You are lakeside, in a city and a region renowned for its geothermal wonders and stunning volcanic lake formations. The city, even, takes its name from a lake. It is nestled into the southern shores of Lake Rotorua, Te Rotorua-nui-ā-Kahumatamomoe, the second Great Lake of Kahumatamomoe.
And in this region, where the earth’s power displays constantly in steaming pools and boiling mud, there’s a strong sense of New Zealand’s more distant past, and of our country’s proud Māori culture.
The stories from Mokoia Island
Looking from the shores of the central city lake, the offshore Mokoia Island is always in frame, a short boat ride away, and shrouded in stories. Its brooding serenity belies its name, which refers to a battle in which a tattooed (moko) warrior was killed by the blow of a digging stick (kō).
And this same island played a pivotal backdrop to the romance of Tūtānekai and Hinemoa, the beautiful maiden daughter of an influential Māori chief. Against the wishes of her people, Hinemoa swam to Mokoia to find her true love, guided by the music of the Tūtānekai’s flute. Their story is often associated today with a traditional New Zealand love song (waiata aroha), the mesmerising melody of Pōkarekare Ana.
And, in the centre of the city, you’ll find the streets of Hinemoa and Tūtānekai, running perpendicular and finally meeting in a central square.
The delightful Tūtānekai Street night market is just a little way down from where these street paths collide. It’s here, in this bustling night market, you’ll find a fabulous selection of street food, something for everyone, as busy food stalls overtake usually trafficked streets.
Nearby Kuirau Park also plays host to a weekend market, and look out for the thermal foot baths to go and have a soak in. Pop off the shoes, roll up the jeans, and dangle your feet in that restoring thermal spring water.
Take a wander around the park for a look at some more steaming, hissing and boiling geothermal activity in the heart of the city. And, of course, you won’t be able to miss the famous Rotorua sulphur smell…
With so much boiling mud and Māori culture around, thoughts turn to traditional Māori foods and cooking techniques. And, just as you might hope for, in Rotorua you’ll even find an ideal diner selling hangi, and famous steamed puddings.
Rotorua, its geothermal wonderlands, and its lakes and forest trails, attract many domestic and international tourists. There are amazing experiences on offer here. In amongst them, do take the chance to enjoy some of the excellent local eateries and food stores.
And, especially in warm weather, don’t miss the moment to round up a picnic from one of the delightful local deli stores or bakeries - to help find them, there is a selection shown on our North Island Food Travel Guide app - and take yourself to a spot to chill out on one of those beautiful brooding lakes - Rotorua, Rotoiti, Tikitapu, Okareka, Tarawera.