Kia ora, travellers! Rotorua, a gem in the heart of New Zealand's North Island, is a haven for adventurers, culture enthusiasts, and spa-lovers alike. This geothermal paradise, located just a three-hour drive from Auckland, is bursting with unique attractions that can't be found anywhere else in the world. This guide will highlight some of the best things to do in Rotorua, ensuring you make the most of your visit.
Brief History of Rotorua
Nestled within a volcanic caldera, Rotorua was originally settled by Māori tribes, attracted to the area's rich geothermal resources and abundant fishing. Today, the town is renowned for its unique geothermal activity, Māori heritage, and stunning natural beauty, drawing visitors from around the globe.
Experience the mighty forces beneath our feet at Te Puia, Rotorua's premier geothermal attraction. Home to the iconic Pōhutu Geyser, bubbling mud pools, and a Kiwi conservation centre, Te Puia offers a blend of natural wonders and cultural experiences.
Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland
Wai-O-Tapu is rightly referred to as a "thermal wonderland". From the vibrant Champagne Pool to the eerie Devil's Bath, Wai-O-Tapu's geothermal landscapes offer a truly otherworldly experience. Plan your visit to coincide with the daily eruption of Lady Knox Geyser for a real spectacle!
Experience the raw power of Rotorua's geothermal activity at Hell's Gate, the most active geothermal park in the region. With the largest hot waterfall in the Southern Hemisphere and mud baths that have been used for healing for over 800 years, Hell's Gate provides an unforgettable geothermal experience.
Mountain Biking in The Redwoods
Rotorua's Whakarewarewa Forest, better known as The Redwoods, is a paradise for mountain bikers. With over 180 km of trails winding through towering Californian Redwoods and native ferns, it's no wonder Rotorua is often touted as the premier mountain biking destination in New Zealand.
Lake Rotorua Activities
Lake Rotorua, the area's expansive central lake, offers a plethora of water-based activities. From fishing and kayaking to paddleboarding, the lake's clear waters provide endless entertainment. For something a little different, why not try a ride in a giant inflatable hamster ball, or 'Zorb'?
For adrenaline-seekers, Skyline Rotorua is a must-visit. A gondola ride offers spectacular views over the town, lake, and surrounding areas. At the top, you can ride the thrilling Luge, swing through the trees on the Zoom Zipline, or test your nerve on the Skyswing.
Mitai Māori Village
Experience the heart of Māori culture at the Mitai Māori Village. Immerse yourself in traditional practices, such as hāngi (earth oven cooking) and poi dance performances. With captivating tales of the Māori’s history and a sacred glowworm-lit forest walk, Mitai provides a magical, enlightening experience.
Tamaki Māori Village
For a fully interactive cultural experience, visit the Tamaki Māori Village. Engage with traditional Māori crafts, warrior training, and food preparation, before being treated to a powerful performance of song and dance. This village showcases the proud Māori history and leaves a lasting impression.
Te Amorangi Museum
At the Te Amorangi Museum, step back in time and explore Rotorua's history. With exhibits displaying Māori artefacts, geothermal activity, and early European settlement, this museum provides valuable insight into Rotorua's vibrant past.
Relaxation and Wellness
The Polynesian Spa offers the perfect retreat to unwind. With 28 mineral pools fed by two natural springs, the spa offers a range of services from luxury spa therapies to private pools. Sit back, relax, and soak in the geothermal waters while enjoying the stunning lake views.
Hells Gate Mud Spa
The Hells Gate Mud Spa is another wellness destination, renowned for its geothermal mud and sulphur waters. These natural resources have been used by local Māori for over 800 years due to their healing and revitalising properties. A mud spa here is the ideal way to soothe body and mind.
Dining in Rotorua
For foodies, no visit to Rotorua would be complete without exploring the bustling Eat Streat. This dining hub, sheltered by a retractable roof, offers a wide range of cuisine, from Indian and Italian to Mexican and traditional Kiwi dishes.
While in Rotorua, make sure to sample local delicacies such as Māori hāngi, a meal cooked in an earth oven, and wild venison. Pair your meal with local wines and craft beers to experience the best of Rotorua’s culinary scene.
Day Trips from Rotorua
Hobbiton Movie Set
Just an hour's drive from Rotorua, the Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata is a must-visit for any Lord of the Rings and Hobbit fans. Explore the enchanting Shire, visit Bilbo Baggins' house, and even enjoy a pint at the Green Dragon Inn. This magical place feels like stepping into another world.
Waitomo Glowworm Caves
A two-hour drive brings you to the mesmerising Waitomo Glowworm Caves. This cave system, illuminated by thousands of tiny glowworms, offers an unforgettable underground boat ride. Seeing the cave ceiling lit up like a starry night is a truly magical experience.
Best Time to Visit
While Rotorua is a fantastic destination year-round, the best time to visit depends on what you want from your trip. For warm weather and outdoor activities, the summer months (December to February) are ideal. If you're interested in hitting the ski slopes near Rotorua, winter (June to August) is your best bet.
Rotorua is a compact city with an excellent public transport system. However, for more flexibility and to explore the surrounding areas, hiring a campervan from Campervan New Zealand is a fantastic option. It's the ultimate way to travel at your own pace and in comfort.
The wonders of Rotorua
From geothermal wonders and adrenaline-fueled adventures to rich cultural experiences and relaxing hot springs, Rotorua offers something for every type of traveller. Now that you know the best things to do in Rotorua, you're ready to create your unforgettable New Zealand adventure!
Safe travels, whānau!