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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 11 (June 1, 1930)


“On Rotorua,” remarked a recent visitor, Lord Craigavon, Prime Minister of Ulster, “I could dilate for hours. It is one of the most marvellous holiday resorts I have ever seen and in the course of my various travels I have seen a great many in all parts of the world.”

It is hard to say who are the more to be envied—those who have already succumbed to the irresistible lure and thereby laid up a store of wonderful memories, or you, perhaps for whom that fascinating trip is yet to come. For of Rotorua one can say with perfect truth that it fully lives up to expectations.

And note here that, thanks to an enterprising railway management, Rotorua is no longer confined exclusively to the well-to-do. Low excursion fares, and comfortable accommodation at £2 10s. and less per week, bring Rotorua within reach of the most slender purse.

Soon after the train passes Mamaku, you get your first glimpse of Lake Rotorua some few miles distant at a drop of 1,000 feet, a circle of lazy blue water in the middle of which a bush-clad island dreamily reposes. And here and there also you will soon see clouds of white steam curling up menacingly. There, in brief, is your Rotorua, a strange mingling of utter peace and contentment, with riotous outbursts of pent-up fury. You could almost imagine that here the whole of Nature's forces of good and evil are engaged in a titanic struggle for supremacy. Fortunately the good still much more than hold their own.

The Town.

From the moment you alight at the Railway Station, which nestles coolly among a grove of green trees, you at once begin to form agreeable impressions of what is undoubtedly the most cosmopolitan inland town in the Southern Hemisphere. As you walk along the broad streets comfortably paved and shaded by avenues of trees you are following in the footsteps of people from all parts of the world—princes and peers, statesmen and business magnates, famous people of all kinds, just ordinary globe trotters and your own countrymen of all stations and degrees in life. Added to the charm of this cosmopolitan atmosphere is the happy-go-lucky spirit of a place where everybody is bent on enjoyment or catering for enjoyment. Yet even under this strong spell one can quite impartially describe Rotorua itself as an exceptionally attractive town. It is laid out in the form of a square, its streets running at right angles; electric power is supplied from Okere Falls on Lake Rotoiti thirteen miles away; while many of the buildings are new and handsome in design. In short, before you commence operations as it were, you feel that you are working from a perfectly sound base, that in Rotorua you have found a town worthy of its greatness. One other point: wherever you lodge, whether you pay 8s. or £1 a day, you will find a thoroughly warm-hearted host or hostess who will do all that is possible to make you comfortable and contented.

The Government Sanatorium.

Before you begin the famous all and half-day trips you will find many spots to interest you in and around the town itself. The foremost of these is the Government Sanatorium. This magnificent building is set well back in grounds of surpassing beauty and like no other gardens in the world they are unique for their display of thermal activity. Clustered close together near the entrance gates are numerous hot pools, bubbling, spouting and throwing off wisps of steam with ceaseless activity. Lest you venture too near, however, they are well guarded by strong iron-piping fences. Here in these grounds, when you want a rest from strenuous sight-seeing, you can spend many a happy, idle hour. The giant arms of trees will shade you on the grass; soft paths winding in and out will take you to mazes of carefully tended flowers and shrubs; or, if you are one of those holiday makers of inexhaustible energy, there are croquet and tennis lawns and bowling greens all laid down in grass and kept in perfect order. It is a point of interest that, while the town is under the control of the Borough Council, the Sanatorium and grounds are administered exclusively by the Tourist Department. From as far back as the page 51 'eighties until as recently as 1922 the whole town was controlled by that Department but, in response to agitation, the Rotorua Borough Council Act was passed and since 1923 the Council, with the single exception mentioned, has had full control. Two of the Councillors, however, are still nominated by the Government, not elected.

The Sanatorium itself is famous throughout the world for the curative work daily carried on by the harnessing and application of mineral waters drawn from the surrounding hot springs. Many people come from great distances to get rid of otherwise incurable ailments and among the latest sufferers to seek relief is the Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Sir Joseph Ward. You may take treatment either as an indoor or an outdoor patient. Accommodation for indoor patients consists of open wards and cubicles only at a fee of £3 3s. a week, which includes baths, treatments and other incidentals as well as residence. The wide range of complaints of which sufferers have, in many instances been completely cured, include nearly every kind of gout and rheumatism, sciatica, neuralgia, anaemia, skin diseases such as eczema, neurasthenia, heart - disease, muscular wasting, debility and constipation. In addition to the mineral baths specifically recommended for special complaints, there is a massage department very completely fitted up with modern electrical apparatus in the hands of registered operators who have been trained in the latest methods. But the Sanatorium is not only a Mecca for the invalid, it has also its attractions for the casual visitor. Apart altogether from those in the main building, there are several large detached baths where, for a few pence, you can indulge in a hot swimming bath at certain times each day and evening. To move lazily about in these soft clinging waters that give you the most delicious sensations of rest, warmth and comfort is to experience only one of the infinite pleasures of Rotorua. Like a beautiful woman is this place, inexhaustible in its attractions, always surprising you with some new form of wonder and delight. I have touched here only sketchily on the Sanatorium and grounds. After you have seen all the sights, you will still return to Rotorua when you can, as so many do already, just for the sake of sauntering round these beautiful gardens, playing your favourite sport, and bathing luxuriously like the Romans of old.

“Escaping—uprising—now living—now dying, Now flowing—now flying, retiring—expiring.”—Joyce Jocelyn. Papakura Geyser in action, Rotorua, New Zealand.

“Escaping—uprising—now living—now dying, Now flowing—now flying, retiring—expiring.”—Joyce Jocelyn.
Papakura Geyser in action, Rotorua, New Zealand.

Another healing institution known as King George V. Hospital is situated on a piece of rising ground called Pukeroa Hill, a little to the northwest of the Sanatorium. It was founded during the War for the treatment of wounded soldiers, but has since been acquired by the Health Department and is now also used for civilians. Special attention is given to children suffering from infantile paralysis while extensive use is also made of mineral waters pumped up from the Kuirau Reserve, a wilderness of thermal activity in ground covering several acres in extent below and on the far side.


Apart from what has already been mentioned and from the Maori villages at Whakarewarewa page 52 and Ohinemutu (which will be specially dealt with in a future article), if you are a keen fisherman, you will be able to indulge in this sport almost anywhere around the shores of the Lake or at no great distance on the water. Lake Rotorua abounds in trout which were originally imported for the benefit of tourists and caused the destruction of the various kinds of native fish which formed the main food supply of the early Maoris. You do not need to purchase equipment as everything can be hired on the spot. Licenses and rod cost
Set In Picturesque Surroundings. The Government Sanatorium at Rotorua, world-famed for its hot mineral baths.

Set In Picturesque Surroundings.
The Government Sanatorium at Rotorua, world-famed for its hot mineral baths.

each 2/6 per day while dinghies and outboard motor boats can also be hired by the hour or the day at very reasonable rates. The sport is very popular for as you pass along the shores of the lake you will see many a solitary angler patiently casting the fly; and seldom without result since the average catch has been estimated at as much as three hundred tons a year.

Rotorua in the Evening.

So much for what Rotorua offers you in the daytime—no description can give you an adequate picture of it. During the evening, until recently, the visitor has found time apt to drag, but a progressive Council is now doing all it can to remedy this drawback. A good municipal band has been organised and plays regularly in the summer months. Christmas week in particular is the merriest week in the year. Beginning on the 24th December the carnival spirit sets in and, waxing faster and more furious as the week goes on, culminates on New Year's Eve in four hours of riotous fun. Mock Courts hold omnipotent sway, spotlight waltzes thrill the young and romantic, the streets reverberate with the stirring music of the band and, finally, the fun is capped by a grand procession through all the principal streets. And mark you, this is not merely a local carnival—like everything else in Rotorua it is thoroughly cosmopolitan, globe trotters gaily rubbing shoulders with local residents. The aim of the Council is to make the evenings interesting not only at Christmas, but at all other times of the year. There are two picture shows, there is a library well stocked with popular novels and magazines which can be borrowed by the visitor for a trifling sum, and efforts are being made to persuade the Maoris to stage regularly big, open-air performances.

The Maoris already hold indoor concerts almost every night in the week. From lack of interest you may not at first be very keen to go, page 53 but like everybody else you will very quickly succumb to the charming smiles and winning salesmanship of the Maori women who every concert night visit all the accommodation houses and parade the streets securing their audiences. In this connection it must be remarked that the Maoris are endowed with a most acute business instinct. In addition to organising their concerts very efficiently, they leave no stone unturned to make them a success from the point of view of box office receipts. The hall is modest in size and there are two prices: 3s. 3d. for comfortable plush seats at the front and 2s. for chairs at the back. The audiences are an interesting study in themselves. At the very first item you are transported into another and fascinating world. For the most accomplished European singers cannot exercise the spell which the rich, resonant voices of these Maori singers and their dreamy, swaying melodies weave over every single hearer. No less enchanting is the celebrated Poi dances—a gentle, rhythmic swaying of the body backwards and forwards and from side to side, the canoe poi being particularly effective. Then, too, is the haka performed with the old-time vigour and ferocity of the cannibal Maori, while the enthusiasm with which the other items are given, the robust smiles of the maturer Maoris, and the laughing eyes of the beautiful girls all awaken in you an admiration for the Maori that will remain forever.

A Fascinating Entertainment At Rotorua. Maori maidens giving an exhibition of their famous Poi Dance.

A Fascinating Entertainment At Rotorua.
Maori maidens giving an exhibition of their famous Poi Dance.