80. See Rotorua bubble and belch from above
With a natural landscape that encompasses everything from geothermal wonderlands to magnificent fiords and glaciers – you’ll be expressing your astonishment at every turn: here is No. 80 of our 101 Reasons To Stop Dreaming About New Zealand And Go
Before you even arrive in Rotorua, the distinctive smell of sulphur in the air tells you this is somewhere very different. You’ll see steam everywhere, billowing in clouds from the geothermal power station, drifting up from springs around the lake, even rising from drains beside the road. You’ll visit areas where geysers spout, mud bubbles and lake surrounds are stained with cartoon-bright minerals.
It’s only from the air, though, that you can properly appreciate the extent of all this thermal activity and see its most dramatic result, including a huge, jagged slash across the slopes and summit of Mt Tarawera that was created when the volcano suddenly exploded one night in 1886. The eruption took lives, buried the Pink and White Terraces, considered one of the wonders of the world, and exposed the raw, red earth that still contrasts sharply with the surrounding green countryside. Volcanic Air will not only fly you over this violent sight but, if you choose its helicopter option, it will land you right on the rim of the crater. Here you can peer over the edge while you hear stories of that fateful night. You’ll also set down at spectacular Orakei Korako, for an up-close experience of thermal activity.
A gentler option is to board one of the floatplanes that take off from the town jetty to cruise over craters, thermal reserves, hidden valleys and lakes. Combine these flights with its hiking, 4WD exploration and boat tour options – or even a personally tailored charter – for an unforgettable Rotorua experience. But you don’t have to get airborne to get a panoramic view of the city and lake. Skyline Rotorua, located on the 487-metre summit of nearby Mt Ngongotahā, offers more than just a stunning view: there’s also the fun of getting up to the summit on the gondola, and the option of descending again via luge.