The first thing that strikes you as you arrive into Rotorua is the pungent aroma of sulphur.
“What do you want for lunch?” asked my friend
“I have a strange craving for an egg mayonnaise sandwich,” I replied.
Apparently Rotorua is nicknamed the Sulphur City though a play on alliteration could be more entertaining.
It seems that since the city was founded, there have been attempts to acknowledge the smell and make it sound romantic. The Government Gardens in the centre of Rotorua were once known as the Sulphur Gardens.
At the time of their construction, formal gardens were unusual in New Zealand and there was a belief that none of the planting would survive, with the swamp inevitably reclaiming the garden.
The Gardens are stunning with their centrepiece being the Rotorua Museum.
It was originally the bath house and opened in 1908 for tourists to come here and take the waters. The spa operated until 1966 when it was closed down.
The building, thankfully, was reopened as the Museum and it showcased history and art displays until 2016, when sadly it was found not to meet safety standards in relation to earthquakes.
Work is ongoing to ensure it will and, in the meantime, the Museum service is curating guided walks around the town to show people exhibitions in alternative venues.
It’s a great idea.
There are two pools within the grounds that demonstrate the thermal heat that Rotorua built its spa trade upon. The largest is Rachel’s Pool, named for Madame Rachel, an English beautician who “promised youthful complexions because of the softening effect of silica water on the skin.”
Temperatures reach 100°C.
The water from here is used by the Polynesian Spa, only metres away, as part of its treatments.
The Gardens are close to Lake Rotorua and on a sunny afternoon, the blue skies and blue waters are stunning.
The black swans seemed happy relaxing in the waves too.
Rotorua appears to be undergoing substantial development and regeneration to improve the lakeside facilities.
It is going to take three years for this work to be completed but the plans include more accessible facilities and a design that supports physical and mental wellbeing.
The plans have been developed in consultation with local people including school children. It is an inclusive approach that ensures the final result actually meets the needs of the local population – a sound Public Health approach to regeneration.
(I may write another blog on this).
Rotorua also seems to be a town very popular with backpackers and travellers – there are more than a few hostels and skydiving businesses.
So, top tips for anyone in town seeking a cheap breakfast, try Milly’s All Day Breakfast at 1118 Pukuatua Street, Rotorua 3010 . A cooked breakfast comes in at around 15NZD with as much toast as you can eat and an impressive array of jams – we’re not talking being offered merely strawberry or raspberry… there’s a raft of jam and, for the so inclined, there’s also vegemite.
We avoided Eats Treat or Eat Street for dinner tonight. It is exactly what it sounds like, a street of restaurants and it seems new. It looks good and it seems lively.
It also seemed noisy so we popped into popped into the sweetly named Lovely India at 1123 Tutanekai Street, Rotorua 3210 for a curry.
The restaurant is literally on the corner from Eat Street and wasn’t playing music. It seemed more peaceful and we wondered how the presence of Eat Street was affecting the existing/local businesses.
Starters ranged between 4 and 10 NZD with mains coming in between 15 and 30 NZD. I had the paneer kadai with garlic naan and a bottle of Tiger beer at 7 NZD to wash it down.
We’ve got a few more days to explore here before we move on.