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Home Destinations Australasia New Zealand Rotorua and Central Plateau

Rotorua and Central Plateau Holidays

In the geographic heart of New Zealand’s North Island, the immensely varied landscapes of this acclaimed region take in fertile farmlands, snow-capped volcanoes, steaming geothermal fields and crystal-clear trout-filled lakes. The main focus of the region, Rotorua, has become one of the most visited places in the country.

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Wai O Tapu thermal area, Rotorua


If there is one place that no visitor to New Zealand should miss, it is Rotorua. Set in a tranquil lake studded basin among forested hills, the town is centre for a region where one surprise follows another. Geysers spout 50 ft or more into the air, bubbling cauldrons spit out mud and steam vents hiss to an all-pervading stench of sulphur.

Unsurprisingly, the Maori were attracted to settle here, and today the region remains a stronghold of the Arawa people. Visitors can learn about their culture, song and dance and attend a traditional hangi, where food is steamed in an earth oven, then served to guests. The perfect way to complement these activities is to visit the replica village, the Rotorua Museum and the Maori Arts and Crafts Institute.

Those who prefer a wilder experience can try out some water-based activities like kayaking, rafting or white-water sledging, or fish for trout in the sparkling lakes including Rainbow Springs Trout and Wildlife Sanctuary, for which the region is famous. For those looking simply to explore the area, the redwood forests near to town offer some lovely trails for walking and cycling.

The geothermal attractions of Rotorua are matched in every way by those of the surrounding valley of Waimangu much of which was devastated in the 1886 eruption of Tarawera, whose craters and rugged peaks overlook the valley.

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Located in the centre of the North Island, Lake Taupo is New Zealand’s largest lake and a magnet for trout fishing enthusiasts. The pleasant holiday town of Taupo, on the northern side of the lake, is a great base to explore the surrounds and as such is fast becoming one of the most popular destinations in the country.

Nearby, the thermal area of the Craters of the Moon with their belching sulphurous steam vents offer an interesting experience, enhanced by the Wairakei Geothermal Centre and Volcanic Activity Centre, dedicated to explaining the powerful forces at work below the surface of the earth.

The exuberant Waikato River that exits the lake, heads for the Tasman Sea in a series of spectacular waterfalls, which include the impressive Huka Falls, among the most powerful in the country and definitely worthy of a visit.

But Taupo is far more than just about sightseeing. It is also very much an activity led destination, offering a number of water-sports as well as the more familiar adrenaline activities of tandem skydiving and bungy-jumping.

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Hamilton & Waitomo

The green rolling landscapes of the Waikato Region that lies to the south of Auckland form some of the most fertile land in New Zealand, yet this is one region in particular which holds more than just surface appeal… literally. For Waikato also boasts an extensive labyrinth of underground caverns that formed millions of years ago and are now a major tourist attraction.

Hamilton is the region’s main centre and is also the country’s fourth largest city located on the banks of the Waikato River, New Zealand’s longest. The town is famous for its themed gardens, and the local zoo, which has the largest free flight aviary in the Southern Hemisphere – an excellent chance to find out about New Zealand’s distinctive native birds.

To the south of Hamilton, the small and pleasant town of Waitomo is the focal point of the region’s subterranean wonders.The caves are easy to explore on a boat trip like no other, revealing a hidden world of glow-worms and wondrous limestone formations. For the more adventurous there is abseiling and black water rafting – fun, fast and wet. Above ground, horse riding and bush walking are popular.

new zealand tongariro national park hikers tnz

Central Plateau

Essentially forming a region of its own, the Central Plateau is New Zealand’s main volcanic area largely made up of national parks, which are perfect for exploration. Tongariro National Park is the focus, comprising moonscape craters, lush native forest, lava formations and crystal clear rivers and lakes as well as the imposing volcanoes of Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro. Ruapehu is the country’s most active volcano, spectacularly erupting in 1995, although several minor eruptions have occurred since.

Rust red craters, black deserts and cobalt blue lakes feature on what is acknowledged as one of the finest one-day walks on earth, the acclaimed Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Quite apart from hiking, or trekking as the kiwis refer to it, this is very much a place for outdoor activities and those on offer include cycling, horse riding, white-water rafting, fishing and kayaking.

This is very much an area of landscape, with not much in the way of structural development and no major towns to speak of. However, there are small towns within the district offering an abundance of bars, cafes and restaurants catering for visitors and some interesting places to stay.