Rotorua is a famous thermal Maori city, nicknamed ‘RotoVegas’ as it has tonnes of fun activities in the area. It also has a lot of thermal activity which secretes sulfur into the air making the entire city smell a bit like rotting eggs. Yuk!

First thing in the morning we were off to see Whakarewarewa – the ‘Living Thermal Maori city’ – a recommendation from my cousin Antony. Clouds of hot steam filed the air as we crossed the bridge into the tiny village. Hot steaming pools line the streets with one very active pool nicknamed “Grumpy old man” due to its ferociousness. A large hot geyser blasts in the distance as boiling mud pools bubble over.
Maori Meeting place & scuptures 
Bubbling thermal hot pools 

We were able to take in a beautiful Maori cultural performance as well. A female elder opened up the show by explaining the history of the village and the upcoming segments of the performance. The ladies spun their Poi balls which reminded me of the tenors in the Heatherbells Pipe Band I was in as a young girl. Their beautiful voices sang their ancestors love songs and even gave a powerful performance of the famous Haka. There is something about that warrior cry that mesmerizes me every time.

Maori cultural performance 

After the village tour, we were off to the Skyline Gondola to get a beautiful view of the city and race our way to the bottom down the Luge Track. Only in New Zealand would you find a luge track, completely open to any age and skill level with pretty much no instructions but to wear a helmet and pull back to stop. Completely gravity fed, these little Luge cars were incredibly smooth to drive, safe, and yet you could fly down the hill at super high speeds without ever feeling like you weren’t in control. As we were racing down the track we thought of our friends Alex and Brent and how much they would LOVE this!

Rotorua Luge Track 

Of course Jordan and I were competitive and sped down the track chasing each other all the way down. We even snuck in our GoPro’s on the last run so we could capture some of the fun! Definitely a place we want to return with friends. Their slogan “Once is never enough” is extremely true. Even three times wasn’t enough! (note: the video is of the slower “beginner” course)

We decided to go hunting for these ‘free hot pools’ we heard about from a volunteer at the DOC campsite. On our way to find the Kerosene Creek pools, we got a little lost so we pulled into a farmer’s field to check the map. As we were sitting there a local in a white pick-up truck came down the lane and rolled down his window to see if we needed help. After asking for directions to Kerosene Creek, he was hesitant to send us there due to ‘car safety risk’ – apparently it’s well known to have belongings taken from your vehicle by ‘drifters’. So he offered us some local knowledge of a hot pool down the road that was open to the public, just under a one way bridge. When we told him we were here on a working holiday, he even gave us the name of a guy down the road recruiting for kiwi picking! Looks like Jordan’s dream of Kiwi picking for a week may come true!

So we took off down the road and quickly found the spot he had described. A few other cars were parked along the side of the road as well so we knew we were in the right place. The local, Dean, even swung by just to make sure we had found the place ok. What a sweet guy.

It was a unique area as a hot stream and a cool stream fed into a pool area, creating the perfect temperature. The water was shallow but it was very refreshing. We even walked up the hot river a bit to a little dam that had been created to make a second pool at the top. It was such a cool way to experience an authentic natural hot pool with no glitz and glamour (or cost) of the ‘Thermal Spas’ in the area.

Swimming in the natural hot pool 

We also found a large mud pool with boiling mud just as the rain stopped and a rainbow appeared

Steaming mud pool 

With the forecast calling for rain again, we opted for another night in the Ractis and found our way to the Waikite Valley Thermal Hot Pools campsite down the road. As we rounded the corner, we saw a sky full of hot steam pouring out of a ravine. The campsite was in a thermal area as well and was feeding pools from the natural hot springs pouring out of the countryside. They allowed campers free access to their hot pools however they were much more ‘pool-like’. It was very relaxing so we spent the evening hanging out in the hot pools enjoying the heat.


Check out Episode 8 – Rotorua Thermal Activity