The next stop on our road trip was Rotorua, another of the north island’s most popular tourist destinations and the most well know of New Zealand’s thermal areas.
We had been warned about the smell of ‘Sulpher City’ and it was immediately apparent why as we drove into the town, with the overpowering eggy smell drifting into the van.
Our visit began with a walk through the lakeside Government Gardens. Dominated by a Tudor style bath house which dates back to 1908, the English style gardens also include a large bowling green.
We continued our walk to the nearby Sulphur Point, which gave us our first glimpse of the areas volcanic activity. The lakeside boardwalk took us past a number of large boiling pools and steaming vents, and it was a complete contrast to the gardens we had been walking through just a few minutes earlier.
For an even better look at the areas volcanic features we decided to visit the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. With a name like that it has a lot to live up to, but we soon discovered it does just that and more!
Our visit started at the Lady Knox Geyser, which is just a short drive from the main visitor centre and thermal area. The Geyser is induced to erupt at 10:15 each day, ensuring it puts on a reliable show for tourists.
We arrived just in time, and soon after taking our seats in the purpose built amphitheatre, we were amazed to watch as the Geyser spouted water high into the air. Although less impressive than seeing this occur naturally, it was still a fantastic sight.
We continued to the main thermal area, where sensing an opportunity to skip the crowds we began the self-guided tour in reverse order. This meant we were immediately greeted by the astonishing neon green Devils Bath. It was hard to believe that this was naturally occurring and caused by Sulphur deposits in the water.
Our tour continued to the park’s star attraction, the Champagne Pool, which is named after the small bubbles that rise to the surface in a similar manner to the drink. There was a stunning contrast between the bubbling grey water and the vivid orange edge of the pool. It had an other-worldly feel and was unlike anything we had ever seen before.
The tour took us along several boardwalks, with different thermal features around seemingly every corner. This included the aptly named Artist’s Palette, with its beautiful array of colours.
After an exhausting week of travelling (it really is a tough life), we decided to treat ourself with a trip to one of Rotoruas’ thermal spa pools. We chose the popular Polynesian Spa which is located within the Government Gardens and is renowned for its healing waters.
Our deluxe private pool was heated to a perfect 38.5c, which we enjoyed while admiring the beautiful panoramic views across Lake Rotorua.
After such a relaxing experience, it seemed a shame to cook dinner in the back of our van. Instead we decided to visit ‘Eat Streat’, Rotorua’s main dining precinct which is lined with bars and restaurants, with a wide variety of different cuisines on offer.
We had chosen to camp just a short drive outside of the town at the Willowhaven Holiday Park, and we managed to secure ourselves the perfect site right on the edge of the lake.
Rising early on our final morning in Rotorua, we were treated to a beautiful sunrise over the lake which we sat and watched on the nearby wooden jetty.
It was incredible to experience the volcanic activity that makes Rotorua and the surrounding area so unique, however we also found that there is much more to the town to discover…