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 the town, and in Rotorua, we enjoyed the views luging down the mountain.
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!
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.
- 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.
- 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:
Luging is best explained as a cross between a 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.
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.
And here’s how it works: pull back on the bars to stop, and push forward to go. Easy as!
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.
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…
The Skyline terminal is just minutes away from central Rotorua. A 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 is 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.