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Travel in New Zealand: Rotorua

On our recent holiday in New Zealand we had the wonderful experience of visiting Rotorua and the surrounding areas.

I remember Rotorua clearly from my first visit to New Zealand as a young University student. It smelt bad. It was an old and daggy looking town. There was steam coming out of drainpipes. I didn't like it then.

Scenes from Rotorua NZ - museum, tree and Maori dancerI knew I should revisit Rotorua but I didn't expect to experience it so differently. Rotorua is now a very successful tourism town. Accommodation is busy, even midweek and out of the main tourist season. It is unique because of the thermal activity that is an ever present aspect of this town, and of course this is why people flock to the town to visit.

The town itself was interesting, with my favourite building being a beautiful old museum that used to be the thermal baths. A visit to this museum was delightful and very informative. We also visited a Maori village and saw food being cooked the traditional way, steamed in the thermal waters. We enjoyed a couple of quirky features of the town – A Superloo (not sure why it was so Super…Maybe I should have visited it to find out) and a tree covered in colourful crochet.

People had told us to visit the local park in the centre of town, and there, just metres from play equipment and European Rotorua thermal areasstyled park gardens were areas of steaming mud and steam gushing out of rocks and ponds. Very strange! I'm sure the OHS people wouldn't allow it in Australia. It would be surrounded by high fences and barriers. Not so in Rotorua….If anyone wanted to they just had to duck under a normal park fence to be in the danger zones.

Stranger still, but mesmerisingly beautiful, was Orakei Korako, about an hour out of Rotorua. You park near a lake, with steam rising from the water in a few areas close to the shore. One of these areas had a family of ducks all happily swimming around in the warm water. I half expected to find "Steamed Duck" on the lunch menu at the cafe.

Orakei Korako thermal regionWe both had minor mobility issues that week. David had sprained his ankle a week before the holiday and I have an irritable knee. When we asked about purchasing tickets we were told there were 700 steps at Orakei Korako, so we nearly decided not to go. I'm so glad we changed our mind.

A short boat ride across the lake you disembark to view a luna landscape, and then follow paths through an area of amazing thermal activity. It was ugly and beautiful at the same time, fascinating and constantly changing as you walked around the designated paths. As we began our return to the boat we were delighted by the lovely rainforest area we walked through, complete with the New Zealand emblem of the silver fern growing beside the path. A description of the area doesn't do it justice. All I can say is…see it for yourself.

We got a great deal on flights through the booking site that is available through World Ventures Travel Club. Our flights were nearly half the cost of what was quoted on the online site we would normally have used for my travel arrangements, and just over $300 less than through the other site I've often used to book air fares…..for exactly the same flights, same day, same time! I was absolutely delighted and determined to make the most of opportunities for cheap travel available through this travel club.