A walkway begins at the Lakefront; if you stand looking at the lake head to the right and follow the shoreline. There is a clearly marked track to follow with information panels at various points.
Note: Feb 2023 - We have had extreme weather resulting in the boardwalk and lakeside path mentioned below, being damaged and sections washed out. I will advise once they are repaired. You can still get to the walk via Queens Drive into Government Gardens to link up with the walk. Walk along Queens Drive, past the museum, and the Events Centre behind that, continue on through the split in the road to the left, and on the next curve in the road you can step off onto the walk. You'll see where.
Sulphur Point, Rotorua to Sulphur Bay
In the past Sulphur Point used to be a 'lovers lane' type of hangout, I don't know if it still is or not. Have I used it for that purpose myself? My lips are sealed.
There is a tiny little island by the boat ramp by the name of Motutara Island. This is a wildlife refuge and when the season is right it's covered in all sorts of baby birds. There are different types of Shag, Robin, Weka and Saddlebacks, with some of them being endangered.
This is also a popular area for fishing boats to enter/exit the water hence the pier and there is a big concrete pad available as well.
Motutara Island, Wildlife Sanctuary
Sulphur Point, Rotorua
Continue on following the shore line to Sulphur Bay. The water gets noticeably whiter here. It's in this area that about 28,000 tons of water is poured into the bay every day from the geothermal field. That's huge isn't it. A great view of this can be had from the viewing platform at the Rotorua Museum (not accessible now).
I read recently, can't remember where, that the webbed feet of some of the birds are all raggedy or gone completely because of all the thermal elements in the water. They're not silly either. The birds apparently drive smelt from the lake into the white part of Sulphur Bay where they get asphyxiated. How's that for dinner being served up on a plate?
Sulphur Bay from the viewing platform at the museum - looking towards Sulphur Flats where the steam is in the middle of the pic
Keeping to the track look for a turn to the left into the thermal area where you will find Cameron's Laughing Gas Pool and the Coffee Pot thermal mud pool. It is said that this was the first area used for commercial bathing purposes. People were actually tied with ropes and lowered into the muddy waters to soak. I wonder if that was to stop them from disappearing into the murky depths.
Continuing on for another 10 or so minutes the track exits out onto the road. It continues left past the Polynesian Pools and the rear of a couple of hotels before heading back into the brush again. Now you're getting into the real Sulphur Flats.
You may like to download our local council brochure for this portion of the track. It provides information on the different points of interest along the route as well as a map.
Natural Heritage Trail.Pdf
The track is right beside the main road here and you can even see Pak n
Save from it. Walking across the boardwalk you may be lucky enough - or
not - to see and hear hundreds of seagulls. This must be where they nest
and boy, do they make a racket. You have to watch out here as I've had
them hassling me sometimes, the little buggers.
Birds foraging amidst the billowing thermal steam
Part of this area used to be Rotorua's dump (sacrilege huh?) so don't be
surprised to see the odd bits of car tyres or glass etc. coming through
the surface of the ground.
When you get to a sign saying straight ahead to Sala St and there's a turn to the left, take the left turn. You will do a loop to get back to this point.
The left turn will take you through the middle of the Sulphur Flats towards the Puarenga River. This is where it gets really alien-looking so is well worth a look.
Steam comes out all over the place and there are holes with plops and gurgles going on all the time. You have to remain alert around here and stick to the track (you have to look hard to see it sometimes) because on some parts you're actually on the flats themselves.
The banks slope away on both sides of this part of the Sulphur Flats walkway
I talked one of my brothers into taking a walk around this portion one day after lots of rain. We ended up wading through rain water up over our ankles and because he had nice new shoes on he was not impressed. Talk about moan, and I'll leave the language to your imagination. Yep, there's nothing like a bit of quality family bonding time is there?
Keep walking in a loop until you get to the right hand turn to head back to the Polynesian Pools. Once there, stay on the road and make your way past the font of the Museum - can't miss the big Elizabethan building, through the Government Gardens, through the roundabout and follow the road back to the Lakefront. Voila, done. I hope these directions aren't too confusing. All up it should take around an hour.
Sun rising overlooking Puarenga Stream on the Sulphur Flats part of the walkway
The Natural Heritage Trail Pdf download features ten walks around the city area, including this one that takes in the Sulphur Flats. This portion of the track is No.4 on the brochure map. Take the loop back using the yellow dotted bike track route.
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