With so much to do and see in Rotorua, taking the time to slow down and smell the flowers, is often missed. There are so many great walks around Rotorua for all ages and fitness levels the only problem you have is getting to them.
From the lakefront, you can walk along the right side of the lake. Following a well-formed track, you have views of the Lake and Mokoia Island as well as wetlands and water birds.
Once you arrive at Sulphur Point, there is a jetty and picnic tables. Geese, shags, ducks and swans share the water with other water birds making Sulphur Bay a nature paradise.
Once you turn into Sulphur Bay, you can see the water become noticeably whiter. You can follow the track along the banks of the bay, taking you past hot and sulphuric waters, where you can either carry on or do a detour to the Government Gardens.
If you don't have a car some of these will be hard to get to, but getting to the Redwood Forest is easily achievable on the local buses.
The walks in the Whakarewarewa Forest are a must do when you visit this area as you walk with the giant Redwoods.
The bus stop is at beginning of Long Mile Road, off Tawarewa Road. It is from here that you walk down until you reach the iSite which is the starting point of all the tracks.
The six tracks are colour coded, making it easy to follow the trail. Some are shared by mountain bikes and horses, but usually, you have the place to yourself.
Redwood Memorial Grove Walk and Waitawa Walk, are easy, well-formed tracks that should be able to be done by everyone, even prams and wheelchairs when it's dry.
If you have time for nothing else the Redwood Memorial Grove is a must-do walk. From the iSite, you walk through the well-formed path meandering through these giants. It is a magical place and I don't know about anyone else, but to me, it is a happy place.
Surprises are around every corner with large ponds containing water so clear, it's hard to tell there is water in photos. A boardwalk takes you across the water and you also have another lookout if you turn left where the tracks turn off.
From here you can enter into a world of ancient forests, where giant ferns tower over you leading to interesting photos.
This is also true of the Mokopuna Trail, which is another easy track just not so well-formed. It is also shared with mountain bikes. I've done this walk a few times and apart from the first time when I came across two or three bikes, I haven't seen any more.
The three other tracks, Quarry, Pohaturoa and Tokorangi Pa are more challenging. I haven't done the Tokorangi Pa, but the other two are quite steep with steps in places. Now I'm not the fittest person, and I did find them challenging in parts, but the views from the top of Pohaturoa are worth the walk.
From the lookout, you can look out over Te Puia, Rotorua City Centre, Lake Rotorua and Mokoia Island
The lookout from the top gives you view stretching across the geothermal areas, Rotorua city centre and the lake, on a clear day you can see forever. On the Pohaturoa track is also a mud pool on one of the side tracks. After going to the lookout, you can come back down and take the short-cut across to the track going back.
Both tracks are diverse in their surrounding and foliage and in my opinion, the Pohaturoa is the most diverse. Passing through the Redwoods into bush and ferns to pine forests this track shouldn't disappoint anyone although it does take at least 2-hours to complete.
The Government Gardens are 50 acres of parkland which contain historic buildings, geothermal features, fountains and Rose Gardens.
The areas in front of the Rotorua Museum are home to bowls, petanque and croquet. Gardens, fountains, hot pools and the Arawa War Memorial are covered by sealed paths leading you around the extensive area.
The beautiful building housing the Rotorua Museum. At the moment it's closed as it's being reinforced against earthquakes
The Blue Baths are also in this parkland. Opened in 1933, they now have a juvenile pool and two soak pools. Have a soak in a hot pool to ease your muscles from all the walking you've done, although these are just hot and not mineral pools.
The next stop along the track beside Sulphur Bay is the Polynesian Spa. If you do want to soak in mineral pools then the Polynesian Spa is for you. Public and private pools are well as spa treatments await you. As one of the top 10 Spas in the world, this is a great place to relax and give yourself a treat.
Located 21km out of Rotorua on the road to Tauranga, this is the home of the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world dropping 7m.
If you're not an adrenalin junkie, you can still watch others go over the falls as you walk along the track. The track is only 1.2km long and takes 30 minutes one way, enough time for you to go from the first falls that they go over, to Tutea Falls, and then to the end where they come out of the river.
Just because the rafters have finished doesn't mean that you have to. You can go from either a small track next to the river where the rafters get out or you go to the track via the carpark just back from where you've come from. The track has a bridge over the river which has a view of the Trout Pool Falls. If you've used the track along the river you'll see the rapids before the Trout Pool Falls.
This is a great walk next to the river especially when you have the added excitement of watching the rafters enjoying themselves. You might even be lucky enough to catch a fantail or other wild birds on the path.
Lake Tikitapu (Blue Lake) is a great recreation area. Known for its swimming, boating, water-skiing, jet-skiing, fishing, it's also great to walk around. Lake Tikitapu track goes from the carpark and you can walk clockwise around the lake taking the track next to the road first.
The track is about 4.5km long and takes about an hour and a half. The midway point of the walk is the lookout over the Lakes Tikitapu and Rotokakahi (Green Lake).
I didn't do the road walk, but walked to the lookout from the bush side of the lake and back again. With views through the bush across the lake, you can really see the blueness of the lake. It's a well-formed dirt track that would be muddy after rain.
A family-friendly park, Kuirau Park is a geothermal wonder that is still very active at times. New eruptions still happen with the last in 2001 in which mud and rocks were hurled 10m into the air.
Well defined paths lead you around the well fenced off geothermal activity of hot pools and mud.
The waters weren't always so hot. Back in the time of the Maori, before the white man arrived, the water was cool enough to bathe in.
According to Maori legend, a beautiful young Maori woman named Kuirau used to swim in the lake when it was known as Lake Tawakahu. Unfortunately, a Taniwha (monster) also lived in the lake and one morning he rose up, took her and she was never seen again.
The Gods were so angry that they made the waters boil to kill the Taniwha, and since then the Lake has been known as Lake Kuirau.
Markets are held every Saturday morning and there is a playground for the kids to play in.
Visit the iSite in Rotorua for information on these walks and more walks in Rotorua.