As you approach Rotorua from the outside, the sight of billowing steam and the smell of sulphur hits you before you realise where you are. As a thermal city in the centre of the north island, Rotorua is located in the Taupo Volcanic Zone, an area where, deep underground, drastic geothermal activity results in erupting hot water, steam, mud pools and geothermal springs.
Clustered on the shores of Lake Rotorua, the city has used this advantage to create an oasis of spa treatments to melt away all your troubles, with healing therapies, massage treatments, mud massage and soothing mineral waters all at your disposal. Whatever you’re looking for, Rotorua is awash with the facilities to cater for all needs; simply take your pick from the following and be prepared to immerse yourself in total relaxation.
The Polynesian Spa
Internationally renowned and the oldest thermal spa in New Zealand, the Polynesian Spa is a haven; set amidst native flora and over looking Sulphur Bay, with the volcanic landscape creating an eerily relaxing backdrop. Originally government-run baths in the 1990s, the spa is now family owned and provides a selection of therapeutic spa treatments. There is an array of hot pools, with temperatures naturally around 38.5 degrees, so guests can bathe all year round. The Priest Spring (Pupunitanga) has highly acidic mineral waters, offering great relief for aches, pains and tired muscles. Alternatively, the Rachel Spring (Whangapipiro) has alkaline waters which have an antiseptic action and the sodium silicate smooths the skin; it is an old belief that swimming here gives you ageless beauty.
In addition to the geothermal waters, the Polynesian offers an array of holistic treatments, including mud massages, body wraps and scrubs, facials, and Aix therapy, where jets of warm water are combined with a relaxation massage.
Waitangi Soda Springs
For a less commercialised experience, a mere 35 minute drive outside of Rotorua lie the Waitangi Soda Springs. The geothermal pools are nestled in a natural setting, off the beaten track near Rotoehu and Lake Rotoma and are widely known for their healing properties. In the past, they played a key role in Maori history, dating back thousands of years, and were used to alleviate joint aches and arthritis.
Many locals bathe here throughout the year, keeping warm in the winter and on a clear night, it is a great spot for star gazing. It stands as a real part of the local culture and history and has barely altered over the years. The geothermal pool is filled from two streams, one cooler than the other, to provide a mix of temperatures at each end; perfect for everyone. The waters are rich in minerals and so as well as helping in the healing process, they are said to aid youthful and radiant skin.
Wairekei Terraces and Thermal Health Spa
Used for centuries by the Maori, the Wairekei Terraces now attract visitors from far and wide to ‘take the waters’ for its curative properties. The series of thermal pools are rich in minerals and nestled amongst silica terraces which makes a unique and stunning landscape. Taking full advantage of the geothermal water flow from deep underground, the pools vary in temperature and have a striking blue colour, tempting you in. Research shows that the rich mixing pot of minerals in the pools work to improve health and vitality in a number of ways: the silica can reverse the ageing process, strengthen bones and boost the immune system, the sodium can relieve arthritic symptoms and potassium can normalise hearth rhythms.
In addition to the pools they also offer holistic massages which have a number of positive effects on the body, including relieving stress and tension, improving blood circulation, soothing and relaxing nerves, relieving migraines and enhancing sleep.