I have heard people dismiss Rotorua as being too touristy, but I find it hard to fault a place that boasts 600 years of history and culture, bubbling mud pits, incredibly beautiful azure lakes, a great museum, acres and acres of public gardens and a redwood forest. Yep, that's right, a true redwood forest just five minutes from town.
Imagine yourself strolling through the giant California Coastal Redwoods, savoring the silence, and the interplay of sun and shade. It's like being in the Muir Woods, yet just a short walk from the main road.
Amazing then, that just on the other side of town lies Lake Rotorua, with its bubbling mud and steaming fumeroles.
The entire area is a geothermal wonderland, but surprisingly, it does not have the unpleasant sulphurous smell you might expect. The areas around the lake are not blocked off, but make no mistake, the water, mud and steam are incredibly hot. Kiwis have a very laid back attitude towards their natural wonders, so you need to exercise your common sense. Best not to test the temperature with your fingers! (Don't ask me how I know.)
Steps from the water's edge is the Historic Bath House Museum, with interesting exhibits of New Zealand native art and history, not to mention a very nice gift shop and cafe.
It's possible to see all the sights of Rotorua in one day, but why rush, when there is so much to enjoy?
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