Visiting Rotorua is almost like travelling to another country.

My husband and I spent last weekend there. We only intended going over for a few hours and ended up staying the night, spending good money on food, wine and accommodation.

We went over about midday and sat down to a nice lunch then had some time to kill.

Over to the amazing Kuirau Park we went. It's huge and full of wonder - mud pools, a massive geothermal steam lake, heated foot pools, beautiful gardens, a playground, sculptures, flowers . . . the list goes on.


And it was crawling with people. There were the locals on picnic rugs having a comfortable lunch, the children running everywhere and the tourists snapping hundreds of photos with their cameras and cellphones.

Walking into town, the dining precinct - aptly named Eat Streat - was pumping.

It was so jolly we had a few more beers than we intended and ended up having to book a hotel room - of which there were plenty, right in the city centre.

It's quite amazing how different Tauranga is to Rotorua, despite the small distance between us.

Both are beautiful locations, one summery, laid back and beachy, the other a tourists' paradise.

To me, the biggest difference is between the two cities' peoples.

Speaking in very broad terms, Rotorua, despite being half our size, seems so much more grown-up than Tauranga.

It's such a melting pot of cultures - walking down the street you see people of every size, shape and colour and, again speaking broadly, they're usually welcomed with wide open arms.

Rotorua knows which side its bread is buttered on.

It's a mentality that Tauranga has yet to fully get its head around.

Most of our tourists are friends and family from around the country rather than overseas visitors.

I think that's down to two things - we don't have much for them to do here, and we don't really act like we want them here either.

Rotorua has its geothermal wonderland - but it hasn't rested on its laurels. It has a myriad of other tourist activities covering nature, adventure, shopping, wildlife, dining, relaxation and sightseeing.

We've got beaches and Mauao. That's pretty much it.

Granted, we've got some nice restaurants and a few smaller tourist attractions, but nothing like what's on offer inland.

And many of us don't seem to want to change that either.

We're fine the way we are, thank you very much.

It's a sad attitude to have - we become better people when we are exposed to different cultures and experiences.

Plus it's a good money earner - more businesses, more jobs, more cash flow.

We're a big city now, let's start cashing in on that.