Steaming mud pools, erupting geysers and Maori traditions all make Rotorua and Taupo a special area to visit and one that is distinctively unique to the rest of New Zealand.
You’re likely to smell the sulphur-rich geothermal playground of Rotorua before seeing it, with its endless volcanic pools bubbling throughout the city. It is one of the most popular tourist spots in the North Island thanks to its unique thermal activity and multitude of activities. Explore geothermal parks before heading into nearby native forests for hiking or mountain biking the numerous world-class trails. Soak up the scenery at one of the 18 fresh water lakes or tackle the swift river rapids in a raft. Go zip-lining, zorbing or even bungy jumping – it’s an adrenaline junkies paradise. But if that all sounds a bit much then simply spend your days like many of the locals do – relaxing in the mineral-rich hot pools.
The region of Rotorua was revered by Maori and it is the perfect place to get an insight into this culture from its many maraes (greeting houses) to sampling a traditional hangi feast, which is cooked in the steaming ground.
An hour’s drive south of Rotorua is its rival resort town, Taupo – resting on the northeastern shores of Australasia’s largest lake. Actually a volcano crater, the lake’s deep blue waters draw visitors with its idyllic swimming holes, reputable fishing and adventure sports. On a clear day the views stretch out over the glassy water to the snowcapped volcanoes of Tongariro National Park in the distance. The country’s longest river, the Waikato, also flows out of here to crash over the nearby and must-see Huka Falls.
A five-minute walk from the lake edge takes you to the compact, friendly settlement of Taupo where New Zealand families gather en masse for their summer holidays.