Region in Profile: Rotorua

Posted by:
5 Dec 2014

Known for its prominent geothermal activity and rich Maori culture, Rotorua is certainly one of the more unique places in New Zealand.  It’s famous for its geysers and bubbling mud pools.

The full Maori name for Rotorua is Te Rotorua-nui-a-Kahumatamomoe, the region first being explored by Chief Ihenga, who dedicated its name to his uncle. The first European in the area is said to be Phillip Tapsell, who married into the Te Arawa iwi and became a highly regarded member of the tribe. From the late 1800s, the area flourished as a tourism and spa destination, as it continues to do so today.

Lake Rotorua

Student life in Rotorua

Because of its close-knit community feeling and extensive cultural acceptance, Rotorua is a great place to live and learn as an English language student. This city itself is easy to get around, and there are many activities to enjoy in your spare time. The Rotorua English Language Academy is close to the edge of Lake Rotorua and Kuirau Park, perfect places to enjoy lunch or have a study session outside.

Areas of interest

Though Lake Rotorua is the second largest lake in the North Island by surface area, the deepest point it reaches is only 10 metres. It was formed when a magma chamber collapsed after an eruption around 240,000 years ago. The lake is popular for boaters and fishermen, though a number of connected outlets and rivers provide warmer water or better conditions for kayakers.

One of the most famous things about Rotorua makes it the most interesting – the hot springs, mud pools and geysers, that are all caused by geothermal activity which heats the water below the surface of the earth. Sometimes built-up pressure causes water to spurt from the ground, creating beautiful geysers that can erupt many times a day. Mud pools are created when the heated water below the surface breaks down the soft rocks and clay on the surface, resulting in bubbling mud pools. The hot springs can range in temperature from a relaxing 30-40°C, to boiling temperatures that can be deadly for anything that falls in.

Lady Knox Geyser

Before the arrival of Europeans in the area, Maori used the hot springs for cooking, heating and for their therapeutic and medicinal properties. These days many commercial hot pools and spas have been deemed safe and clean, and are open to the public to enjoy and relax in.

The Government Gardens have been developed since 1881. This ambitious project saw the scrub covered area transformed into a beautiful oasis for the public to enjoy. Some of the trees that were first planted still stand proudly, over 200 years later. A number of ponds dot the area and the yearly blooms of its rose gardens are a popular attraction.

Awesome activities

Experience Rotorua’s rich cultural heritage by visiting any of the great attractions, villages and pā around the region.

  • Take a guided tour around the buried village of Te Wairoa, destroyed by the Tarawera eruption of 1886 and lovingly restored by the Smith family. See how the village looked and operated before, during and after the eruption and the effect it had on the region.
  • Visit the Living Maori Thermal Village of Whakarewarewa and learn about the way Maori lived in harmony with the unique environment around them. Watch a cultural performance, learn how to make your own harakeke (flax) treasure and sample food cooked in a hangi (Maori earth oven).
  • Take in the spectacular view of the city and lake on the Skyline Gondola before taking a downhill thrill ride on the luge – a gravity-based cart where you have full control over the brakes and steering. With over 5km of tracks to ride, you’ll always be having fun.

Maori performance

Do you love adventure and thrills? 10 minutes north of Rotorua, an adventure paradise called Agroventures Adventure Park sits full of extreme world-class activities. Power around a purpose built course on a high speed jet boat, swing 40 metres in the air over the Ngongotaha stream on the Swoop, or take a leap of faith 43 metres above the ground on the Bungy and feel as if you’re flying on the Freefall Xtreme – a giant wind column that suspends people in the air like a superhero. The most popular attraction, however, is the Shweeb, a human powered monorail track. Participants hop into a “space bubble” where they race themselves along the track using bicycle pedals.

Rotorua is also home to a world-first activity called the Zorb – a flexible plastic capsule inside a transparent round sphere. Participants bump around in the inner capsule and are rolled down a hill, providing plenty of laughs. Though it looks dangerous and painful, the ride is well-cushioned and adheres to rigorous safety standards.

Those looking for serenity or nature will be right at home as well. The Whakarewarewa forest hosts plenty of walking and cycling tracks through the beautiful native trees and redwoods planted there. Rotorua has some of New Zealand’s best mountain biking trails, so take advantage of those great tracks and pristine scenery.

Whether you’re looking to relax and rejuvenate or immerse yourself in adventure or culture, you’ll have a great time living and learning in friendly Rotorua. Are you studying in Rotorua? Tell us about your experience and favourite things to do in a comment below.

Photo credits:
Rotorua – Hells Gate by Ian Armstrong, CC-BY-SA-2.0
Lady Knox Geyser by Russell Street, CC-BY-SA-2.0
Maori Performance by Anne Beaumont, CC-BY-SA-2.0