More New Zealand Memories: Rotorua

I returned to New Zealand in 2014, this time to the north island. I’d been looking at photos of Rotorua’s thermal wonderland for years. This was my chance to see it for myself. Rotorua is a nice town, set around Lake Rotorua.

Image: Pseudopanax

It’s quite the place if you’ve got a bit of spare cash. You can take a lake cruise on a Mississippi Riverboat, complete with gourmet food, a ‘Duck’ tour, half on land, half on water in a WW ll amphibious vehicle, hover in a helicopter above White Island, New Zealand’s only permanently-active volcano, or watch the sunset from a luxury catamaran, sipping something from the bar.

I wandered along the edge of the lake to the Government Gardens and Rotorua Museum.

Government Gardens

The museum was originally a spa, offering therapeutic treatments using water piped through from thermal springs. It’s a magnificent building, half-timbered, with elegant gables, mullioned windows and gothic towers.


Laid out in front are croquet lawns, complete with a pagoda-roofed pavilion, and park benches for audiences to enjoy the, I’m sure, vicious competition. It’s so unbelievably English, I was reminded that even as late as the 1900s, people were still trying to recreate England in the South Pacific.

To the left of the lawns, steam wafted from behind a stone wall and I had to investigate. 

It was my first thermal spring, named after Madame Rachel, a notorious cosmetician, who promised youthful complexions from the softening effect of silica water on the skin.

Rachel Spring

Next to that was a pinkish, art-deco building called, strangely, The Blue Baths. Opened in 1933, it daringly offered mixed sex bathing for the first time in New Zealand. That must have caused a few waves, so to speak.

The Blue Baths

The man at the motel recommended I visit Waimangu Volcanic Valley, so first thing the next morning I headed out.

In June, 1886, Mt. Tarawera erupted. The flat land collapsed into a series of craters and Lake Rotomahana exploded to 20 times its original size, filling fifteen of the craters and creating an entirely new eco-system. 

The first plants returned to the area within months of the eruption, but it took 30 years for the forest to begin to regenerate properly. It’s certainly doing well, now.

I wandered along a track to where the forest opened out, and there before me was a large lake, steam drifting and wafting from its surface. This is Echo Crater and Frying Pan Lake, the largest hot spring in the world.

Creating a backdrop to the lake are Cathedral Rocks, great stacks of lava, not new to the system, but around 60,000 years old. Steam wafted from gaps in the cliff face, and it was one of the weirdest thing I’d ever seen. It only needed a dinosaur to trot past and the picture would have been complete.

Past a little stream, joyously popping and bubbling, was a set of steep stone steps, leading away out of sight. I was puffing as I reached the top, to be greeted with a spring of a colour between aquamarine and turquoise.

Inferno Crater is fascinating for its mysterious rhythm. Regularly rising and falling up to 12 metres, its a window into the earth’s molten core, and is used for monitoring New Zealand’s volcanic activity.

Inferno Crater

I continued along the track. Mud pools plopped and popped. A little steaming, gurgling stream followed me for a while, as if keeping me company.

I stood for a while gazing at the silica deposits of the Marble Terraces.

The Marble Terraces

Not the best photo to show these. Stripes of white, a rich gold, brown and emerald green reminded me of a modernist painting, one of those in which you can’t work out what the artist is telling you but you like it for its colours.

A great thing about visiting the valley is that a bus does a continuous loop. When you feel you can’t walk another step, you just sit at a bus stop and wait to be picked up and taken back to your car.

I loved this place and will be back for another look, next time taking the cruise around Lake Rotomahana. I feel I seriously missed out there.

Next time, we’ll visit Whakarewarewa Living Maori Village and will learn how to cook a lobster in 2 minutes flat.


13 thoughts on “More New Zealand Memories: Rotorua

    1. It is beautiful, Kathy. A lot of Australians don’t realise that. They seem to think it’s just another version of Australia and, as far as the north island was concerned, I was one of them. Big mistake. Cheers.


  1. janesmudgeegarden

    I’m from NZ originally, though I’ve lived in Australia for more than 40 years now. I lived not so far from Rotorua, and remember many trips there including to Waimangu. I have such fond memories of NZ and its glorious landscape. Lovely to see your photos and read about your appreciation of the country. Jane

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I enjoyed your post. Rotorua is a bit kitsch but what is around it isn’t.
    We splurged for my wife’s birthday and helicoptered to White Island – It cost a small fortune but is one of the best things we have ever done! We loved the Waimangu Volcanic Valley. Our visit featured in one of my early posts.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I had a chance to visit Rotorua about 30 years ago. I remember hiking around with a fellow I met at a hostel and stumbling on an establishment that offered hot spring soaks. It was an impromptu visit and it was enjoyable – must have been to remember it all these years later.


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