town in New Zealand's North Island
national park of New Zealand
town and territorial authority in New Zealand's Bay of Plenty
town in New Zealand
city and territorial authority in New Zealand's North Island
region in New Zealand's North Island
territorial authority in New Zealand's North Island
town in Hamilton, New Zealand
The name Rotorua comes from Māori, meaning "two lakes" or "second lake" (roto = lake, rua = two). Its full name is Te Rotorua-nui-a-Kahumatamomoe, meaning "the second great lake of Kahumatamomoe".
Tourism is a major industry in Rotorua, so tourist services are well developed. The Tourist Information Centre on the main road, Fenton Street, is a good starting point.
Rotorua is built over a geothermal hot spot. There are numerous natural vents, hot pools and other geothermal features in and around the city. Many of these are in parks and reserves. Natural eruptions of steam, hot water and mud occasionally occur in new locations. Many places have their own private geothermal bores for heating and water for bathing although private use of naturally occurring geothermal water and steam is controlled.
Rotorua sits on the shores of Lake Rotorua, and there are several other lakes nearby. So along with the geothermal wonders, many water-based activities such as fishing, boating and white water rafting are available.
Geologically, Rotorua is in the middle of the Taupo Volcanic Zone, named after Lake Taupo, the largest volcano in the area. This geologically active zone produces the heat that is needed to drive all the geothermal activity. Along with many volcanic hills and mountains, the zone contains several major volcanic calderas (large subsidence craters). These are important for tourism because they host the region's largest lakes (including Lake Taupo and Lake Rotorua), and because geothermal activity tends to occur around their edges. Rotorua caldera, some 22 km (14 mi) across, contains the city and Mount Ngongotaha as well as the lake. It was created in a huge eruption around a quarter of a million years ago.
With Rotorua's concentration of geothermal features, a significant amount of hydrogen sulfide is released into the air and the city has a unique "rotten eggs" smell.
Heading south from Rotorua on SH 5 takes you to Taupo, a similar town on the side of New Zealand's largest lake, and Tongariro National Park. Around 15 km south of Rotorua, SH 38 branches off to the southeast, leading into the sparsely populated and ruggedly beautiful Urewera National Park.
North takes you to Te Puke, Tauranga and the western Bay of Plenty coastline, also a nice place to soak up the sun. There are two routes; via Te Puke and SH 33 brings you into Tauranga via Mount Maunganui. The recently completed SH 36 is a shorter inland route that climbs to around 610 m (2000 ft) before dropping to the coast. This is the route most locals would use and avoids Tauranga CBD traffic if heading for the Coromandel.