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Rotorua - Feel The Spirit Of The Earth
Kate Methven - 20/8/99

Plan a visit to Rotorua - the number one holiday city in New Zealand.

Want to stand on active volcanoes and massive craters, see boiling mud pools and exploding geysers, ride the luge, catch a trout and more? .... then visit Rotorua, the number one holiday city in New Zealand.

Rotorua - Feel the Spirit of the Earth
The moment you arrive in Rotorua you will know that this is somewhere completely different.

First you will notice the smell of sulphur in the air - especially strong if it is a rainy day. You may also notice clouds of steam magically rising from out of the ground around the city and wonder what is going on. This is your introduction to the fascinating landscape that surrounds you - a place where you can stand on active volcanoes and massive craters, see boiling mud pools and exploding geysers, walk in native forests, see a buried Maori village or sail and fish in one of the eleven lakes in the area and more.......

Rotorua, I feel, is aptly named the number one holiday city in New Zealand.

Feel the Spirit of the Maori People
The next thing you will feel is the friendliness of the Maori people’ Manaakitanga’ (Ma naa kee tan ga) as they greet you with warmth and respect.

The local Arawa people welcomed the first visitors who travelled here, and their descendants greet visitors today on their local Marae (Maori Meeting Houses) as they share their culture and stories with you. A trip to Rotorua is not complete if you do not take in a Maori Hangi’ (a meal cooked in an underground oven) or visit a Maori village and see a cultural show.

The Spirit of Lake Rotorua
Lake Rotorua is the setting for the region's most famous love story -the tale of Hinemoa and Tutanekai. A long time ago a beautiful young girl called Hinemoa lived at Owhata on the eastern shores of the lake. Her father was an influential chief who wished to arrange a good’ marriage for his daughter. However Hinemoa had met a handsome young man, Tutanekai, who lived on Mokoia Island in the centre of Lake Rotorua and she begged her father to let her marry him. Her father refused as Tutanekai's tribe was of a lower status and he forbade his daughter to see Tutanekai again.

One night Hinemoa was drawn by the sound of a flute playing on the island and she realised it was Tutanekai calling to her to come to him. She crept down to the beach and swam to the island guided by the music so that she could join her lover.

Her father realised she was gone from him and so at last agreed to the match and peace was made between the two tribes. The young couple were married and of course lived happily ever after!!

As a reminder of their union two of the streets in the city are named after them.

Things to see - Rotorua's free attractions.

Government Gardens
The city offers a number of attractions that won't cost you a cent.

First you might like to take a walk in the Government Gardens with their well kept rose gardens, bowling and petanque greens as well as areas where you will discover mud, mud, glorious mud, just plopping, boiling, bubbling away, looking like large plates of porridge boiling on a stove.

Sulphur Bay Wildlife Refuge
Adjacent to the gardens is the Sulphur Bay Wildlife Refuge which is home to many species of waterbirds. Follow the Sulphur Point walkway which leads to many of the city's historic sites.

Kuirau Park

Mud pool at Kuirau Park
Mud pool at Kuirau Park
Photo source Kate Methven
Kuirau Park, located on Ranolf street near the city centre, is a 30-hectare area with a boiling lake, a miniature steam railway and children's play area, but best of all are the free foot pools where you can sit and soak your feet in the warm water after walking around the city. At the northern edge of the park you can view an area of geothermal action with hot pools, boiling mud and clouds of steam.

There is a wonderful legend about the lake in this park. It is said that the lake took its name from a beautiful young woman named Kuirau. One day as Kuirau was bathing a taniwha (a legendary creature) seized her and dragged her down into his lair below the lake. This angered the gods so much that they caused the lake to boil so the taniwha would be destroyed.

Ohinemutu and St Faith's Maori Church

St Faith's Maori Church, Ohinemutu
St Faith's Maori Church, Ohinemutu
Photo source Kate Methven
Ohinemutu is a living lakeside Maori village where you can wander around and visit St Faith's Maori Church with a richly decorated interior. The first Christian service in the area was held on the site by the Rev Henry Williams in 1831. The first church was built in 1885 but in 1910 it was moved to make way for a larger church which was dedicated in 1914. The outside is tudor style architecture in contrast to the ornamented Maori art inside.

Tamatekapua carved meeting house
Near the church is the historic Tamatekapua carved meeting house where nightly Maori concerts are held with traditional action songs, poi dances , stick games and not forgetting the haka - a great place to meet local Maori and join in with the singing and fun. Rubbing noses is a great way to say hello.

Tamatekapua carved meeting house
Tamatekapua carved meeting house
Photo source Kate Methven

Walking in the forest
If you enjoy walking why not visit the Whakarewarewa State Forest Park which is just on the eastern edge of the town? The forest is home to giant Redwood and White pine trees and there are a range of walks from twenty minutes up to eight hours. Visit the Visitor Centre on Long Mile Road for further information.

Rotorua Hot Pools
Would you believe that it was an Irish Catholic missionary who first dug a hot pool in Rotorua in 1878 in an attempt to cure his rheumatism and that from then onwards Rotorua's fame spread.

Father James Mahoney lived in Tauranga and trekked to Rotorua because he had heard about the curative powers to be found in Rotorua's hot mineral waters. Father Jim bathed daily in the waters for a few weeks and returned several times after which he claimed he was cured.

A few years later the Thermal Springs District Act was passed (1881) and aimed to develop the area (now known as the Government gardens) into a health spa. This development gave birth to a new government town, Rotorua.

Hot pool pavilion

The Government Bath House
The Government Bath House
Photo source Kate Methven
One of the first buildings in the new town was the hot pool pavilion opened in March 1882. It had two pools - the Priest Bath (named after Father Mahoney) and the Madame Rachael Bath (named after a notorious Parisienne cosmetician). Each one was fed by a separate spring.

Unfortunately the building quickly deteriorated due to the substances in the water and the baths were demolished in 1930. The Bath-House now houses a permanent exhibition, "Taking the Cure"’ where you can view the remains of the original baths.

Now if you wish to take the waters’ you can visit the Polynesian Spa complex complete with public and private mineral bathing, sauna, Aix Massage and luxury lake spa. Sorry this is not on the free list.

Rotorua is what you want it to be
There is just so much to see and do in this city that it is impossible to mention everything.

There is a five-star pass available (at reduced rates) to take-in such attractions as:-

The Agrodome Riverdale Park where you can see live sheep shearing demonstrations, milk a cow and watch the amazing skills of a sheepdog

Paradise Valley Springs and Lion Park where you can view huge rainbow and brown trout and watch the feeding of the pride of African lions each day

Entrance to Whakarewarewa Thermal Village
Entrance to Whakarewarewa Thermal Village
Photo source Kate Methven
Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve and Maori Cultural Centre where you can see the famous Pohutu Geyser and watch Maori carvers and weavers at work

Skyline Skyrides Gondola Restaurant and the world's first LUGE - enjoy magnificent views of Rotorua as you take the gondola to the top, then experience the thrill of the downhill luge, not forgetting to stop for a "Taste of New Zealand" meal in the restaurant.

More information needed?
If you would like more information on planning a trip to Rotorua contact Tourism Rotorua.


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