Dramatic spouting geysers, warm springs, bubbling mud, healing spas – welcome to Rotorua, one of the few places on the planet where the awesome living, breathing power of the Earth below the surface is continuously exposed.
An early hotspot in the history of New Zealand tourism, visitors are often lured by the prospect of an insight into a geothermic landscape in varying stages of wakefulness. Instead, they find a town and region brimming with surprises.
This heartland of Maori culture is literally an adventure playground with a combination of volcanic wonderland and picturesque recreational lakes, forests, parks and reserves. It all adds up to a family-friendly destination with a difference.
If you’re feeling adventurous...
- Hold tight on a Kawarau Jet Boat
- Have a ball at Zorb Rotorua
- Zip downhill on Skyline’s luge
There is so much more to Rotorua than the geothermal attractions that make the headlines for first-time visitors. One of the most common mistakes is to treat the region as a one or two-day stop on a road trip around New Zealand given there is so much to see and do.
Apart from the multiple opportunities to view this showcase of the Earth’s thermal power, you can fish for trout in one of 14 beautiful lakes, walk through giant redwoods in Whakarewarewa Forest, cruise Lake Rotorua or otherwise enjoy lakeside watersports, go white water rafting at Okere Falls, go mountain-biking, hiking, luging, or simply relax in a world-class spa resort.
Make sure, too, that you take the chance to gain at least a little understanding of Maori culture with a visit to a Maori village.
Feel the volcanic vibes at...
- Te Puia geothermal valley
- The city central Kuirau Park
- Sulphur Point walkway
Eat and Drink
Don’t miss the chance to take part in a hangi – a traditional Maori feast where the food is cooked below ground in an earthen oven. You will find a hangi as part of the Maori village cultural shows. “Steam box” is a modern twist on a unique technique and another way the Maori harnessed the power of the Earth for cooking and heating. It is part of the Te Puia cultural experience.
Otherwise, there are lots of options to suit all tastes in central Rotorua, from fish and chips to fine dining, from cafes to bars and good old-fashioned pubs – you can even cruise and eat on Lake Rotorua on the Lakeland Queen paddle steamer.
Enjoy the hangi and haka at...
- Mitai Māori Village
- Ohinemutu Māori Village
- Tamaki Māori Village
Where to Stay
Lakeside lodges, central hotels … it is unlikely you will struggle to find a place to stay in Rotorua, even less so if you book in advance. There is a wide range of accommodation on offer to suit all budgets, from self-contained homes and apartments through B&Bs, hotels and motels to the most luxurious spa retreats and lodges.
The greatest concentration of hotels and motels is on mid-town Fenton Street, but wherever you are in Rotorua, you are never far from the main attractions. For something completely different for most visitors, combine cultural insight with a communal stay in a traditional Maori village.
Souvenirs are more than likely to top the shopping list of any visit to Rotorua and you will be spoiled for choice with several stores offering a range, from local, traditional handicrafts and carvings to the quirky contemporary. For more luxurious gifts, you will find quality jade jewellery and art at Mountain Jade in Fenton Street.
If more mainstream shopping, including fashion, is on your agenda, you will find a range of specialty stores in the central Rotorua Mall and in and around Fenton and Tutanekai streets. Rotorua also boasts several excellent stores catering to the great outdoors. If fishing is your thing, indulge.
Soak in the curative waters of...
- Hells Gate’s mud bath and spa
- Polynesian Spa’s mineral pools
- Wai Ora’s luxury lakeside spa
Rotorua Like a Local
You will find lots of locals at the regular weekly markets. Enjoy breakfast, including Maori and international foods, on Saturday mornings at the flea market in Kuirau Park before searching for a bargain.
On Thursdays, browse the tasty artisan produce and locally made fashion and crafts at the Rotorua Night Market. It opens at 5pm on Tutanekai Street.