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The pilot closed the helicopter door which, in my frightened mind, had the same structural integrity as a potato chip. I gripped my seat as the tiny glass helicopter calmly whirled into the air, 1,200 feet above Rotorua. When I felt brave enough to open my eyes, the views were staggering. I was on my way to New Zealand’s White Island.
White Island is an occasionally active volcano, looming a mile or two off the coast of New Zealand’s North Island, where adventurous travelers can hike around the hissing, spitting and sputtering mud pools, yellow sulphur vents and other-worldly terrain. Clients interested visiting White Island via helicopter can book a trip with Volcanic Air Safaris in Rotorua.
The island makes a beautiful excursion for clients staying in Rotorua, a town of 56,000 people that is surrounded by incredible lakes, forests, waterfalls and geothermal activity — all of it visible from the air.
In Rotorua, my favorite view was the one that welcomed me at the Treetops Lodge & Estate. About 20 minutes outside of Rotorua’s city center, the Treetops is an extraordinary destination. This boutique lodge rests on 2,500 acres of native forest and farmland, which grows some of the Treetops’ organic produce and is also home to elk, deer and buffalo. The property features eight villas and four lodge rooms that are both luxurious and comfortable. The hotel’s enormous sitting room with a vaulted ceiling, cozy sofas, a woodsy motif and a roaring fire is a great place to relax with a book (or a drink). An open kitchen creates a relaxed environment and invites guests to see how the Treetops’ Michelin-star chefs prepare incredible multi-course meals.
Around the main building, there is also a 25-person meeting space, a full-service spa, a library and a game room. Beyond the lodge, guests can enjoy a wide variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding on 44 miles of trails on the Treetops’ estate. Fly fishing, archery and game hunting are also available.
In the lodge rooms and villas, no detail is overlooked. Exclusive products and amenities guaranteed to pamper guests fill the space, from fresh-baked cookies and chocolates to signature lip balm and lotions. There is also plenty of room to spread out, light a fire or just relax. The Treetops offers agent commission starting at 10 percent.
Culture and History in Rotorua
Travelers looking to explore Maori culture can visit Te Puia Arts and Crafts Institute. The center maintains Maori customs and mineral hot springs, with tours featuring geysers, expert Maori woodcarving and cultural performances, kiwi birds (in a protected habitat) and tasty, earth-oven lunches for visitors.
In the center of town, the Polynesian Spa features a variety of mineral pools and spa therapies. The spa is open every day of the year, including holidays, from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. It is only a few blocks away from the oldest building in the area, the Princes Gate Hotel.
Built in 1897 and fully restored, the five-star, Qualmark-rated property features Victorian architecture and interior design with updated amenities, such as flat-screen televisions and Wi-Fi access. The Princess Gate also has two restaurants and, for the last 30 years, a family-owned sensibility. Rates start at $165.
The Treetops Lodge & Estatewww.treetops.co.nz
Volcanic Air Safariswww.volcanicair.co.nz
The Polynesian Spawww.polynesianspa.co.nz
Te Puia Arts and Crafts Institutewww.tepuia.com