The Waimangu Cauldron steams away at a seething 53° Centigrade as you stroll downhill past Frying Pan Lake, the world’s largest hot spring. Nearby is Inferno Crater, an inverted cone with strangely fluctuating water levels and a swirling head of steam.
From the jetty you are whisked away to the Steaming Cliffs of Lake Rotomahana (‘the warm lake’), where fuel-injected fumaroles rise and fall to the breathing pattern of some subterranean monster.
Other-worldly extravaganzas like this can be found at Waiotapu, Tikitere, Orakei Korako and Whakarewarewa, where Pohutu geyser holds sway. Rotorua is a Kiwi icon and one of the world’s most intensive geothermal regions. Factor in the deep expression of Maori culture here as well as the captivating lake and mountain scenery and the result is a quintessential New Zealand experience for every overseas visitor.
The name Rotorua is derived from ‘roto’ meaning lake and ‘rua’, two, signifying Lakes Rotorua and Rotoiti, two of the fourteen stunning lakes in the region. This city is the heartland of Maori culture. Visitors are invited to participate in a traditional hangi feast with food cooked in earthen ovens and to experience concert parties with action songs, and warlike hakas.
Rotorua has many scenic viewpoints, the most accessible being the Skyline Skyrides on Mt Ngongotaha, where a summit restaurant surveys the whole of Lake Rotorua and its enclosing mountain ranges. Mt Tarawera, which erupted violently in 1886, can be climbed from Ash Pit Rd, taking two hours to the crater chasm, a wedge-shaped red scoria pit straight out of Hell.
Local walks offer the tremendous variety that is a feature of this region. Part of Whakarewarewa Forest is a visually inspiring grove of giant Californian redwood trees with a selection of circular trails. Lake Okataina has wilderness walkways on either side leading to adjacent lakes Tarawera and Okareka. Okere Falls Track, 16 km northwest of Rotorua, follows the Kaituna River with a birds-eye view of intrepid white-water rafting enthusiasts negotiating the seven metre high Okere Falls, reputed to be the highest commercial rafting falls in the world.
Whatever your particular interests are, this thermal wonderland can satisfy your every desire. The city is colourful and entertaining, challenging and inspiring – the perfect holiday destination with a decisive edge – it’s hot – hot – hot!