With its endless alpine vistas, glassy lakes and spectacular snow-culture it's not hard to settle on Queenstown for your next mid-year vacay. Be it a family trip, honeymoon, golfing tour or hens weekend, this town - touted New Zealand's adventure capital - can accommodate every agenda. But despite being one of the most popular domestic destinations, we think you should go somewhere else. Seriously.
See, it’s not that we don't like our southern neighbour (we're based in Wanaka, practically next door) quite the opposite. We love our region and are proud to promote it - we just don't think it's the be-all and end-all of tourism in New Zealand. Too often this beautiful place (and it is beautiful, we aren't saying it isn't) has become a poster child for the ultimate kiwi holiday, which considering its reputation, is logical. But in our opinion there are other regions equally as good. We know, you're skeptical. But bear with us and we'll tell you why this town isn't the only gem in New Zealand's crown.
In Queenstown, the jagged points of The Remarkables mountain range frame the lakeshore making for an epic holiday backdrop. Many travellers catch a helicopter to the top for breathtaking views of the landscape below. So what could be more epic than landing on a icing-sugar peak in the middle of an alpine wonderland you say? Landing inside the crater of an active volcano, that's what. Choose to holiday in Rotorua, and your vacation stories just got a lot more interesting. Aside from being one of the world’s most active volcanic regions, Rotorua is known for its international mountain biking trails and adrenaline-inducing activities. And what it lacks in alpine scenery, it makes up for in hot springs, steaming geysers and boiling mud pools.
Nicknamed ‘Rotovegas,’ this bustling tourist destination holds it’s own. Although celebrated for its geothermal activity, Rotorua has an established Maori history and is considered an authority on Maori culture. Treat yourself to a day of relaxation at The Polynesian Spa, then spend the evening at Mitai Maori Village enjoying a Hangi meal and an authentic indigenous performance. But, you say, in Queenstown I could bungy jump, jet-boat, ride the gondola, walk around the lake, ski! No problem. you can do all that too, right here. Well ok - you can't ski - but you can sit under the tumbling waters of a natural thermal waterfall in the middle of a rainforest, which is infinitely more relaxing if you ask us. There's even a dedicated Adventure Park filled with hair-raising activities. Take that, Queenstown. Anyway, back to the volcanic landing. From the lakefront, take a short helicopter ride to White Island, New Zealand’s only continuously active volcano. Land inside the crater and walk through sulphur fields, steaming vents, hot streams and crumbing mining ruins, for an vacation experience unlike any other.
Like Queenstown, Rotorua has a rich and varied history. Swap Arrowtown for The Buried Village and The Earnslaw for the Lakeland Queen Paddle Steamer. The former was entombed by the 1886 catastrophic Mt Tarawera Eruption and is well worth a look. Ride the ‘Queen’ at lunchtime for classic local fare. Hire a mountain bike or simply walk through the towering Redwood Forest, Whakarewarewa. Complete your trip with a visit to Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, one of the area’s most unique and colourful volcanic attractions.
So although Rotorua may not be the Queenstown adventure you pictured, its unique mix of thrilling, cultural and natural attractions make it well worth considering as a vacation destination. Because while Queenstown is the biggest gem in New Zealand's crown, it certainly isn't the brightest.