Introduction

Catch a whiff of Rotorua’s sulphur-rich air and you’ve already had an introduction to NZ’s most dynamic geothermal area. The Māori revered this place, naming one of the most spectacular springs Wai-O-Tapu (Sacred Waters). Today 34% of the population is Māori, with cultural performances and traditional hāngi (steam-cooked banquets) as big an attraction as the landscape itself.

The pervasive eggy odour hasn't prevented ‘Sulphur City’ becoming one of the most touristy spots on the North Island. Some say this steady trade has seduced the town into resting on its laurels while its famous attractions perpetually hike up their prices. It's certainly true that Rotorua's dining and bar scene lags well behind nearby Tauranga and Taupo. While the urban fabric of ‘RotoVegas’ isn't particularly appealing, where else can you see steam casually wafting out of drains and mud boiling in public parks?