stumbling across secret beach pockets to dip your toes into and the highlight is the viewing platform of Lake Rotokakahi (named after the freshwater mussel kakahi, otherwise known as the Green Lake). This lake is tapu (sacred) to the local Māori tribe and access is forbidden. Your only glimpse of Lake Rotokakahi is from this viewing platform.
Continue on to Lake Tarawera by car (Burnt Spear in Māori), stop at the viewing platform for a stunning view of both Lake and Mount Tarawera. Mount Tarawera erupted in 1886 and caused absolute devastation to the area.
-Be sure to pick up lunch at La Bonne Bakery (5mins/car from Aura) on the way to the lakes –
Kuirau Park (15 mins/foot from Aura)
An absolute must do while here is to visit Kuirau Park in the centre of town. This is the only free geothermal park in Rotorua. For me the highlight is walking across Lake Kuirau, if you are brave! It is a steaming hot lake with a dark history. A Taniwha (a Māori water creature/spirit) once dragged a beautiful Maori maiden by the name of Kuirau to her death. Head to the park to find out why – there are lots of information signs throughout.
-If you visit Kuirau Park on a Saturday morning you will stumble across the local fresh produce market (6.00-13.00 every Saturday)-
Steam Box (just a few steps from your room)
To complete your geothermal experience, prepare a meal at Aura using our steam box. Unlike the earth oven at Whaka village our steam box is not in the ground. We use our geothermal energy to heat the water, which steams your meal. We have had some awesome hangis come out of it. My favourite is the banana and chocolate steamed dessert. Come see us for some ideas of what to steam or come up with your own. The best part is you can relax poolside and wait for the geothermal steam to work its magic.
After this you will have truly experienced what it is like to live on a volcanic plateau.