A few days after New Years, I went on a road trip with some friends before driving back to Rotorua for work. We decided to all go white water rafting, which I was super keen to try because I’ve never done it before. Boy was I missing out! I loved it! I was really nervous beforehand because I knew we were going down a 7 metre waterfall which sounded hugeeee to me and I was scared of all these rapids on the river. But our guide Jamie was great and made everyone feel so hyped and ready to take on this challenge! The place we went to was called Rotorua Rafting (they are number 1 on trip advisor if you search rafting at Okere falls). I highly recommend this place ! It costs $85 pp but if you come with a group you get a discount. They do take some photos of you and you can see all of them before deciding if you want to purchase the photos which are $40 and given on a USB. If you come as a group like I did, you can split that cost and share the photos to each other so it would be even cheaper.
We were given a quick intro on how to manoeuvre the paddles and what to do for certain commands and away we went. The rapids weren’t as bad as I thought and we even got to jump out the raft and slide down the rapids with our bodies lying flat on our backs! They gave us heaps of opportunities to experience the river and take some pit stops. We all got to climb up a mini cliff and jump off it into the river and swim towards our raft. Everyone had life jackets and a helmet on so I felt perfectly safe with them. They also had two solo kayaker’s that came along to help anyone if someone couldn’t swim or anything went awry. You can definitely tell that all the guides are very experienced on the river so you don’t feel like you’re in danger at all.
I sat in the front with my friend but they all picked me to sit on the front of the raft and hold on to some ropes while they all sat on the back and paddled me through a mini waterfall and that was amazing! I made it through without falling but my “friends” pushed me off afterwards haha
The guide also tries to paddle you head first into some rapids to experience the water pouring over you, I got to sit in the front and ended up literally sitting under a mini waterfall with the water pouring in front of me which was surreal! The whole trip took around 1.5 hours, we started at 4.30pm and it finished at 6 but after getting changed and looking at the photos before leaving, it was a good 2 hours. During good weather their last session is at 4.30 but during winter when the days are shorter, their last session is at 3. I recommend you book in advance as they are really busy. Even though we had 29 of us at the 4.30 session, we still had heaps of fun because all the groups were split off with their own guide and raft so we felt like we were still by ourselves.
After having dinner, we all decided to relax. What better way to relax than a thermal spa 😀 We went to the infamous Polynesian spa in Rotorua which opens till 11pm and on a good night you can lie in the hot pools and look at the starry sky. I can honestly say that the pools there really do work wonders for you. My skin felt amazing after the soak. It was silky smooth and they had signs for each of the pools that tell you what they are generally used for such as aches and pains etc. The only downside is the smell of sulphur that gets into your hair so tie it up if you have long hair! (It still smelt after I washed it).
I can’t wait to go white water rafting again, maybe even try black water rafting in the future !
On the weekend, my family drove down to visit me, and we took it as a chance to celebrate my mum’s birthday which was on a Tuesday. I decided to shout the family lunch at the Stratosfare Restaurant.
The skyline isn’t as high as the one in Queenstown, but once you get up there, the view is just wonderful. The weather was clear and sunny, so we could see across the lake and you can also get a great view on the whole of Rotorua. I opted for the package option which includes the gondola ride up as well as the buffet lunch for $55 per adult. If that is too pricey, you can always eat at the cafe which is right next door or bring your own lunch 🙂 Everyone is able to see the same view so you would not be disadvantaged. It was such a lovely day that lots of people sat outdoors and ate packed lunches. If you haven’t been on a luge before then I highly suggest you spend money on that instead ! It’s great fun for kids and adults and you will not regret it. Because I live in NZ, I’ve been on them plenty of times so we didn’t do the luge this time, and focused on making the most of our buffet instead 😛
After the buffet, we traveled back down and looked at some of the geothermal springs within the town. The one at Kuirau park is quite nice to stroll around (and it is free). There are also little foot pools within the park where the water comes from the springs for you to feel the temperature and have a nice foot soak so wear some sandals if you plan on giving it a try !
We then went and attended the farm tour at Agrodome. It was veeeerrrryyy busy and packed full of tourists so if you plan on going, book early! We had booked online in advance but when we arrived, they had overbooked and we were about to be turned away (with a refund) until 7 people had cancelled because they were annoyed with the Agrodome. But because of that, my family and I had to sit all over the place throughout the tour 😦
The tour is a bit more expensive than the show and in my opinion, the show is a lot better, you get to see how sheep are sheared and farm dogs show you how they herd the sheep as well as get to feed lambs (but I went when I was very young).
The tour is an hour-long and a tractor carries the group around the farm, showing you the type of farm animals they have and what they are used for, the kiwifruit orchard, manuka plants, olive tree’s as well as let you taste some kiwifruit juice and NZ honey. The highlight is when they let you feed some of the animals with pellets provided. If you are traveling to NZ and your home country does not have many farm’s then this would be great for you as you can get up close to the farm animals and see the day-to-day activities of a farm in NZ.
So now that I’ve been staying at Rotorua for my placement, I’ve been exploring the many wonderful places Rotorua has to offer. The first place I visited on my days off was the government gardens! It’s very similar to Auckland Domain and Hamilton Gardens but on a much smaller scale. The famous architectural building is the Rotorua Art Museum and it really is a beautiful building and great for family photos.
Among the grounds is a small rose garden which is bright and colourful and a great place to sit and read a book or nap under the shade.
There are also lots of well maintained flat areas of lawn where locals come to play croquet so if you happen to come on a day that they are there, feel free to watch !
On the other side of the museum is the blue pools building. There is an admission fee to go inside and see the blue pools as well as swim in it. It can also be hired for private functions. On the right of the building is a small thermal spring for people to see.
There are also quite a few art sculptures and small gardens on the premises which are really lovely.
Right around the gardens is the lake where you can do water activities and relax. Or if you are more fitness savvy, there is a trail you can walk that takes you right around the lake. The views are quite nice but during the time I went, there were ALOT of little flies soaking up sun in the middle of the path buzzing at your head level so I suggest you bring a hat and sunglasses to cover up. The sulphur smell is also quite strong and it reminded me of a very strong salty beach.
Overall it’s a great place to visit, walk around, take photos and enjoy the nature around you. Besides, it’s free ! So it’s great if you’re on a tight budget and have spare time in this wonderful city 🙂