Destination Rotorua: Why every New Zealander should experience Te Puia

There's a reason hundreds of thousands of people from around the world want to visit New Zealand - we are lucky enough to live in one of the most beautiful and friendly countries in the world.

Many of us take our surroundings for granted but if ever there was a time to stop and take notice of just how amazing our country is, it's now. Under alert level 2 as flights are slowly getting back in the air, Kiwis must get out and explore the country that attracts so many international visitors.

For cities like Rotorua, there is no city without its tourists. And, for weeks, our usually packed travel hotspots have sat empty due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shortly before the pandemic took hold, I spent a weekend in Rotorua and got such a buzz out of the experience I had at Te Puia, I couldn't wait to share it. With the arrival of COVID-19, not only was the story gone, but so too the jobs of many of the people I'd met while visiting the city.

An absolutely stunning spot, and a reminder of what New Zealand is built on.
An absolutely stunning spot, and a reminder of what New Zealand is built on. Photo credit: Dan Lake/Newshub

Today, the Government announced Te Puia New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute would be receiving $7.6 million to help the facility get through COVID-19.

I'm thrilled we're not losing the tourist attraction and now that domestic travel is back on the table, here are the reasons you should put Te Puia Springs and Rotorua high up your to do list.

Experience:

The highlight of my trip was the Steambox lunch tour at Te Puia, an authentic Māori steam-cooked lunch experience. Bianca was my tour guide and I'd love to know if she's still working there, because she was amazing.

We began by packaging up what would be our lunch into foil containers - things like chicken, kumara, pumpkin, potato. The food is then taken away by kitchen staff to be cooked and ready to serve at the end of the tour.

There are so many activities on the tour you soon forget about the food. There are things like weaving classes, visits to greenstone and wood carving schools.

The kiwi house is fantastic. The day I was there the two birds, a boy and a girl, were not quite getting along - or at least one was playing very hard to get. It made for some very entertaining games of catch and kiss, or catch and kick in some cases.

At the end of the tour you are taken to a small eating area overlooking Pohutu Geyser where you are served up your pre-selected meals that have spent the last few hours cooking underground.

I can't recommend this experience enough and will definitely be doing it again next time I'm in town.

Stay:

Had they been able to see into the future, it's likely that the owners of Rotorua's first five-star hotel wouldn't have picked early 2020 to open their establishment.

But the Pullman Rotorua's loss could be your gain as they need to get those beds booked out and that may mean you can get five-star nice at a motel price.

Richard Bungeroth is in charge of the hotel and there isn't a thing he doesn't know about everything inside it. He's likely to be the one welcoming you as you enter the building, the one pouring your wine and dinner and probably the one carrying your suitcases to your taxi when you leave. 

The content on the television at the time was a complete coincidence.
The content on the television at the time was a complete coincidence. Photo credit: Dan Lake/Newshub

The food at the hotel's restaurant, Barrel & Co Bar and Grill, is very tasty and perfect for a cold winter's night.

However, the breakfast options needed a bit of work if they are to satisfy those international five-star regulars used to what's offered by the Pullman brand overseas. There was confusion as to what exactly a complimentary breakfast involved - first I was offered water and a muffin in one lounge, before landing in the dining area where I was served a full breakfast.

The hotel bar gets extra points from me as it serves my favourite wine, Church Road chardonnay. But for those who aren't a fan of chardonnay, or any wine, the bar is absolutely stacked with other options .

I may have visited Rotorua twice in the last 10 months, but I hope I'm back there again before the year's end.

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