Bubbling mud & stinky geysers

I can’t remember if it was because I first saw it on telly when I was a kid, or because my mum told me about it (she lived in New Zealand when she was a teenager), but Rotorua was one of the first places in the world I remember wanting to visit when I was a child.

After all that waiting, arriving in the town was a bit of a disappointment. The guidebook had assured me that the whole town stank of sulphur from the surrounding geothermal areas, but in fact where th bus dropped me off, there was not a trace (maybe it was something to do with the weather or the direction of the wind), and the town itself was absolutely dead. Things didn’t pick up much when I checked into my hostel, which had to be the worst hostel I have ever stayed in (the Base Hot Rocks, in case you’re interested – avoid like the plague. Dirty rooms, a bathroom where the door didn’t lock, the world’s thinnest duvet, no curtains on the window, slow expensive internet, bored staff, a tiny TV that only seemed to have one channel, and all the atmosphere of a morgue).


But it wasn’t the town itself I’d come to see. So I hopped on a bus and headed out into the suburbs to Te Puia, one of the many geothermal areas in and around the city. And it didn’t disappoint. The paths weave their way though a bizarre volcanic landscape, with pools of bubbling, boiling mud all over the place, continuously spouting geysers, and finally, that stink of sulphur all around.

Geysers in Te Puia

Sadly, I didn’t get to enjoy it for too long, as I soon got stuck in a torrential downpour, forcing me inside to wait til it ended (although at least I was able to use the time to see a kiwi – they really are incredibly cute. Although I doubt they’d be very good as a pet, being nocturnal and all).

The town’s other highlight is the government gardens, with the huge, mock tudor, former thermal baths (now the Rotorua museum) sitting in front of manicured bowling greens – a nice, typically English colonial touch, taking a bizarre alien landscape and turning it into a little bit of home, even if that does mean that you get clouds of steam wafting from some nearby volcanic vents wafting across the greens as they play.

A little bit of England in New Zealand (steam not pictured)

You can see all of my photos from Rotorua here.


7 responses to “Bubbling mud & stinky geysers

  1. Oh, I have been to this place ! I even have planned a photo quiz for this later in the month. Good that my readers don’t come to your blog. :-)

    When was this museum opened? We did not see it or did we miss it by chance?

  2. You must have missed it, it’s been open for quite a while I think, it’s in the big gardens in the centre of town

  3. I was in rotorua in 2004, and I experienced the same disappointment at the place itself but the geysers are incredible and the smell too. I did my first sky dive there so the view from above is spectacular!

  4. uh oh, i’ll be staying at base hot rock for 2 nites later this month! i hope your experience was a “one off”. the reviews i read on hostels.com and tripadvisor seemed positive overall…

    btw, love your blog and all your photos! still debating the tongariro crossing – so much to see, so little time!!

    • I must say, if that’s the case I’d be surprised, but fingers crossed you have a slightly better experience than me! and thanks for the comments, you really should do the crossing, it only takes a day!

  5. What a pity! I come from Whakatane near by to Rotorua. It has the most spectacular volcanic sites I have still ever seen.
    If you are ever there again you must visit the Champagne Pool at Waiotapu. Do a google image search on it. Rain or shine it is stunning. When I was a kid I saw Lady Knox Geyser, Waiotapu, Rotorua. Do a google on this also. That’s the thing about New Zealand. You don’t go to the country for the cities or the architecture. You only go for the natural wonders. The geothermal activity, mountains, forests and beaches. If you have good contacts and can advise you there is so much to see and do. The White Island tour, near to Rotorua off the coast of Whakatane is excellent.
    See : http://www.lonelyplanet.com/travelblogs/840/47341/White+Island,+most+active+volcano+-+Photoblog?destId=362748
    In the area by the sea you can collect sea food, pipis, muscles etc. Even crabs and crays. Lots of water sports, extreme sports in general. In NZ you can go hiking (tramping as kiwis call it). Ask locals or go to a local information center for advice on what to do in the area you are in. New Zealanders are very excited to help visitors, possibly because they are so chuffed that people would travel so far to see their little country at the bottom of the world. I hope this helps.


  6. Also, for those searching for something to do in Rotorua, there is the “luge rotorua” (google image search). It is sooo much fun and a great way to kill time. It is quite a thrill. Have been there many times. You can go up in a Gondola and fly down in a Luge (back up again by chairlifts). Everyone in Rotorua knows where it is so you can always get directions.

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