Rotorua Destination Guide
Don’t be alarmed by the smell – the mildly pungent aroma of sulphur that greets your arrival in Rotorua is probably just the reason you’ve decided to visit in the first place. Home to a lively rim of geothermal activity, Rotorua’s famous hot springs, mud baths and violent geysers may not have the best scents, but they do happen to be some of New Zealand’s star attractions.
Located about a three-hour drive south of Auckland, Rotorua is well experienced in keeping its guests entertained outdoors, whether it’s on one of 18 sparkling lakes, through the ancient volcanic valleys, down luging tracks, up mountain-biking trails or deep in a therapeutic mud pool.
If you’re feeling adventurous...
- Hold tight on a Kawarau Jet Boat
- Have a ball at Zorb Rotorua
- Zip downhill on Skyline’s luge
Though there are lots of places in Rotorua to smother yourself in hot mud, but Hell’s Gate owns the title of “Rotorua’s most active geothermal attraction”. Equally as impressive is the beautiful Waimangu Volcanic Valley, home to the largest hot water spring in the world, and Wai-O-Tapu, where the Lady Knox Geyser erupts every day.
The Rotorua Museum is the place to go to learn about local history and marvel at many treasures from the early Maori. Adrenalin junkies will love the extreme spots on offer, with Rotorua being home to the Skyline Luge, the Zorb, the Schweeb and many other quirky Kiwi inventions.
Feel the volcanic vibes at...
- Te Puia geothermal valley
- The city central Kuirau Park
- Sulphur Point walkway
Rotorua’s busy tourism industry means that the city has developed a surprisingly multicultural restaurant scene. Fenton Street and Tutanakei Street are where you’ll find many restaurants in Rotorua, where dining options include Mexican, Japanese, Thai, Korean and Italian.
Mitai Maori Village is one of the most popular places to try the traditional Maori feast, known as a Hangi. The cooking technique involves burying food in an earth oven, which results in a distinctively smoky flavour well worth trying.
To sample one of New Zealand’s unofficial national dishes, Oppie’s Fish and Chips and The Fish and Chip Shop is where supremacy for Rotorua’s best takeaway restaurant is being fiercely contested.
Enjoy the hangi and haka at...
- Mitai Māori Village
- Ohinemutu Māori Village
- Tamaki Māori Village
Where to Stay
Resembling a very small scale Las Vegas strip, Fenton Street is where most lodging options are located. The street literally lined side-by-side with hotels and motels. Sport of Kings Motel, Silver Fern and RotoVegas Motel all come highly recommended.
Many places offer similar rooms so, if you’re not too fussy about where you want to stay, your best bet is just to shop around for the best price. Though not as abundant, luxury accommodation can be found in Rotorua and Solitaire Lodge offers 10 relaxing lake-side suites, while Treetops Lodge and Wilderness Estate is a luxury resort located in lush countryside a short drive from town.
Just try leaving Rotorua without stocking up on some souvenirs. Traditional woodcrafts, puka stone jewellery, volcanic body products and the 'Tiki' symbol of good luck are all popular purchases and can be found in abundance at Rotorua’s two main shopping streets, Tutanekai and Hinemoa.
Of course, you get what you pay for. Higher quality jade jewellery items can be found for a price at Mountain Jade on Fenton Street, while Simply New Zealand has a range of New Zealand-made wool knitwear that will last you almost as long as your holiday memories.
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
First settled 500 years ago, you’ll meet Maori people everywhere you go in Rotorua. Maoris make up one-third of the region’s population of 70,000 and to get a deeper look into their culture and lifestyle, you can book a tour of Whakarewarewa. Set amongst the hot springs and steam vents, Whakarewarewa is where you can see century old traditions like eating Hangi and performing the Haka still very much alive today.
Kinaki Wild Food Tours is another great Maori experience and involves classically trained chef, Charles Royal, taking visitors into the Rotorua countryside in search of traditional ingredients like edible ferns.