New Zealand, Travel Guides

Rotorua: Why Visit the Smelliest Town in New Zealand

Kia Ora! You may have heard that Rotorua is a smelly town but don’t let this put you off. I remember getting off the coach journey and thinking ‘Duncan was that you!!’ but no the eggy smell is only due to the geothermal pools that give off sulphur.


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Rotorua, named after the towns lake, has so much to offer! After the 4 hour bus journey, we thought it would be a great idea to spend the afternoon relaxing in the Polynesian Spa. This is the best option for a spa experience on a budget. For only $40 NZ (£20) we spent our time in one of the four areas with 9 thermal pools with picturesque views across Lake Rotorua. The reflexology walk was not as relaxing as I had hoped. Although the picture here looks rather graceful, the experience was a lot of ‘Oooo’ ‘Ahhh’ and falling with no style! There are many options available from tacking a dip in the geothermal waters, enjoying mineral enriched muds or even a Maori massage with prices ranges from $20-$340. We left feeling completely revitalised and refreshed and ready to explore.

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Since arriving in Auckland (8 Things to Do in Auckland Blog) and learning a little about the Maori culture on the free walking tour, as well as seeing the march for the Maori Language Week, we were keen to visit a Maori village. With a name like Whakarewarewa, I knew this would be the right place to visit. This is a living and working village that has been open and at a cost of $45 NZ you can have a guided tour, see a cultural performance and explore any of the 3 nature trails. You will see the Maori meeting house, cemeteries, geysers, mud pools, hot springs and steam boxes used for cooking (‘hangi’). As you walk around this wonder of mother nature, you will get a free steam facial from the geysers (great for asthma too!). A particular highlight for me was the cultural performance that included a Haka dance. I have seen the warrior dance before in Rugby matches, but seeing this close up (and I mean close up!) was spine-tingling. Also, the cemeteries are above ground with people resting in tombs above land. This is because they cannot dig 6 feet down, in fact they could only go 3 feet before reaching geothermal activity. My cemetery obsession continues!


It can be difficult to find free activities to do in New Zealand and you will find that the majority of Maori cultural experiences have a price tag. However, in Rotorua we found that the Redwood Forest nature trails can be accessed for free. We were tempted to do the canopy tour that was luminated by lanterns in the dark but due to time restrictions with the bus we opted for the free option. The Redwood trees are native to California and are extremely tall majestic towering trees. We didn’t go as far north to see the Redwoods on our Road Trip in California (blog coming soon), so this was a great experience for us. Of course, we misjudged how long the walk would take us so we literally ran for the bus! Duncan took a tumble and we had a ‘man-down’ with a scrapped knee! He handled it like a pro, but I think I over-reacted more when I realised how much blood there was after the mud was scraped away!


You can also go for a pleasant wonder around Kuirau Park. You will find fenced areas within the park that are blowing off steam from the hot pools and geothermal land. Plus, there are free pools to safely dip your feet and legs in. Duncan was content with this version of a ‘spa experience’ as the actual Polynesian spa was too hot for him, bless! You can also take a walk along Lake Rotorua and see many black swans, but be sure not to feed them.


I recommend spending two-three days in Rotorua to really appreciate all it has to offer. We stayed at Rock Solid Backpackers and treated ourselves to a private room as it was within our budget. The room are newly renovated clean and spacious with spacious communal areas. We took full advantage of the movie night and the free popcorn and hot chocolate was a bonus!

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Go the Distance in Rotorua,


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