Riding the Rotorua Gondola
Guests can choose between three tracks which cover a combined length of more than 4,000 metres
Just like the gushing volcanic geysers that pepper the lands around Rotorua itself, why not soar into the North Island skies this year with a trip on the iconic Skyline Gondola? Rising high above the city and lakeshore homes, the attraction is an undisputed must here - offering up some of the most dramatic panoramas of the verdant Bay of Plenty and Waikato regions, before dropping guests at a fun-filled entertainment complex atop looming Mount Ngongotaha to the west of town.
To start your Gondola experience, head to Ngongotaha on the bus from the Pukuatua Street Terminus in Rotorua City Centre, where you’ll discover the cable car terminal at the base of the slopes. Here passengers are loaded into the Skyline’s trademark 8-seater cabins ready for the ride, which spans nearly a kilometre and rises just under 180 metres to the docking bays of the Skyline Rotorua complex. And that’s where the fun really begins.
Start by taking in the best views in town; wandering your way around the terraces and photo-taking spots that abound at this high-perched position. Then, head for a taste of the local cuisine at the stylish on-site Food Market Kitchen, where Kiwi dishes rub shoulders with hearty international staples, like English fish and chips and stone baked Italian pizzas. If you’re not hungry and just a coffee will suffice, then grab a brew and sit down on one of the Skyline’s famous 180-degree-view tables, surveying the very roof of Rotorua as you drink.
Adrenaline-seekers may want to skip lunch though, because the Rotorua Gondola’s mountaintop complex is all but bursting with high-energy pursuits. We’re talking about the 50-metre-high, 120-kilometre-per-hour Skyswing, with its pendulum-like cabins and bungy ropes that hurl willing riders high into the clouds of North Island. Then there’s the Zoom Ziplines that descend speedily down the slopes of Mount Ngongotaha, skimming the redwood canopies as they go.
But, surely the real pièce de résistance of this one’s adventure offering is the iconic Skyline Luge, which clutches to the steep edges of the Ngongotaha hillsides on its winding route through the forests and volcanic mounds of Rotorua. Guests can choose between three separate tracks which cover a combined length of more than 4,000 metres, from the speedy advanced track that bursts travellers past hairpin bends and low-lying tunnels, to the meandering scenic track that allows riders to stop for photos along the way.
Other adventurers will enjoy the scenic mountain biking trails that wind their way out of the complex at the top and into the rugged Bay of Plenty backcountry. These cover a total of eight-and-a-half kilometres, range from easy to advanced, and can even be used to scale the mountain back to its very base.
But’s it’s not all energy and action up here either, and if you’re searching for something a little more refined atop the Rotorua Gondola, then be sure to check out the kaleidoscopic Jelly Bean Store and Gallery, or perhaps the Volcanic Hills tasting room, which showcases the cream of Otago, Marlborough and Hawke's Bay wines.
Put simply, the Rotorua Skyline Gondola offers much more than just breath-taking panoramas of the city (though those it does do very well!). It also offers a whole days of entertainment, for both adventure-seekers looking to luge their way through these volcanic hills, and more easy-going folk contented with a spot of Otago red and a locally-sourced meal of Kiwi cuisine.
Adult ticket prices for rides on the Gondola start at $27.00, while family tickets and children’s passes come in at $68.00 and $13.50 respectively. Extra activities on the top - such as the Luge, Skyswing and Zipline, are all charged extra. The centre is open from 9.00am until late every day.