Rotorua: The birth of Kiwi tourism


Rotorua is the birthplace of New Zealand tourism and the incredible history is visibly communicated throughout the city with historical Maori villages, stunning heritage buildings and through compelling stories at the renowned Rotorua Museum.


Visitors first flocked to Rotorua in the 1800s to see the Pink and White terraces which were considered internationally to be the eighth wonder of the World.


They were reclaimed by Mt Tarawera when it erupted late in the 19th century, but Rotorua has continued to thrive as a tourism destination.


The Buried Village offers a first-hand insight into the chaos and mayhem of the night Mt Tarawera erupted, with excavated sites and a Maori whare at Te Wairoa, appreciating how the people lived and died.


While villages were destroyed, the eruption also created the world's youngest geothermal system at Waimangu Volcanic Valley with a 3.8 hectare hot lake and colourful sinter terraces to explore.


Rotorua Museum also recounts the city's history and is a Category 1 Historical building recognised to be of highest national importance.


The Rotorua Museum represents the New Zealand government's first major commitment to the tourist industry, as it was built in an Elizabethan style of architecture as a bath house to tempt wealthy northern hemisphere patrons to travel far from home to the ''Great South Seas Spa''.


Water from nearby thermal springs was piped to private bathrooms and larger Aix-douche massage rooms.


The spa rooms can be seen in the North Wing of the building and the South Wing was just finished to its original blueprint last year after a $22 million investment.


This has created 55 per cent more public gallery space. One of the signature exhibitions follows the journey of the Te Arawa people, the original inhabitants of the area from their homeland in Hawaiki to their descendants in Rotorua today.


The Government Gardens is also an historical area which includes the Rotorua Museum and is home to many attractions including a stunning rose garden, golf course and bowling greens.


The gardens feature a soldier's memorial, totem pole, a band rotunda, the Prince's Gate Archway and the historic Blue Baths building which opened in 1933.


The Government Gardens was registered by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust and the Maori Heritage Council as a Waahi Tapu area earlier this year for its significance to Maori.


The area features sacred burial and battle grounds and holds strong cultural and spiritual significance to local Te Arawa and Ngati Whakaue iwi.


Another place to explore Rotorua's heritage is Ohinemutu, the region's original Ngati Whakaue settlement.


The location was chosen for its lakeside setting and abundant geothermal energy for cooking, bathing and heating.


Today Ohinemutu is a suburb of Rotorua, but the village retains a sense of importance.


Standing on the forecourt of the marae, as steam rises through the pavers from the earth below, you can feel the spirit of this significant place.


Here you can view an intricately carved Maori meeting house and enter a 1901 Tudor-style church set amidst steaming geothermal vents at the edge of Lake Rotorua.

- ROTORUA DAILY POST

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