There are a great variety of short (1.5 hours or less) walks within 45 minutes drive of Rotorua, starting with the Rainbow Mountain Scenic Reserve Summit Track. This heads up through attractive bush, past red and steaming rocks due to geothermal activity, before reaching the 743m high summit. On a clear day, as I was blessed with, it offers panoramic views over rolling countryside, lakes, forest, and the volcanoes of Tongariro National Park.
In comparison Mount Ngongotaha Scenic Reserve offers almost no views, other than a relatively low angle on Rotorua, but is home to some huge rata trees. I was surprised to find upon reaching the 757m high summit a road, which provides access to the telecommunications tower on top.
The shortest walk here takes about two minutes, from the car park to the atmospheric Okere Falls.
The hardest to reach walk was at Kaituna Wetlands, near the coast, as State Highway 2 has been built since Google Maps was last updated, resulting in a few dead ends… It was well worth the effort to reach though for something quite different, the largest area of original wetlands that remain in the Bay of Plenty. These offered beautiful reflections, and were home to these unusual silver ducks which I’ve not seen elsewhere.
The nearby Papamoa Hills Regional Park is a popular spot for people headed up to the 224m high summit, which offers great views over the Bay of Plenty, with the distinctive shape of Mount Maunganui in the distance.
To finish with late afternoon sun seen from Papamoa Beach, an epic 16km stretch of white sandy beach.