Government Gardens: a green oasis
This is just one of the places you don’t really expect in New Zealand. This park, on a peninsula in Lake Rotorua, is situated just a block from the crowds on Fenton Street and around the Information Centre. We walked around the peninsula and enjoyed the views over the lake.
The hart of this park is a part close to the city, which we entered through gates with beautiful maori art. Here are (in summer) lots of flowerbeds, rose gardens and lawns. We have been here twice and both times there were ‘white dressed people’ playing bowls. They match perfect with this more or less typical English scene.
In the park is also The Bath House, a Tudor style building, in former days a spa resort; nowadays housing the Rotorua Museum of Art & History (www.rotoruamuseum.co.nz) with lots of maori art and highlights about the history of the town. It is an ideal starting point before exploring Rotorua.
The Blue Baths, in an art deco building, do have some renovated historic heated swimming pools, a museum and a 1930s tea room (www.bluebaths.co.nz).Related to:
- Spa and Resort
- Museum Visits
The Blue and Green Lakes
Not far from Rotorua, along the way to Lake Tarawera and the Buried Village, you will pass by the Blue and Green Lakes. Well, maybe you won't just pass by, but will stop a while and enjoy!!
The Green Lake is undisturbed, as it is sacred (tapu) to the Maori people. Its Maori name is Rotokakahi because of its plentiful shellfish, and its waters flow into Lake Tarawea via Te Wairoa Falls (which you can enjoy at the Buried Village). It is known as the Green Lake because of its emerald colour when seen from the air, although you don't get that effect from ground level.
Next to the Green Lake (and in fact the first of the 2 you will see) is the Blue Lake, known in Maori as Tikitapu, or "the place where a cheif's daughter lost her greenstone treasure". It is very deep, and is actually a collapsed volcanic crater. A popular watersports spot, its shores can be quite busy and it is a favourite for families with young children. It is known as the Blue Lake because from the air it is a turquoise colour due to deposits of white rhyolite and pumice on the lake bed. Again, you don't get the effect of the colour from ground level.Related to:
In a day of "firsts", the floatplane was fifth, but so far probably the most amazing. I would recommend it to anybody who loves flying like we do, and who would like to see a totally different perspective of the Rotorua area. The scenery really is mind-blowing and you cannot appreciate the enormity of the volcanic craters and activities until you see them from the air! Awesome!
Within the Orchid Gardens is New Zealand's only water organ. I have only once perviously - a very long time ago in Hamburg - seen a water organ, and am very keen to experience this.
To clarify - the music is not produced by the water, over 800 jets are choreographed to "dance" in tune to the music.
The music is lovely and the 15 minute show very well produced with sprays of water lit in various colours and producing different shapes. Very nice indeed. "First" number six.
The water organ plays once an hour on the hour every day from 09.00 until 17.00.
As we fly inland, the pilot points out the various places of interest below. There is a lot to see, but one of the things that really captures my imagination, is two lakes side by side - one green and the other blue. That is something you really wouldn't be able to see from the ground.
The hothouses in the Orchid Gardens in Hinemaru House, ensure that there are always orchids in bloom at any time of year. As well as the beautiful exotic flowers, there is a display of living reptiles and insects in the Microworld!
Get Closer to Kiwi
I thought Rotoruas Kiwi Encounter was just superb! We visited by chance really - the weather was awful, and it is an indoors attraction, and I am so glad we decided to duck inside out of the rain instead of heading back to Auckland.
New Zealands iconic flightless bird, the Kiwi, is an endangered species. There are a few varieties, and the Brown Kiwi is only found in the North Island. The Kiwi encounter (supported by the Bank of New Zealand and public donations, but receiving no state funding) is focused on breeding programmes, public education, release schemes and generally protecting this adorable little nocturnal creature.
You are taken on a guided tour and get to see the hatchery, the nursery, a run with birds in a recontructed native habitat, and an information area. The tour guide was brilliantly informative, and we were fortunate enough to see an egg in the process of hatching (this can take up to three days) and a new chick being hand fed.
The chicks are generally self sufficient once they are born - the female bird has nothing to do with the egg once she has laid it. This is not surprising really, as the kiwi has the largest egg-to-body-size ratio, and a kiwi laying an egg is the equivalent of a human giving birth to a 34lb baby. She is probably relieved to see the back of it! The male incubates the egg, but abandons the chick once hatching takes place. In the days when kiwis numbered in their millions, this wasn't a problem, but nowadays they need all the help they can get. The birds are released in areas where predation from stoats, rats and cats is miminal.
Definitely worth a visit, I can't recommend this one enough. I have been in a couple of 'kiwi houses' and you see very little. The Kiwi Encounter is very probably your best opportunity to not only view the birds but learn a lot about them in the process.Related to:
The Colourful Thermal Wonderland of Wai-O-Tapu
This really is a place to go if you are interested in geothermal activity. Wai-O-Tapu - which means Sacred Waters and is only 30kms from Rotorua - has some unique features like The Lady Knox Geyser and the Champagne Pool.
But be prepared to meet loads of tourists as everybody tries to be there at 10.15am. This is the time of the guaranteed daily eruption of the Lady Knox Geyser which was discovered in 1901 by prisoners who had to clear the area. Those prisoners also found out that the geyser could be made to erupt by throwing soap into the bubbling water. By coincidence, of course. They were just washing their clothes in the hot water. Soon the place was transformed into a tourist attraction and named after the daughter of Lord Ranfurly, the 15th Governor of NZ, Lady Constance Knox.
At the start rocks had been placed around the base of the spring, and within the past 100 years silica from the eruptions built up a white cone which makes the spring look like the vent of a volcano. A ranger throws a cake of soap into this opening, and soon after the geyser erupts, the hot water reaching heights of up to 20 metres, and the eruption can last for an hour.
Whereas in Rotorua you have the rotten egg smell of sulphur in your nose everywhere Wai-O-Tapu offers the full palette of colours geothermal activity can create. The Artists's Palette displays spots of different colours and shades, depending on the minerals the water contains.
Orange: antimony sulphide
White: silicon sulphide
Green: arsenic sulphide
Red and brown: iron oxide and iron oxyhydrate
Black: sulphur and carbon
The most impressive feature is the 74°C hot Champagne Pool with green water, and striking orange rocks all around the pool. On the water surface you see big bubbles which are created by carbon dioxide. It is the biggest pool in the area. The mud pools are also fantastic.
Other formations have the promising names Devil's Home, Rainbow Crater, Thunder Crater, Devil's Ink Pots, Opal Pool and Inferno Crater.Related to:
Feel the Power of Nature at the Buried Village
It is described as New Zealand's Pompeii. Whereas Pompeii, buried by an eruption of Vesuvius, was a big city, Te Wairoa was a small but growing village, being the gateway to the then famous Pink and White Terraces. The eruption of Mt. Tarawera on 10 June 1886 killed 151 people and buried Te Wairoa and two smaller villages under heavy ash and mud. Also the Pink and White Terraces disappeared. They had been a major tourist attraction at the time and also branded as one of the many eighth world wonders.
Te Wairoa, east of Rotorua, has been excavated and is now known as the Buried Village. The Maori huts are still half filled with the petrified ash and mud which makes you imagine at least a little how disastrous the forces of nature can be.
To me it is a memorial and always reminds me of the destructive potential of nature we admire so much for all its beauty. There could not be a more appropriate place for such a memorial which indeed is also a graveyard, as the volcanic plateau around Rotorua and Taupo is still active, and disaster could strike again and at a far huger scale. If Lake Taupo, just a crater lake, erupts again half of the North Island would be lost forever.
Also to Maori Te Wairoa has immense historical, cultural and spiritual value. You feel it when you walk on the paths, they are surrounded by a mysterious atmosphere, but also full of peacefulness and tranquility. The trees around the excavated huts with their moss-covered rooves are tall, and give the place a fresh and cool airyness. A scenic walk leads to the Wairere Falls and the Wairoa stream.
The museum tells the story of the place and holds artifacts which were found during the excavations, and information about archaelogy and volcanology.
Entry fees (as Feb. 2007):
Adults $25, children $7, family passes available.Related to:
- Museum Visits
- Historical Travel
The Agrodome: Far too touristy but still great
A visit to the Agrodome in Rotorua is as touristy as it can get. But still it is great fun and I am happy that I was there for the sheep show.
I yawned over the cheap jokes of the presenter who welcomed the public in 20 languages or so, and did not tire to bore me with his endless research if perhaps someone from Myanmar or the moon was among us, as probably he can say Hello in Burmese and Moonish. And well, as you share the big hall with approximately a million people there is a chance that one of them is from another planet. Believe me, it is a very tiring introduction.
But when this is over the show is just great and worth to ignore with how many people you have to share the fun.
First 19 sheep of 19 different breeds run onto the stage and right onto their place on the podium which carries the name tags of all breeds. When they have reached their designated spot they chew on the food pellets provided in little containers and seem to be bored. Those sheep are not to be compared to the sheep that flee from you on the paddocks when stop to take a photo. Those sheep do not even mind when a bunch of farmdogs run over their backs and finally sit on them. Most action is shaking the head as if asking why they have to perform the same and same rubbish again and again... Well, they are just fantastic!
Also the sheep that comes to stage for shearing is not scared at all. Perhaps it would even extend and contract its limbs without this microphone guy touching it at its soft spots.
Then a cow appears and some tourists have the chance to milk it on stage, and at the end some lambs nearly run over the tourists who have been chosen to bottle-feed them. Absolutely cute, of course :-)
True: Although I hate such masses of people, silly comments and cheap jokes I would go there again!
If you can't get enough make the farm tour, visit the woollen mill and the shearing shed.
3 shows daily at 9.30am, 11am and 2.30pm
Rates (as Feb. 2007):
adults $22, children $11
Organic farming tour $28/13
Combo of both $45/20Related to:
- Theme Park Trips
- Family Travel
Te Puia + "Whaka": The Divided Attractions
On my first NZ trips Te Puia and Whakarewarewa at the city limits of Rotorua were still one attraction for which you had to pay one entry fee. At the end of the 1990s there was an argument and the geothermal site was divided, even "Whaka" itself, and since 1998 you have two tourist attractions side by side. So it is up to you to make a choice as nearly the same things are offered, geothermal wonders and Maori culture.
Although we have been there with nearly no other tourists around it can happen that the thermal reserves are totally overcrowded with busloads of tourists. If you do not mind this and have limited time it still is a good place for getting an impression. However, the geothermally much more spectacular and colourful places are Waiotapu and Orakei Korako.
Whakarewarewa (the wh is pronounced as f) is only a third of its original size and features bubbling mud holes, hot pools, steaming and sulphor stinking flats, as well as Maori carvings, a meeting house and stage where you can twice daily enjoy a culture show. It is now known as The Thermal Village which really has kept its original village feeling. You can explore the place on your own or join a guided tour, and I clearly prefer it to Te Puia - and it is cheaper ;-)
However, the main attraction of "Whaka", the very active Pohutu geyser, is now on the other side of the fence and belongs to Te Puia. But it can still be seen from the "Whaka" area, and it erupts several times a day and does not need to be fed by soap to erupt like the famous Lady Knox Geyser at Waiotapu.
Te Puia did not only get Pohutu but also the other two thirds of the original Whakarewarewa. Officially it is The New Zealand Maori Arts & Crafts Institute. You can watch Maori artists carve and wave houses, canoes, weapons, jewellery and clothes and also buy the very expensive products. They also have a Kiwi House with two or so kiwis, and offer guided tours and cultural perfomances with song and dance, including a hangi which is the traditional Maori meal from the earth oven.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
Hours and Admissions for Whakarewarewa + Te Puia
Whakarewarewa - The Thermal Village
Open 8.30am-5pm, 12 guided tours from 9am, Maori shows 11.15am and 2pm, admission $23/children 11.50 (includes all this).
Hangi (meals) 12noon-2.30pm, $50/26.50; hangi taster only $15, full hangi $30; interactive package (you prepare your hangi, make a food basket from flax etc.) $60/39.
Whakarewarewa Thermal Village
9a Tukiterangi Street
Whakarewarewa Village, Rotorua
Freephone (0800) 924 426, Tel. (07) 349 3463
Open 8am-6pm (in summer), guided tours hourly 9am-4pm, concert at 12.15pm and 3.15pm, admission NZ$28/children 14 includes all this.
Song, dance and feast 6.15pm (lasts 3 hrs) - NZ$85/50.
Combo of Admission and evening show $101/57.50.
Hemo Road, Rotorua
Tel. (07) 348 9047
Book online or by Fax (07) 348 9045Related to:
- Arts and Culture
The language of boiling mud....
… is simply: blub, blub, blub.
Everywhere in thermal areas in and around Rotorua we found pools of mud.
It is very fascinating to look to the ever lasting bubbling and to hear these ever lasting ‘mud language’.
Located within the Te Wairoa Buried Village complex is one of the nicest falls we saw on our trip to the North Island, and it was Wairere Falls.
This set of falls is started by a small creek, but has quite a drop of about 30 meters, one in which a ten to fifteen minute walk is required from the museum that holds the information at Te Wairoa. Also, you will have to take a fairly steep walk back up the hill to the village, so be prepared for some heaving breaths.
I guess you could call that a breath taking waterfall then!Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
If you are in Rotorua Easter Sunday there is a performance at night called Jambalaya. There are performers from all over the world (many from Brazil). There is lots of drumming and dancing. The performers wear cool costumes and some even juggle fire.
We happened to find out about the parade when we were walking back to our hotel. It was really worth watching. The whole procession took about 30 minutes.
The parade took place at night and started near the water on Tutanekai Street.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
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