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My earliest memories of Rotorua are water related and laced with adrenaline. My memory of those times is now as misty as the steam rising from the Kaituna River the day that I first followed my friend off Tutea Falls in my kayak. "See you at the bottom" smiled Ian as he carved out of the eddy beside me and disappeared off the 7m waterfall - now commercially rafted nearly every day of the year by more than 6 separate local companies and many more. The draw of the same river nearly 13 years later lead me to making Rotorua home and investing in the tourism industry that is the essence of the city.
Within two and a half years of being a Rotorua "local" I have come to admire this little unassuming City and have found the local community to be one of the best I have ever been apart of. The city center is full of friendly, capable, entrepreneurial and creative people and comes alive weekly at the Thurdsay night market and Sunday morning farmers market. Both great excuses to eat out and meet other locals and visitors.
The Rotorua Lakes District is home to so many amazingly beautiful but so unique and diverse lakes and rivers, that despite rising tourism numbers still seem untouched and remote. Lake Tarawera is one of the most amazing lakes I have ever seen. As a paddleboard guide it is my favorite lake to take paddleboard tours. The lake is relatively large, has incredibly clear water, an abundance of trout, a hot-water beach, pristine twin creeks, bedrock cliffs to jump off and is only 15 minutes drive from central Rotorua.
Lake Rotorua with Mokoia Island, the Ngongotaha and Waiteti streams and the Hamurana Springs is often overlooked but is a lake of incredible wonder in itself. It is linked with Lake Rotoiti via the Ohau Channel - a great place to learn to paddle-board. Lake Rotoiti is home to glow-worms and hot pools, it is also one of the preferred lakes for pleasure sailing. It overflows control gates past the Okere Falls store and turns into the raging rapids of the Kaituna River.
Lake Okareka is home to a quaint lake-side settlement and is where you can take paddle-board tours to view incredible secret glow-worm caves hidden along the edges of the lake. This lake is also great for all forms of recreational water sports such as water skii-ing, waka - ama, trout fishing and kayaking.
If I were to pick a favorite however, Lake Okataina would take the prize. This wilderness area is like going back to a pre-historic era. It is one of the most un-touched and well preserved lakes in the region, sure to make the most avid nature enthusiast feel like all things are right in the world. Rotorua and the Rotorua Lakes District really has to be experienced and discovered to be fully appreciated.
If you're planning a visit to venture into the Rotorua waterways or just admire them from the shore make sure to allow plenty of time to really get around and see the different lakes. If you are however pushed for time, make sure to find a paddleboard to explore the lakes up-close and personal or a raft/kayak to venture of the 7m Tutea falls of the Kaituna.
The Twilight Paddleboard Glow Worm Cave Experience is the newest & most unique way to see amazing glow worms in New Zealand. Enjoy stunning scenery as the sun sets before paddleboarding your way to secret caves home to a constellation of glow-worms.