Rotorua, New Zealand: Maori Culture and Geothermal Wonderland
Rotorua is probably the major tourist resort in New Zealand. Not only is it the tourism center of Maori culture, it is also a magnificent geothermal wonderland, with bubbling mud pools, hot springs and geysers. Rotorua is often called ‘Sulphur City’ because of its sulphur smell. It quite literally stinks. Some people have hot thermal pools in their backyards and it’s nothing to see steam spurting forth from unexpected places.
Rotorua sits on the shores of Lake Rotorua, a lake filled with trout for the keen fisherman. Once you get used to the smell, it is a beautiful city, offering an abundance of activity for locals and tourists. It heavily markets its two major attractions, Maori culture and its thermal activity, but is still worth going there to see for yourself.
The home of the Arawa people, Rotorua has shared its Maori culture with the world for many years. Maori art and craft is predominant throughout the city, in public buildings, parks, museums and street names.
Tourists can enjoy a Maori concert party, watching skilful poi dances, action songs and the Maori haka, a traditional war dance. You can enjoy a traditional Maori hangi, where the food is cooked in the steaming thermal areas, or admire carvings in many of the public places.
Ohinemutu is a lakeside Maori village, with the Maori St Faith’s Anglican Church and the famous Tamatekapua Meeting house, built in 1887.
At the Maori Arts and Crafts Institute in Whaka (Whakarewarewa) crafts people can be seen carving, weaving flax and making other traditional items.
Whaka successfully combines the two attractions, with a Maori village right in the heart of the most active thermal area.
Entry to most of the geothermal attractions is quite costly, but is worth the money for a first time visitor. There are many places of interest, the most popular being Whakarewarewa Village (usually called Whaka), on the edge of town.
It provides a wonderland of boiling mud pools, steaming walkways, hot bubbling pools and geysers. The most spectacular geyser is Pohutu, actively spouting forth about 20 metres into the air about once an hour.
Hells Gate, or Tikitere, is another highly active area, about 16 km out of town. It is named because of the fierceness of its activity and the reputation it has developed over the years. it is the home of the Kakahi Falls, the largest hot water falls in the southern hemisphere.
Not all the thermal activity is confined to tourist attractions. Kuirau Park in the city has mini hot pools where tired tourists can sit and bathe their feet, as well as fenced off natural holes in the ground, reminding one of how active the ground under Rotorua really is.
It goes without saying, when a sign in Rotorua tells you to keep to the path or stay behind the fence, you do exactly that! You'll possibly not live to tell the tale otherwise. No photograph is worth the risk of taking a closer look.
As you can see, a visit to New Zealand would not be complete without visiting Rotorua. Soak your weary body in a hot pool, walk amongst the steam and marvel at the Maori culture. The longer you stay, the less you notice the sulphur smell. I know, I lived there for many years.