ZM’s Megan Sellers checks out an award-winning ecotour on a romantic Rotorua weekend away.
Rotorua stinks. We all know this. But on a weekend getaway with my fiance, I finally found out why, and the reason is actually quite beautiful.
On a tour around Wai O Tapu Thermal Wonderland — a place I'm ashamed to say I never knew existed — we got as close as humanly possible to volcanic activity (without putting ourselves in danger). The geothermal area is 27km south of Rotorua, in the Taupo Volcanic Zone, but it is definitely worth the extra drive from Rotorua.
I suggest getting a guide — my partner and I agreed that without one we could have wandered around, blissfully unaware of the stories and meaning behind the beautiful coloured rocks and waters.
We learned that the bright lime-coloured water in Devil's Bath, which looks like toxic waste, gets its highlighter green hue from sulphur that rises to the top of the pool. We also saw the pink and white rock formations that would have created the Pink and White Terraces.
Neither of us are overly adventurous but we couldn't miss the opportunity to check out Rotorua Canopy Tours, the eco-tour company named Air NZ Supreme Winner at the New Zealand Tourism Awards 2016.
Zip-lining through the native forest is a unique way to experience just how beautiful New Zealand bush is while also learning a bit about Rotorua Canopy Tours' conservation efforts to save native birds in the area. It's not all bird watching though — the adrenaline kicks in when you have to fly down a 220m zip-line with no end in sight.
That was enough adrenaline for us, so at the top of the Skyline Gondola we opted to eat, rather than race down on the luge. And I'm glad we did — at Stratosfare Restaurant we experienced one of the best buffets I have had in my life. It was affordable and delicious — I defy you to get around the whole thing without wanting to lie down half way through for a nap. We left feeling Christmas Day-full.
There are so many spa options in Rotorua that it's hard to choose just one. In fact, the Novotel where we were staying even had a natural mineral spa in their pool area. We went to the well-known Polynesian Spa, where we could choose from a soak in the geothermal pools, or get a massage and a soak option, which of course is what I opted for. There's no better way to end a holiday than to get a massage and soak in the hot pools, and it was the perfect finish to our romantic, and not-too adventurous, weekend away.
Wai O Tapu Thermal Wonderland: 201 Waiotapu Loop Rd.
Rotorua Canopy Tours: 147 Fairy Springs Rd.
Stratosfare Restaurant: Skyline Rotorua, 178 Fairy Springs Rd.
Novotel Rotorua: Tutanekai St.
Polynesian Spa: Hinemoa St.