Exploring Rotorua

Te Puia, Rotorua | Image: Camilla Rutherford

Exploring Rotorua

You’ll smell Rotorua before you see it – a distinctive sulphur smell identifies this as an active geothermal area. The geothermal activity manifests in strange features such as bubbling mud pools and hot mineral pools, some of which have been developed into bathing complexes. Aside from geothermal activity, Rotorua is also famous for its cultural experiences and a host of other activities.

Do & Discover

Situated on a geothermal field, Rotorua features an abundance of geysers and bubbling mud pools. In Kuirau Park, thermal features are readily accessible to any visitor, but for a more extreme experience, head to one of the geothermal parks. Here is where you’ll find the largest geysers and most spectacular mud pools. The geothermal activity also lends itself to the luxurious experience of bathing in a hot mineral pool. You can experience the area's spectacular natural assets at one of several locations including Hell’s GateTe PuiaWaimangu Volcanic Valley, Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland or Whakarewarewa – The Thermal Village. ‘Take the cure’ for yourself in modern, relaxing surroundings at Hell’s Gate Mud Trail & Mud Spa and Polynesian Spa, or bathe at the historic Blue Baths. In addition to geothermal activity, Rotorua is famous for making Māori culture accessible to all visitors. A popular option is to combine a kapa haka (performing arts) performance with a hāngi, a traditional method of cooking where food is buried underground to cook in its own steam. Several complexes feature art and crafts demonstrations and workshops, or fascinating replica villages that bring history to life. Experience unique cultural attractions at the Buried Village of Te WairoaMitai Māori Village, and Tamaki Māori Village and learn more at Rotorua Museum.

Looking for something more adventurous? Rotorua offers plenty of ways to get a thrill. Jet boating with Katoa Lake Rotorua, rafting and kayaking with the team at River Rats and sledging (rushing down river on a boogie board) are popular options – the Kaituna River offers Grade 5 rapids, including a 7-metre drop at the Okere Falls – and in addition Whakarewarewa Forest is criss-crossed with mountain biking trails. Experience bungy, swoop, freefall extreme and the unique 'shweeb' at Velocity Valley. Back in town, ride the gondola and then race back down on the luge, or try Globe Riding (rolling downhill in an oversized plastic ball!) with OGO Zorb Rotorua. Explore Rotorua's geothermal wonderland with Mokoia Island Wai Ora ExperiencesMDA Experiences, Rotorua Duck Tours or from the Skyline gondola. There's also the chance to get your Hobbit on at Hobbiton Movie Set, experience the New Zealand farm lifestyle at Agrodome, or take a lake cruise on the Lakeland Queen. Take to the trails with Planet Bike and Off Road NZ or encounter New Zealand wildlife at Paradise Valley Springs or Rainbow Springs.

Food & Drink

As an area of heavy tourist activity, Rotorua has established a vibrant dining scene, as well as several enjoyable options for an evening out. Taking a Māori Food Trail with Charles Royal Māori Food Trails allows you to enjoy both an authentic cultural experience and delicious food. For coffee and a bite, try Capers Epicurean, the relaxed vibe of Fat Dog Café or al fresco dining at Lime Caffeteria. When it's time to head out for dinner, Cableway RestaurantWild Rice Thai Cuisine and The Blue Baths Cabaret Dinner Show are all good, mid-priced options, with the latter offering a glittering dinner show filled with fine food and fabulous entertainment. At the higher end, Urbano Bistro has won many admirers. When heading out after dinner, try fine craft beers at BREW– and no night out is complete without calling into historic local landmark The Pig & Whistle.


Whether you’re seeking top-end accommodation at a relaxing spa resort or exclusive lodge, or the social environment of a busy backpackers, Rotorua offers visitors a wide array of excellent accommodation options. For backpackers try Base Rotorua or Funky Green VoyagerBlue Lake Top 10 Holiday Park and Rotorua Top 10 Holiday Park also provide good-value options. There are plenty of quality self-contained and serviced options, including Ambassador Thermal MotelCapri Court Motor InnEast West ApartmentsEmerald Spa Motor InnRegal Palms and Tuscany Villas. Hosted options include the boutique Hamurana LodgeKoura Lodge and Peppers on the Point. For upmarket accommodation, investigate hotel accommodation with Novotel Rotorua LakesideRydges Rotorua or Wai Ora Lakeside Spa Resort at Holdens Bay. For ultra-exclusive accommodation, opt for Lake Okareka Lodge or the Treetops Lodge and Estate.

Local Knowledge

Rotorua Regional Airport operates domestic flights from several New Zealand towns. The airport is 10 minutes’ drive from town. Rotorua is situated on the Thermal Explorer Highway. Centrally located, Rotorua is easily accessible from Auckland, the Bay of Plenty, Waikato and Taupo. It is 3 hours’ drive from Auckland, 1 hour, 30 minutes from Hamilton and 1 hour, 15 minutes from Tauranga. Find out more at the Rotorua i–SITE or Tourism Rotorua, both at 1167 Fenton Street.

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