Rotorua in New Zealand’s north island is an odd one in ways.
You see it’s the geothermal centre of the country. It is distinguished for being the cultural heart of New Zealand.
Then it has the reputation as being a little on the nose, literally. I have to be honest and say that the sulphur odours aren’t nearly as bad as what some made me believe. You get used to it quickly, well I did anyway.
Besides, Rotorua is without doubt the action capital of the north, arguably the whole country and you do not dare visit NZ without checking it out ... and give yourself at least a couple of days.
Mud pools, geysers, caves, Zorbs, hot springs, jetboats and rafting. That’s just for starters. A must visit - and I admit I am a repeat offender - is a day out at Skyline Rotorua.
Why? Well, a day spent here is one of those days that last in your memory for good. This place delivers adventure, nature, adrenaline filled excitement, delicious dining options, family fun times and a little bit of elegance just to top it off.
Let’s start at the bottom and work our way up.
Greeted by super friendly Kiwi hospitality your first adventure is the gondola ride up the side of Mt Ngongotaha. This is a treat all on its own, delivering magnificent views all across Rotorua and its brilliant lake. It’s a peaceful beginning that lures you into taking the next step.
So, with that, I made my way to the luge. Now here’s a little-known fact, luge was invented right here in Rotorua over 30 years ago and at Skyline Rotorua they have the longest tracks on the planet making for an awesome ride.
If you are a first timer then you will have to take the scenic run first and that’s not at all a bad start. It gives you a nice introduction to getting yourself adjusted and, in the zone, to hit the more challenging tracks next. Which you will because one ride is never enough.
To take it up to the next level, you have to hit the Zoom zipline. I totally loved this one.
Safely harnessed onto your line, get set to glide like a bird above and through the New Zealand redwood forest at speeds that exhilarate without freaking your mind, and when you land safe and sound at the other end you have the choice of the easy way down from the platform in the trees or you can challenge yourself and your vertigo like I did by dropping off the edge with the 13-metre quick jump. A little like a mini bungee in a way, but way less daunting. Still it tests your will and I am glad I took the challenge head on while landing on my feet.
The adrenaline was now flowing and I wanted more - I was like a fox in the henhouse and I wanted more chicken.
Bring on the Skyswing. I would love this little baby in my backyard. A three seated swing that gets hoisted up 50 metres into the atmosphere leaving you dangling like bait on the end of a hook. Then it’s all up to you.
You have to pull the release rope that then sends you hurtling through the air at 150km/h leaving your stomach back at the starting point.
It’s such a thrill and I could not wipe the smile off my face, that was after letting out what could only be described as my least manly scream ever. Wow such fun.
It was time to take a chill pill and that meant it was time to sample the offerings at the Stratosphere restaurant. See it’s not all about action and adventure.
Skyline Rotorua has a sensational restaurant that takes advantage of those superlative views while delivering you some of the best locally sourced produce via a delightfully presented buffet, or your choice of cooked to order. I couldn’t resist the buffet, with its seemingly endless choices and abundance of my kryptonite - seafood.
There is also a tidal mussel tank providing the freshest green lips and a 24-hour slow roasted beef that is so tender it just melts in your mouth. Salads up the yazoo, a flame rotisserie, deserts that don’t end and well, I could go on but I think you get the picture.
I must also mention that if you wanted to make an afternoon into the evening visit, you will be as equally impressed. After an arvo of action, you could dine under the stars and then be mesmerized by them with a guided tour of the galaxy. Exploring constellations and planets that are naked to the eye through the ultimate telescope, “The Don”. Mt Ngongotaha is one of the top stargazing locations in the country.
While you’re there you may want to try a little night luging just for an extra thrill, the tracks are lit up every night of the week during summer. Yes indeed, there is certainly a fun filled day, or night for the whole family at Skyline Rotorua.
I haven’t even mentioned, the market kitchen, the jelly bean store, or the NZ-inspired gift shop with its collection of top products, including jewellery, skincare, arts and crafts.
Oh and one just for the mums and dads - the Volcanic Hills Winery and tasting room. Visit this one while the kids are taking those couple of luge rides.
Now that’s a day in Rotorua you won’t forget in a hurry, and no chance of smelling anything but pure clean NZ air up there!
Mention Thetravellingguy and they may even get that Skyswing up to 170kph!! Skyline Rotorua, you will love it.
Getting there: There are some direct flights to Rotorua from Australia, but you may choose to fly into Auckland and hire a car and take in some of the scenic beauty NZ is famous for. The drive is about 3.5 hours.
Where to stay: A favourite of mine is without doubt Sudima Lake Rotorua situated on the shores of the lake and a short walk to the centre of town, foreshore walking tracks and the wonderful Polynesian spa with its healing pools. A comfortable and affordable hotel choice.
- Scott McRae is The Travelling Guy (www.thetravellingguy.com). Follow @scottythetravellingguy on Instagram and Facebook