Tag Archives: Rotorua

So much to do in Rotorua

In hindsight, it seems a bit strange that I am writing about the place we go the most after writing about lots of other places we have only visited once.  Yes we go to Rotorua a lot, but I thought that I didn’t have much to share as we mostly go mountain biking and the tips on that would pretty much be; go to Redwoods, get on bike, ride. Then I was talking to someone in the weekend who was going to Rotorua and they asked me what we enjoy doing there and it turns out I had quite a lot to say.

 

Firstly, if you are considering going to Rotorua, what are you doing reading this, go and book your accommodation now. We have been going to Rotorua for about five years now and cant believe how popular it has become. There are so many events held there now, along with the awesome mountain biking, that at times we can find it hard to get accommodation.

Rotorua has accommodation to suit everyone so just check out your favourite accommodation search engine. So now you have your accommodation booked what are you going to do when you get there? Of course we would put mountain biking at the top of the list. You don’t have to be a gun mountain biker, the Redwood forest has something for everyone and it was the first place our son rode when he was 5. There are even younger kids out there on the trails, so if they can do it so can your kids. If you don’t have a bike they hire them at the forest. To check out the easy tracks head for Waipa Mill Rd, talk to the friendly guys at the pro shop and grab a map. The best thing is, if you have your own gear its free to ride here although you can donate to the Rotorua Trails Trust so they can keep delivering awesome trails for us. If you are more into riding downhills than going up then you might want to buy a shuttle pass and head for the bus stop at the bottom of Hill road. You can link tracks together and ride downhill for over an hour, it is so worth it.

More on riding with beginners in Rotorua and tips for riding with kids

Other things to do in Rotorua are;

The Gondola and Luge – slightly pricey but then I tend to think any activity that costs money is pricey. On a sunny days the views from the top of the gondola are pretty stunning and there is lots to look at from the top even if you don’t do the luge. Younger children can go on the luge with an adult which makes your luge tickets go further. Also the younger kids get to experience the thrill in relative safety if they may not want to ride it by themselves.

Rainbow Springs – again I think its slightly pricey but when we went we spent about 4 hours there so on an hourly rate its probably pretty cheap. They have great trout viewing pools and an awesome native bird aviary. Go when the birds are about to be fed and they are getting excited. The tui love to show off their flying skills and dive bomb the visitors. The other attraction is the Big Splash boat ride which includes a waterfall and you guessed it a BIG SPLASH.

Te Puia / Pohutu geyser– we have driven past the geysers at Te Puia many times on the way to mountain biking but it was only when we had a home stay student that we thought we should check it out. Bubbling mud, geysers, trails through native bush, a cultural show – this place has it all. We were a little put off by the entrance price but were delighted to find that New Zealanders get a domestic discount ( the first time we have come across that ) I think even at full price it would have been good value for money. Again we spent about 4 hours here – those geysers sure are mesmerising and the Kiwi even came out to play in the Kiwi house.

 

Whakarewarewa Living Maori Village. Firstly, if you are wondering about the name, its called a ‘Living Maori Village’ because for over 200 years the Tuhourangi/Ngati Wahiao tribe have welcomed visitors in to their village, opening the doors to their way of life and sharing their geothermal treasures. There are several options for experiencing the Village and we got to enjoy the cultural show and a guided tour – both of which were very enjoyable and informative. We also explored one of the nature walks complete with bubbling mud and boiling water. 

Waimangu Valley. The world’s youngest geothermal system, giving a unique insight into just how powerful nature can be when the whole area was created by the Tarawera eruption. It’s a hidden gem with something amazing and other worldly around every corner from geysers to stunning crater lakes. It’s also the place that the Pink Terraces and the White Terraces once existed. Can be enjoyed as a walk, a boat trip on Lake Rotomahana or both. 

Okere Falls – about 20 minutes out of Rotorua on the highway to Tauranga. Okere Falls is a great place to spot rafters and kayakers go over the grade 4 waterfall and many other rapids. There is a great track down the side of the cliff to see all the action from water leveI. Its also a delightful walk through native bush beside the Kaituna River.

Tarawera Trail – there are lots of walks in the area, in fact many people enjoy walking through the Redwood forest. Personally, I think why walk when you can mountain bike. One walk that you can’t mountain bike is the Tarawera Trail. Its 15km-20km one way depending on where you park and unless you want to walk the track back to the start then it does involve a water taxi. You can either get dropped off at Hot Water Beach and walk back or walk to Hot Water Beach and taxi or walk back. We chose to taxi first so we didn’t have to worry about rushing / running for the water taxi. It’s a stunning walk through gorgeous native bush around the Lake. There is an amazing hot pool down a side trail which is great to soak the feet in, or go for a swim like our kids did. Hot water beach is at the start/end of the track and this is where a hot spring trickles out of the rock and flows into the lake.  Another great place for a soak. There is a popular camp very close by which kind of spoils the ambiance but its still an amazing natural place.

As of June 2017 sections of the trail were closed due to slips, so check out the Department of Conservation website before we plan this one.

Waikite Pools – a little way out of town on the road to Taupo but well worth the drive. A great range of size and temperatures of pools with something to suit everyone and a great little nature trail that leads to the largest single source of boiling water in New Zealand.

Kerosene Creek –  if you are looking for a natural experience of thermal water then check out Kerosene Creek. About a 20 minute drive out of Rotorua heading towards Taupo. Aim for Rainbow Mountain and follow the signs to Kerosene Creek which is just past the Rainbow mountain carpark. Once you have parked and got to the creek keep walking downstream as the water cascades over a waterfall into a dammed up pool. The hot water creates quite a warm micro-climate as its sheltered underneath tall trees. Very beautiful in the afternoon sun. The path to the creek can be very muddy after rain.

And if you like riding on concrete paths you can ride out to Kerosense Creek on the Te Ara Ahi trail.

See bubbling mud for free. Sulphur Point is in the south-eastern corner of Lake Rotorua. Sulphur Bay is a great spot to see steam, bubbling mud, smell sulphur smells and is also home to a Wildlife Sanctuary so great for bird watching. The trail starts behind the Rotorua Museum.

Head to Lake Okareka to explore the boardwalk through the wetlands and then on to the outlet. An easy 5km return walk.

Once you have been to Rotorua you will want to go again and again – now I had better go book my accommodation.

Kerosene Creek at Rainbow Mountain Reserve

I love the feeling of discovering something new, well new to us anyhow. We have spent a far bit of time in Rotoura ( mostly mountain biking ) so decided to head to Taupo for a long weekend of mountain biking. Where the discovery happened, was as we drove from Taupo to Rotorua ( yes we just can’t stay away ) We had read about Rainbow Scenic Reserve and thought we would do a walk round the Reserve.

Imagine how delighted we were to find that the walking tracks were shared paths. A quick 3 km through the bush and we could be at Kerosene Creek, which I had seen photos of and was keen to explore. So we did a quick change in the carpark and jumped on our bikes – excited to be discovering a new ride. The ride was listed as a grade 2 but we thought it was more of a grade 3 as it had quite a few uphills, switchbacks and the volcanic scoria made it quite skiddy.

The native bush was gorgeous although the trail mustn’t have been used much in places as the tracks were a little overgrown, sometimes with blackberries so it was a little scratchy. Add to that some rain and we were in for a true adventure.

So the 3km seemed further than we thought – that could have been on account of the rain but Kerosene Creek was well worth it.

I should mention at this point that you can drive down a gravel road to Kerosene Creek. I should also explain that although the name doesn’t sound that inviting Kerosene Creek is actually a thermal stream with a waterfall into a dammed pond that people come from near and far to soak in.

The path to the pond meanders down the stream a little and while this may look inviting keep walking as the dammed area is a few minutes walk further down the stream.

It’s a slight clamber down the bank to get into the pond but well worth it. This is a very popular spot and at times there were about 30 people in the pond, however at one point we were lucky enough to have the area to ourselves which was truly magical.

Sitting in thermal water while the stream cascades over the waterfall has to be one of the best experiences of my life. Whether you drive directly to the carpark or walk or ride through the Rainbow Mountain Reserve it’s well worth a visit.

Tarawera Trail

After walking the Tongariro Crossing with our 7 and 12 year old, we were on the look out for our next adventure and were delighted to find it in the Tarawera Trail.

The first thing to organise is the water taxi to drop you off or pick you up, unless you wanted to walk both ways. I booked the water taxi online about a month before and didn’t find the website that easy to use. In fact our friends had a toddler that we didn’t have to pay for but there was nowhere on the booking system to note that we were bringing a toddler and I thought they might like to know. So I rung the next morning and was told that they didn’t have our booking. Upon further investigation it turns out that when the booking was transferred to a spreadsheet the booking was put down for the wrong day. So I am certainly pleased I rung.

The weather forecast for our walk wasn’t too good but the day dawned with a beautiful sunrise over Mount Tarawera and turned out pretty good. There aren’t a lot of carparks at The Landing where the water taxi leaves from, so I am not sure what you would do if you turned up and the car park was full but we didn’t have to worry about that.

The water taxi ride was awesome, the views stunning and the skipper was very informative and jovial.

I spent a lot of my childhood kayaking in the Tarawera River so was quite excited to go to Hot Water Beach but like many things high expectations can lead to disappointment. I wasn’t prepared for so many people camping there. There isn’t a lot of flat land beside the beach so all the people that were there made the spot seem quite cramped. Still very interesting to visit though and the kids had a great time playing in the warm water. Strangely the hot water entering the lake “floats” on the surface of the cold water lake so the temperature can fluctuate dramatically and burn rings around your ankles.

So after a little foot soak we were off on our hike. I should mention we got dropped off at Hot Water beach and walked back to the landing so we didn’t have to rush with the kids to meet the water taxi. That did mean we couldn’t soak in a hot pool for long but having rushed for a pick up before I enjoyed being able to walk at our own pace.

Its an awesome walk with a little hidden gem that we haven’t seen mentioned anywhere and it was very kind of the seasoned campers at Hot Water Beach to share the fact  that there is hot water running in a stream that has been dammed to create a pool. Its about 1 hours walk from the campground to the amenity / rest spot.  Then take a short side track towards the lake its about 15mins walk. The kids loved that pool and so did we. Enjoy this treasure.

I like a scenic spot for lunch ( whether road tripping, mountain biking or hiking ) and the amenities area had picnic tables but in the direction we walked this was more of a morning tea stop. So we were on the look out for a lunch spot and as we came over a hill we spotted a gorgeous white sandy beach not far off the track so we bush crashed a little to get to the lakes edge. Beautiful. It was only small but it was nice to be by the water for lunch, although our friend who got two mossie bites probably didn’t think so.

The rest of the walk has stunning scenery and was very achievable as it’s mostly undulating terrain ( bearing in mind our kids had walked the 20km Tongariro Crossing the year before and we have maintained their fitness with walks and mountain biking ).

We are back at The Landing at 4pm after setting out from Hot Water Beach about 10am. This included stopping at the hot spring stream pool and a lunch break. The Trail is not too steep and you can keep up a steady pace. We passed quite a lot of trail runners along the way too. Also our friend walked all the way with a 2 year old in a baby backpack.

We would love to do this walk again.

Top tips:

Check your booking with the water taxi.

If you are concerned about making a pick up time like we have been in the past ( and I think this particularly applies when you are walking with kids)  get dropped off at Hot Water Beach and walk back. This did mean we couldn’t enjoy a long dip at Hot Water Beach, but it was so much more relaxing than other adventures when we have been rushing for a pick up.

Check out the dam in the hot stream near the amenities block ( directions above ).

Although the full walk is 15km, if you park at the Landing, water taxi out and return there, it is a shorter walk because you don’ walk back to the tracks main car park start/finish point. Not sure exactly how much shorter, maybe 2km, but you do avoid the final hill.