Our newest team member from Portland, Oregon USA, Julie Lewis, is enamoured with this place we call “Home”
Before moving to New Zealand, all I knew about Rotorua was that it possessed a Public Library, some decent pies and the vague aroma of eggs. My first visit to Rotorua happened in 2012, lasted roughly two hours and was conducted in a purely tourist capacity – Intercity Bus layover, en route to Taupo (sorry). Fast forward two years and I’ve found a Kiwi of my own who’s keen to move back to his hometown; Rotorua. At the time, we were living in arguably one of the finest cities in the US. Portland, Oregon: The city dujour of America, filled with techies, hipsters, quirky restaurants, a vast and varied night life, innovation, and lots and lots of people. While I certainly had some reservations about taking a -540,566 population hit, ultimately the proposition of moving to New Zealand for love was not a hard sell.
People love to tease Rotorua for its small-town-ness. I’ve lost count of how many times a local has tentatively asked me, “So… how do you like Rotorua?” – a slight, apologetic grimace on their face. Sure, our population is fairly small, Lava Bar is the best place to go clubbin’, and the downtown businesses would get a lot of my personal business if they would stay open after 5:30pm, but to focus on these issues is to ignore all that Rotorua actually has to offer.
Seeing Rotorua with fresh eyes
It’s easy to become desensitized to things you see every day. One of my favourite pieces advice for appreciating the place you live is to view it as if you were a tourist, discovering your city for the first time. While I can hardly claim ‘Tourist’ after living here for a year (the lack of selfie-stick is also a tell), I can offer up my fresh-eyed view of Rotorua and hopefully do a bit to convince you, too, that this place we live in is a wee slice of heaven.
Taking in the view
Let’s start big picture – Rotorua is physically gorgeous. In 15 minutes from any point in Vegas, you can be tramping in a forest, floating on a lake, or bombing down a mountain bike track. The fact that Rotorua is host to such internationally renowned events as 2W Gravity Enduro, Tarawera Ultramarathon and Crankworx ought to be enough convincing that we’ve got this outdoor activities thing covered.
Living the local lifestyle
If we want to play tourist, let’s talk local deals. Did you know that, as a resident, you can get into the Rotorua Museum for free? Pay once at the Buried Village, and you can get a Heritage Card that gives you entry for a year. Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland will waive its $32.50 entry fee for the good people of Rotorua. Skyline, Polynesian Spa and Rainbow Springs also offer deals to locals. Take an afternoon, pack up the kiddies, and go check out what all these tourists shell out their hard-earned dollars for (for less!).
Imbibing like king
One thing Portland is known for – and I thought I’d miss in Rotorua – is its gastrological delights. The inventive cocktails (seriously, ‘Mixologist’ is an actual job title), craft beers and locally sourced artisan kale are standard on the Portland dining scene. Turns out, Rotorua does not leave my stomach homesick. Huge shout outs to the Lemongrass Chili Mojito at Atticus Finch, Sabroso’s cheesy chimichanga and BREW’s locally brewed Croucher ANZUS IPA.
Even better, there are exciting things happening here in Rotorua from a development perspective. Small though we may be, I see a real community of invention afoot – from the night market to Canopy Tours, food-trucks and micro-brews, OGO and Eat Street. People are coming together, thriving on creativity and new ideas. Being a part of Dubzz, I get to see the best of what you all have to offer and combine your efforts with my own little slice of innovation pie. I get to help you spread the word on what we the people of Rotorua have to offer. What an exciting place to be.