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Rotorua is the cultural heartland of New Zealand's Maori people. Over the years the Maori have earned a reputation for their warmth, proud spirit and a deep respect of their ancestors and history. For over 160 years the Arawa people of Rotorua have showcased to visitors the area's natural thermal wonders they have called home for more than 600 years.
Located in the central North Island, Rotorua is an easy three-hour drive north from Auckland. You won't even notice the time passing as you wind through the amazingly beautiful countryside. We recommend pulling over your campervan hire vehicle occasionally to take in the scenery.
In the 1800s Mount Tarawera and the surrounding area was the major draw card of New Zealand tourism. Visitors travelled from far and wide to view the silica terraces which were gaining a reputation as the 'Eighth Wonder of the World'.
Sadly in 1886 an eruption killed more than 150 people and obliterated the landscape around Mt Tarawera. Today, one of the huge craters left behind is filled by the beautiful Lake Rotomahana. When you tour the area you can be sure that the volcanoes in the area are dormant, so you and your campervan hire vehicle will be completely safe.
There is no mistaking the fact that Rotorua is quite different to anywhere else. Small plumes of hot steam escape from the ground within parks and forest areas. The unmistakable smell of sulphur is in the air.
Not far from the city geysers of boiling hot steaming water shoot from the earth below; pools of bubbling mud bubble and churn; and spectacular silica terraces display a dazzling array of colours. Towering volcanic craters are visible reminders of the area's violent past. Extinct craters are now filled by the region's lakes. These lakes make a gorgeous location to take a leisurely drive in your campervan hire vehicle.
Visitors must pay admission to Rotorua's main geothermal parks, but its free to see the range of fumaroles, boiling lakes and bubbling mud pools on a much smaller scale at Sulphur Point, Kuirau Park and the Government Gardens.
It is advisable to stick to the main roads in this area to ensure there is no risk of injury to you or damage to your Campervan Hire New Zealand vehicle.
The love story of Mokoia Island
Mokoia Island, in the middle of Lake Rotorua, was the setting for one of New Zealand's greatest love stories - the tale of Hinemoa and Tutanekai.
On the eastern shores of Lake Rotorua lived an influential tribal chief and his family. He had an exquisitely beautiful daughter, Hinemoa. She was regarded as untouchable, meaning that her tribe must choose who she marry.
On Mokoia Island lived a family of several brothers, the youngest of which was Tutanekai. One day Tutanekai laid eyes on Hinemoa and instantly fell in love. Tutanekai's physical prowess and good looks caught Hinemoa's eye, and she fell for him too. However, Tutanekai was too low on the social ladder to wed Hinemoa.
Tutanekai sat day after day on the island's shore playing melancholy music on his flute. The music drifted across the water and was heard by Hinemoa. One night, Hinemoa escaped her family and swam towards the sound of Tutanekai's flute.
When she made it to Mokoia Island, she was very cold after her swim and so went directly to the hot pool, Waikimihia. Tutanekai's slave came to the pool to fetch water. She learned the water was for Tutanekai and so she smashed and broke the water vessel. When the slave related this to Tutanekai he went to the pool and the two lovers were united, and Hinemoa's tribe accepted Tutanekai as her husband. A very happy ending indeed.
Visitors to Mokoia can enjoy a soak in Waikimihia (now known as Hinemoa's Pool), on the south eastern side of the island. You will need to leave your campervan hire vehicle on the shore in order to go onto the island.
Forest trails and waterfalls
Whakarewarewa Forest, is just a five minute drive from the city and yet is one of Rotorua's most beautiful assets. The towering Californian redwoods make an ideal bush walking setting, you can hike to panoramic views of the city and lakes, hire a horse and take a trek or hire a bike to speed through the trees.
Okere Falls Scenic reserve, slightly further from town, offers visitors a well worn walking track with spectacular lookouts over the Okere River and its beautiful waterfalls.
Whirinaki Forest Park is known as a 'dinosaur forest', as it has many tall trees that are centuries old. The foresst has amazing views of the river slicing through an ancient lava flow and caves with pumice deposits - remnants of the Taupo eruption nearly 2000 years ago.
This will be one of the most stunning places you can visit on your campervan hire holiday, the views are amazing, the air is clean and fresh and the stunning natural landscape is breathtaking.
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