Campervan trip to Rotorua
Rotorua, in the Bay of Plenty region on the North Island, offers visitors beautiful botanical gardens to explore and historical architecture to admire. It also offers a very strong and instantly noticeable smell of rotten eggs. This is due to the volcanic activity underground causing bubbling springs, boiling geysers and the sulphuric smell – landing Rotorua the nickname ‘Sulphur City’. The city is part of New Zealand’s ‘Volcanic Zone’ – a geothermal field extending from White Island to Mount Ruapehu, and is where you find iconic geysers such as Pohutu geyser and Lady Knox Geyser, along with the most active geothermal reserve ‘Hell’s Gate’ - with the largest hot waterfall in the Southern Hemisphere. The city has been a beloved spa town and tourist attraction since the 1800’s and today, with the array of luxurious spas and thermal baths, Government Gardens and brilliant Rotorua Museum of Art and History, it still attracts many locals and travellers.
Using the CamperMate app we located the free campsite for self-contained vehicles ‘Hinemoa Street car park’. Although offering nothing more than a tarmac car park, it has a fantastic location near to the lake and close to the Polynesian Spa, shops and restaurants. However, there are limited places and it does fill up quickly so try to arrive early to secure your spot. There is a large laundrette within walking distance of the campsite and several supermarkets, including Pak n Save, to stock up on supplies and wash dirty clothes that may have been building up in your campervan! With the sun out, we went for a walk around the Government Gardens – historically an old battle and burial ground - and enjoyed the welcomed scent of the rose collection. The garden is a Waahi Tapu area and is sacred to Maori - you can discover the history of the Te Arawa people, the Maori inhabitants of Rotorua, in the adjacent Rotorua Museum. The museum provided a very informative afternoon, exploring the relics including the town’s first thermal water and mud spring baths. Housed in the large and rather grand Tudor-style building, entrance to the museum cost $20 per adult and offered plenty of permanent and temporary exhibitions to walk around, along with free hourly tours – recommended if you are interested in learning more about Rotorua’s fascinating history. If you are instead seeking relaxation and recuperation, there are several spas to try out including the Art Deco Style Blue Baths, which were locally renowned for embracing mixed sex bathing in the 1930’s. Since we were camping so close to town, for dinner we decided to treat ourselves to two ginormous double-stacked delicious burgers from ‘Fat Dog’ café restaurant, located on Arawa Street, before scooping up some ice-cream from ‘Lady Jane’s Ice Cream Parlour’ and enjoying an evening stroll around the lakefront. The next day brought with it grey clouds and rain – perfect for an afternoon spent watching alternative films at the independent ‘Basement Cinema’, on Hinemoa Street, with possibly the most comfortable chairs. The cinema is also twinned with an indoor climbing wall – reaching almost 20 metres high! If you are interested in discovering more about Rotorua’s Maori history, there is also the Maori village, where visitors can take a step back in time and see first-hand Maori lifestyle and traditions with a cultural dance performance and hangi feast. If it’s a couple of days relaxing at spas or thermal baths you’re after or the chance to see – and smell – nature at its most powerful, then Rotorua will be a perfect choice. Use your CamperMate app to locate activities in Rotorua and nearby to ensure your stay in the Sulphur City will be worth remembering – for all the right reasons!