Rotorua is best known for two things, it’s geothermal activity and rich Maori culture. Just like any other town, Rotorua has a public park with green grass and a play area for kids, but unlike any other town, the park has sink holes filled with boiling sulphuric water and mud pools. Luckily, there are fences around these dangerous pits so no kids have fallen in, we think.
Rotorua was one of the most unique places we have visited because of the geothermal activity, we even occasionally saw a sidewalk bubbling with water coming from within the ground. We really enjoyed visiting the nearby national parks which showed even bigger geothermal displays. Our favorite spot was a naturally hot stream in Waiotapu Park where you can sit in the waters and it is as if you are in a jacuzzi. It was once referred to as the “secret spot” but it’s not so secret anymore. We highly recommend it.
The Maori culture is important to Rotorua and there are many opportunities to learn about the first people to inhabit New Zealand. We went to a “village” called Mitai to see a show and have a traditional Hangi dinner. The village used to be a true functioning community but is maintained purely for tourism. We weren’t sure what to expect and didn’t have very high expectations, but we were pleasantly surprised. The show was really an introduction to the Maori culture with dancing, singing, and explanations of the Maori religious beliefs, diet, politics, and family life. There was also a war chant, known as the Haka, which is unique to each village.
Afterwards, we were treated to a meal cooked in the traditional method called Hangi which is cooked in the ground using hot stones for many hours.
We enjoyed our night out at the Mitai village. The tickets were pricey, but we wanted to get a feel for the island of New Zealand before Western colonialism. The performers, who were all Maori, seemed genuinely passionate about their culture. After, we rode home with one of the performers who told us that he still speaks Maori with his grandparents and enjoys his job because he wants to make sure his culture does not die out.