Until I went to the World Championships in mountainbiking in Rotorua last year (2006) I was not really aware that this is probably the best place for cross country cycling in New Zealand. The Whakarewarewa Forest features a network of 40kms of mountainbike tracks which have delighted even the world's best professionals.
Those single tracks are not only suited to please cross-country bikers but include, for example, the National Downhill Track, and they are great for professionals and first-timers as well. The trails are graded from 2 to 6, and they are accessible from several carparks around the forest. For skilled riders there are several Outback Loop Trails on offer which take up to 3hrs - and a trail called No Brains... ;-)
From the steep tracks you have fantastic views over Lake Rotorua, other tracks lead along Green Lake and Blue Lake. But in total there are so many tracks and trails that you absolutely need a map. I cannot describe all the tracks in this limited space.
If you do not have your own bike you can hire one at several locations, especially a little company specialised in guided mountainbike tours. For those who want to explore the tracks on their own there is a shuttle service (but only on weekends) which can drop you off in the forest and pick you up at several other locations.
The map with all the tracks is the Whakarewarewa Forest Mountain Bike Map.
For all information about tracks, bike hire and services check:
The bike hire and tour company is Planet Bike, it is located near SH5 to Taupo and the main MTB carpark (Waipa State Mill Rd).
Planet Bike Ltd
89 Grand Vue Rd
Phone (07) 346 1717
E-mail : email@example.com
On the website of the MTB club you find more places for bike hire.
The company that offers the shuttle service to the top of the forest on Sat and Sun is Southstar Shuttles.
Phone (027) 654 3038 (weekends; during the week 6pm-8pm)
Rotorua is at the heart of forestry country. Vast swathes of the Bay of Plenty region are planted in exotic pine plantations for industrial forestry. On highway 30, heading east out of town, you can visit an area that was experimentally planted in Redwoods several decades ago. This was intriguing for me because in July I had seen some mighty Redwoods in California. These NZ ones weren't so big. It was interesting to see them growing next to some of our own natives, like the Rimu in the picture here.
There are several easy trails to wander along here as well as a shop and big car park.
I think that Lake Okataina is one of New Zealands little known gems. Tucked away at the end of a long and winding single track road, the lake is surrounded by dense native bush and little else. The waters are incredibly clear, I was amazed at how deep you could still see to the bottom.
There is a lodge near the edge of the lake, offering accommodation (quite expensive I thought, rooms were approaching $200 per night) but that, apart from a small picnic site and a boat ramp, is all.
We spent a quiet evening here just enjoying the peace of the surroundings and the birdsong.
You would need your own transport to get here...from Rotorua take State Highway 30 to Lake Rotoiti. Lake Okataina is down a right hand turn before you reach Gisborne Point. Do go if you get the chance, I'm sure yu won't be disappointed.
In the 1800's the most exciting place to go on your visit to Rotorua would be Lake Tarawera, which was the gateway to the Pink and White Terraces. Today however with the eruption of the volcano that covered the terraces, Lake Tarawera has slipped into a quiet little lake area.
There are several little coves and bays for you to enjoy a picnic or view Mount Tarawera from, however there are not many activities to do here.
Does the moon actually looks like this?? Be an astronaut & check it out. As far as I know, it's free!!
It's about 30 minutes walk discovering the bubbling craters, mud pools and steam vents, also some interesting plants in the hot & steamy condition.
It's a few kilometres north of Taupo at the junction of SH 1 & 5. Can't find it, get direction from Taupo Visitor Infomation Centre.
For those not so keen on climbing, or ran out of time to do the volcanic tour (or for whatever reason it may be) ... drive down Tarawera Road (off SH5 - Te Ngae Rd) to this scenic lookout for a great view.
Mt Tarawera errupted in 1886.
While I was in Rotorua I had the pleasure of experiencing a wonderful Aix Massage at the QE Health Centre in Rotorua.
QE Health is a world class centre for the treatment of rheumatism and arthritis. In addition to these specialised services they also offer spa treatments. I had a half hour "aix massage" which is a massage using oils and warm mineral water jets across your body. It cost $40 for 1/2 hour.
The massages are very popular so I recommend calling ahead and booking. They are open Mon - Fri 8am-10pm and Sat - Sun 2pm - 10pm.
Address: Cnr Whakaue St & Fenton St
The Blue and Green Lakes are just a few minutes drive east of Rotorua city centre. To get there, take the airport road (SH30) and turn off at Tarawera Road. Look for the brown tourist information signs just before the junction. Tarawera Road takes you to the shore of the Blue Lake (Lake Tikitapu) and from there you can drive to a lookout on a saddle between the two lakes and see the contrast in colour. Don't leave your visit too late in the day though, as the failing sunlight will make the colour contrast difficult to see!
The Blue Baths are recently restored thermal pools. They were built in the 1930's in the Spanish architectural style but fell into disrepair and was closed until it was restored. The building is now protected by the New Zealand Historic Places trust. There are tearooms inside that are also a sight to behold.
All good things have to come to and end. The wake-up call came at 5.30. At that time, after 4 hours of sleep, mumbling expletives under my breath, cussing the dipsticks at the desk who don't now how to cancel a simple wake-up call. I found out later that Mr. Rath's wake-up call was to be at 6.30, so it was Maria who "out-Rathed" Mr. Rath. Breakfast in the dining room was a real feast in the form of a buffet. There were all styles of eggs, bacon, all kinds of fruits (with juice from each one), all manner of cereals, coffee, tea, and milk. I was a glutton that Sunday morning, 7 July. I ate and drank a little of everything (except for milk which I am allergic). On waiting for the coach, I noticed that some lug nut left the door open when it was cold- some 35°F (2°C) that winter's morning.
We got on the bus by 7.00. We passed through downtown Auckland on the way to the countryside, stopping at a volcanic crater in the downtown area to take photos. It bumfuzzled me that our itinerary did not include more time in Auckland.
We landed in Auckland at 9.00 (local time). I wasn't expecting Jonathan at the airport because I told him I would ring him from the hotel in Auckland. On passing through customs, we met our New Zealand guide (Maria). My first impression of Maria was that she was not all there (but compared to some people I've met since then, Maria appears almost normal). She punctuated every sentence with "okay". On boarding the coach, it seemed colder in New Zealand than in Australia. It was between 40-60° (5-15°C) in Australia, subtract 10°F from each end to get the high and low for New Zealand. Our hotel for Saturday night was the Econo Lodge in Auckland (don't laugh, there is really an Econo Lodge in New Zealand, probably one in hell too unless Marriott, with their lackluster cuisine, won that concession). In spite of being midnight, I rung Jonathan (it was a local call) because I said I would. We agreed on meeting in Rotorua on my last day in New Zealand. Jonathan wanted to join us the following day Orakei Korako (pronunced OROCKY KOROCKO), but even he had never heard of it before. That was only a foreshadowing of coming events to be explained below. We flapped our gums for a good hour and a half and then I went to bed. Before taking the lift up to the room, I remembered to cancel Mr. Rath's wake-up call. I fell into bed, sleeping before my head hit the pillow.
We passed by hills more remote and even more populated by sheep. Someone brought along a cassette, but all the songs were American by the likes of Jimmy Buffet, whose songs with a tropical theme such as "Margaritaville" and "Cheeseburger in Paradise" were somewhat out of place in this winter's climate influenced by the Antarctic. It is true that when I go overseas for a long time, I miss music from Don Williams and other singers from Nashville. In general, I believe that listening to American music on a visit of just two weeks is a sin equal to visiting a McDonald's in Tahiti.
What sets these apart from others is the presence of so-called glow worms. I don't believe in glow worms. I believe they are really thousands of points of light at the end of a long, narrow stick (like they sell at Disneyland). In 1991, George Bush the elder was president. Therefore, all I could think about in the silent trip by boat through the caves was his "Thousand Points of Light" speech.
For an enjoyable (and free) day away from the main tourist circuit, try Kerosene Creek. It's a natural hot spring river, complete with waterfalls, that is just the right temperature for soaking. Located a couple of KM's noth of Waiotapu in the Rotorua area off of Route 5.
Lake Taupo was formed by enormous volcanic explosions, the biggest being in 186AD. The lake is internationally acclaimed for its year-round trout fishing. There are many water activities or simply take a cruise on the lake, or relax on the shore. To the south of Lake Taupo, three massive volcanoes cluster together to form Tongariro National Park. In winter, these magnificent mountains lure thousands of skiers.
Taupo is 82kms (51 miles) south of Rotorua.
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