Our next port of call after visiting the hobbits was the town of Rotorua. It is famous for its geothermal activity as well as adrenalin releasing activities. Sadly the campsites in town were quite pricey and the one further out sounded like it was really wet after the recent rain. Based on that we took up the deal through the local i-Site and booked three nights in a motel in the centre. It was not the best accommodation, but it was a convenient option.
There are so many things to do in and around Rotorua that it gets quite confusing. There are two Maori villages, one forest and at least five geothermal places plus all the adventure activities. Most of these are not cheap. If you don’t have your own set of wheels there are shuttles to most of them. Alternatively there are local buses and Intercity to get to some of them. We decided not to go to the touristy Maori villages or the fancy mud baths based on value for money; plus we had already seen a Maori cultural performance up in Waitangi.
Luckily, the town park on the edge of the centre has a significant amount of volcanic activity including a lot of hot springs and even a hot lake. We had a deja vu moment, when we dipped our feet in a hot foot bath just like we found them in similar areas in Japan.
We enjoyed walking through the park and round to the lakefront. One of our brochures recommended an ice cream parlor, but upon seeing their ice creams in cardboard boxes (probably not home made) we changed our minds. There is also a nice walk along the shore over to Sulphur Bay. The name is very befitting, but despite the strong sulphurous smell there still swarms of ducks sleeping in the milky water. One big area of the coast had many hot springs (that smelled even more of sulphur). It was at this place, where the culture of healthy bathing in hot mineral water was initiated. Incoming rain thwarted further walking explorations and so we returned home.
On the next morning we jumped on a local bus to go and visit the redwood forest. They have lots of advertising for their canopy boardwalk, but for those not interested (or cheapos) there are many tracks and trails to choses from for free walking, riding and mountain biking. The forest draws its name from the big redwood (or cedar) trees which make this place a bit special. It is a beautiful walking area and very peaceful. We climbed up two viewpoints overlooking one of the touristy thermal area in front of Lake Rotorua and the mountains behind it.
We really enjoyed the walking and arrived back at the bus stop with plenty of time to spare.
Half an hour later we jumped on to an Intercity bus to get to Waiotapu; a geothermal area between Rotorua and Taupo famous for its colourful lakes. The only drawback was that we had a 20min walk from the bus stop to the entrance.
our bus passes and secondly it saved us a lot of money (a tour including shuttle was $79; entrance alone $32). Waiotapu was totally worth it even without the sun brightening up the colours. Some of the lakes had bright orange rims while others sparkled green and blue.
One area was a field of deep holes with hot springs where the ground had collapsed. Steam was coming out of the ground everywhere.
One pool was mesmerisingly and so brightly green that it seemed completely surreal. The paths were well maintained and totalled around 3 km.
On our way back to the bus stop we visited a field of mud volcanoes. This lake was constantly bubbling and steaming everywhere which was really cool and made a funny noise.
Back in town we visited the evening market, but since it was too cold to sit down and eat we retired to our motel.