Rotorua – A Geothermal Playground

By | December 4, 2010 at 3:57 am | No comments | Jade, New Zealand | Tags: ,

By Jade Johnston

A city where steam shoots out from the cracks in the ground, mud boils, lakes are hot to the touch, and water shimmers with incredible colours. Oh, and the smell of rotten eggs. It’s Rotorua.

Rotorua is one of NZ’s biggest tourist draws with its unique geothermal activity, which is caused by the rotor caldera, which is one of the many volcanoes in the region.

In early December, Anne and I departed for our geothermal adventure. We drove the three hour journey to Rotorua with ease despite having printed off the google maps wrong and having to rely on the dodgy lonely planet.

As soon as we arrived we headed to a holiday park to set up our borrowed tent (as I had not had to time to pick up my magical orange tent yet), and then headed to a nearby park which had massive amounts of geothermal activity going on … all for free. Each small fenced off area would have steaming water or boiling mud or some sort of strange attraction. The rest of the evening was spent trying to sort out what to do with our time in the region with some very helpful people at the tourist information office.

Boiling Mud
Steaming water
Colourful water created by the different minerals present

The next day was a full on tourist activity day. In the morning we drove out to the pretty blue and green lakes and did a circuit hike around them. The blue lake is a popular spot for jet skiing and wake boding, but the green lake is sacred and so it is not used for recreation.

After our time at the lakes we picked up another German girl, Lisa, and headed to the rainbow springs kiwi experience. This organization has a sort of petting zoo set up, but they also run a program which helps protect the threatened kiwi birds. Due to introduced predators such as stoats and dogs, most kiwi chicks do not survive to adulthood. This organization tags the birds with locators and when they seem to be sitting on a nest, the eggs will be collected and the chicks raised until they are a size that can better defend themselves. We got a tour of the area which does this, and also got to see a kiwi chick being fed. Kiwi’s are much larger than I suspected them to be, with the adults being slightly bigger than a chicken. Despite how cool the conservation program was, the whole rainbow springs experience was still sort of a waste of money, and I would recommend not wasting your time and just donating some money to help save the kiwis instead.

Blue Lake

In the evening we headed out to a Maori village for a cultural performance and meal. The meal was the traditional hang, where the meat, vegetables and stuffing are placed over hot rocks in a pit in the ground, then covered with cloth, and then covered with dirt to keep in the steam. The effect is a meal with a deep earthy flavour which is so so so delicious. The cultural performance was what you would expect with the haka and poi being performed. It was sort of tourist kitsch, but I must admit I learned heaps about Maori traditions from the performance.

The next morning I had to depart early to catch a bus back to Auckland in time to go back to work, while Anne and Lisa continued on their adventures.


About the Author

Jade Johnston

Jade is a freelance travel writer from Manitoba Canada. She loves travel and meeting new people has lived in 6 countries and travelled to more than 30. She prefers to travel slowly - taking overland transit or working/ volunteering in the countries she visits. Her motto is that she might never return to this place again, so she has to try to soak up as much as possible. To learn more about the OurOyster project, Google + : Jade Johnston's Google You can also shoot her an email at

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