Livin’ it up in Rotorua: Skyline gondola and luge

Rotorua has plenty of things to do, and to be honest, taking the Skyline Gondola wasn’t on my original list for my 2 days in the North Island tourist town. I am, however, glad I took the gondola as I enjoyed the views as well as do some luging on what became a great, fun-filled afternoon.

Skyline operates two gondolas, one on Bob’s Peak in Queenstown (convenient for your afternoon bungy with AJ Hackett), and one on Mount Ngongotaha in Rotorua. I’ve taken both of them, and loved both experiences. And of course, both trips were linked to some adventure action – Queenstown’s gondola took me to the bungy 400m above town, and in Rotorua, we enjoyed the views luging down the mountain.

View from the top of the Skyline gondola in Rotorua

View from the top of the Skyline gondola in Rotorua

Rotorua Skyline gondola

Skyline Rotorua is essentially a cable car and takes you up to the top of Mt Ngongotaha. The trip is in cabins that fit 4 people. For the vertigo sufferers amongst you, it’s not actually a scary ride. And once at the top, the views are stunning!

The Skyline Gondola, Rotorua, North Island

The Skyline Gondola, Rotorua, North Island

Things to do on top of Mt Ngongotaha

  • Walks and scenic views: the obvious things to enjoy. I wish I had had time for that cherry blossom walk! But great views onto the lakes and geothermal areas are to be had from just outside the Skyline terminal, the restaurant and of course the luge track going down.
The Jelly Bean shop - a random thing to find at the top end of the Skyline Gondola!

The Jelly Bean shop – a random thing to find next to the top of the Skyline Gondola!

  • Randomness struck with the Jelly Belly concept store and art gallery. Yes, on top of a mountain. Very odd, but my curiosity got the better of me and I entered the store wondering what the heck I’d find in a “concept” store for candy. Naturally, millions of jelly beans, but to my delight, a very Jelly Belly Harry Potter greeted us from the wall across the room.
Because we can. Picture of Harry Potter made with jelly beans

Because we can.

  • Volcanic Hills winery and tasting room: Volcanic Hills was founded in 2009, and their tasting room at Skyline Gondola is brand new. You can try wines produced from grapes harvested around the Marlborough, Central Otago and Hawke’s Bay regions.

And last but not least:

Rotorua Luge

Excited about going luging in Rotorua!

Meagaan excited about going luging!

Luging is best explained as a cross between go-cart and a toboggan. The small carts fit a maximum of two people and are easy to steer down the paved tracks. Note that this luge is not a track that your cart is “attached” to, but rather like a small road that you can veer off of if you’re not careful.

Luge at Rotorua Skyline gondola

Luge at Rotorua Skyline gondola

Rotorua Luge offers three tracks that all wind down through Redwood forest and have a combined length of over 4km. The tracks are aptly named: Scenic, Intermediate and Advanced. The scenic route covers 2km and features viewing bays, ideal for those wanting to stop and take pictures along the way. The intermediate track is 1.7km in length and features chicanes, a tunnel and equally great views. The third track, the advanced route, is shorter at 1km, and a bit more challenging with its tight bends, dips and a tunnel.

Meagaan putting on her game face!

Meagaan putting on her game face!

And here’s how it works: pull back on the bars to stop, and push forward to go. Easy as!

Chair lifts carry lugers up the hill

Chair lifts carry lugers up the hill

No matter which one you take, there’s a chairlift at the bottom that takes you and the luge back up to the top of the luge.

Off we go - luging down the hill on the scenic track.

Off we go – luging down the hill on the scenic track.

Meagaan and I opted for the Scenic track, despite our thirst for thrills and adventure, and thoroughly enjoyed it! You can actually gain a bit of speed on that one too, if you don’t have people in front of you and only once in a while use your breaks.

The randomness continued on the track, with various dinosaur sculptures along the way…

Sculptures along the way of the scenic track: say hi to some dinosaurs when luging down the mountain!

Sculptures along the way of the scenic track: say hi to some dinosaurs when luging down the mountain!

The practicalities

The Skyline terminal is just minutes away from central Rotorua. An gondola ticket sets you back 25 NZD. Surely not a budget price, but well worth it – you could spend a whole afternoon up there.

The luge comes at an extra cost of 10 NZD for one ride, but there are discounts available if you purchase more than one ride.

The latest prices and offers can be viewed here. There are also a variety of gondola/luge combos available.

Other things to do in Rotorua

For those adventure-hungry, Rotorua is also a great place to go rafting and sledging, for example with Kaitiaki Adventures, as well as an opportunity to try the kiwi invention of zorbing, i.e. rolling down a hill in a gigantic plastic sphere.

If you prefer a more laid-back activity, how about the Polynesian Spa? The multitude of geothermal hot pools overlooking Lake Rotorua are worth a visit.


What would you like to do most in Rotorua?


Disclaimer: Meagaan and I were guests of Skyline Rotorua. As always, opinions are my own.

Christina Hegele

About the author: Christina Hegele runs Sandal Road, a blog on her favourite destinations. It just so happened that 95% turned out to be about New Zealand. Follow Christina and her blog on Twitter, like her blog on Facebook, and subscribe to her Youtube channel. Alternatively, subscribe to her email newsletter at the top right of this blog.

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  6 comments for “Livin’ it up in Rotorua: Skyline gondola and luge

  1. 28 July, 2013 at 00:24

    This looks like great fun actually! I wish I’d given it a go now!

    • Christina
      29 July, 2013 at 20:03

      It was heaps of fun! I didn’t think it would be… after zorbing, bungy, rafting and all the other crazy things, I inititally thought of it as rather tame (and hence less desirable), however I found myself really enjoying it. For once one need not be scared “Britless” as you would say before embarking on an activity πŸ˜‰

  2. 7 August, 2013 at 19:44

    Christina, I came across your blog on another post. I’m already fascinated and I will be reading more of your posts as time allows. New Zealand is high on my bucket list!I soooo want to ride/drive down that Roturua Luge, how much fun! What a fantastic writer you are and I just subscribed to your blog πŸ™‚

    • Christina
      10 August, 2013 at 19:57

      Mike, thank you for stopping by. I appreciate your comment, I’m glad you like the articles!
      New Zealand, as you might have noticed, is one of my favourite places ever. I hope I can provide some inspiration for your trip. Let me know if you have any burning questions!

  3. 15 August, 2013 at 00:38

    Rotorua was such an interesting place – we really enjoyed it!

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