The Bay of Plenty is New Zealand's most active volcanic region with many world class thernal attractions that are easily accessible. The coast has excellent beaches too and a myriad of lakes dot the landscape.
There are a number of notable cities and towns in the Bay of Plenty. The city of Rotorua is conveniently located in the middle of some great volcanic attractions. For this reason and also due to city's close proximity with Auckland and it's international airport, Rotorua is one of New Zealand's most popular tourist attractions.
Volcanic reserves abound and are located in and around Rotorua. The more popular reserves include: Te Puia, Waimangu, Waiotapu, Hells Gate and The Hidden Valley. It is hard to choose the best one to visit as they all have excellent examples of geysers, mud pools, fumeroles, thermal rivers, volcanic terraces, and hot springs. But each is unique and has that special attraction found nowhere else. Te Puia has a small Maori village, Waiotapu is the most colourful thermal area, Waimangu has the world's largest boiling lake, and Hells Gate has the the largest hot waterfall in the southern hemisphere.
Everywhere you go you in Rotorua you will see steam rising from the ground. Even motels offer thermal baths and some of this volcanic energy is tapped to provide electricity to the locals. New volcanic vents often appear in the most unlikely places. Roads, properties, lakes, even golf courses have heat rising from the ground.
The area around Rotorua is also famous for its lakes which are ideal for fishing, swimming, and other water based activities. Rotorua is possibly the best place in New Zealand to see and learn about Maori culture too.
Tauranga, on the coast of the Bay of Plenty is one of the fastest growing cities in New Zealand. The reason is partly to do with the warm climate and spectacular beaches. The nearby town of Mt Maunganui now joined to Tauranga by a bridge has expansive beaches, nice cafes, and one of the best lookouts in the country, atop an extinct volcano.
Just off the coast of Tauranga is White Island, an active volcano where you can walk right up to the crater. Sightseeing flights over White Island are highly recommended and are safer, but you can also venture further afield on a volcanic areial tour and include three volcanoes in nearby Tongariro National Park, as well as Mt Tarawera in Rotorua.
Mt Tarawera last erupted early this century totally destroying the famous Pink and White Terraces, which were nicknamed the" 8th wonder of the natural world". It was New Zealand's number one tourust attraction. The remaining mountain after the eruption has a great gash that divides the volcano. You can take walking tours up to the top of this volcano as well as walk around the rim and admire the surrounding view below including Lake Tarawera.
The Bay of Plenty is one of the most scenic and diverse regions in New Zealand, and freelance visitors to New Zealand have been known to end up staying much longer here than anticipated at the expense of the rest of the country.
Author & photographer: David Johnson (Virtual New Zealand). Providing a credit or link is appreciated.
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