The Ultimate Rotorua Travel Guide

Rotorua
Rotorua

Catch a puff of Rotorua’s sulfur-rich air, and you’ve already had an intro to New Zealand’s most powerful geothermal area. The Māori adored this place, naming one of the most thrilling springs Wai-O-Tapu (Sacred Waters). Today 34% of the Rotura population is Māori, with traditional hāngi (steam-cooked banquets) and cultural performances as big an attraction as the landscape itself.

Top Attractions in Rotorua

Rotorua is a treasure in the North Island, a center of Maori Culture with geothermal wonders, lakes, parks, natural history, and many modern-day attractions. Most visitors comment on the distinct smell when they arrive. It is rotten egg gas (Hydrogen Sulphide), and while different at first, if you stay for a few hours, you will adapt and hardly notice it.

Waimangu Volcanic Valley

Waimangu Volcanic Valley is an excellent strolling opportunity along a canyon with numerous lakes, hot pools, and near the end of the track, the wonderful Warbrick thermal terrace – a silica terrace ( multi-colored ), presumably the most colorful terrace in Rotorua. It is worth a holiday if you have already seen some thermal parks and want more, or like a more comprehensive tour, you can link with a boat tour. The white and pink terraces once existed in the area before the 1886 CE eruption.

Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland

My personal favorite, Wiotapu Thermal Wonderland, is located about 20 minutes South of Rotorua towards Taupo. Be prepared to hike a bit. A giant champagne pool, numerous rainbow pools, sulfur vents, artist palette, boiling mud, and a fantastic silica terrace awaits you at this wonderland.

Whakarewarewa

Wander the roads of this living village, where the native Ngāti/Tūhourangi Wāhiao people have lived for centuries, with its stores, homes, cafes, and beautiful lookouts over the Pōhutu geyser in neighboring Te Puia. Native villagers lead the amazing tours (departing hourly from 9 – 10 am to 4- 4:30 pm) and tell tales of their way of life amid the steamy bubbling pools, geysers, and silica terraces.

Orakei Korako Geyserland

Orakei Korako Geyserland is located adjacent to Lake Taupo than Rotorua on a side road connecting route 5 to the main route 1. It would help if you caught the ferry across the lake to start exploring the park. Like most parks, good tracks require you to walk to see mud pools, a large cave, the emerald terrace, and the country’s most extensive silica feature. 

Maori Culture

Rotorua has lots of Maori-based attractions. These include Tamaki Maori Village. The New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute, the Buried Village, and numerous Hunger and Cultural Performances await you in Rotorua.

The Buried village is indeed what it sounds like, a mystical half-buried village. During the 1886 CE eruption, several local Maori perished buried in mud. Some of the villages have since been dug out and rebuilt to give visitors an idea of a Maori village and lifestyle.

Wingspan

The Wingspan National Bird of Prey Centre is exclusively dedicated to conserving threatened New Zealand raptors, especially the karearea (New Zealand falcon). Learn about the beautiful birds in the museum exhibit, then take a sneaky peek into the clean incubation area before walking through the all-weather aviary. Make sure you’re here by 1 pm for the 2 pm flying display. It is unmissable.

Things to do in Rotorua:

Rotorua is filled with adventurous day activities like hiking, cycling, heli-touring, rock-climbing, and whitewater rafting. 

  • Cycling: Rotorua is a cyclists paradise, boasting some of the best off-road mountain bike tracks in the world. Yes, in the world! The town has no less than seven fantastic cycle stores, with six in the CBD and the Outdoorsman Headquarters on sloppy Tarawera Road. Also, several shops provide cycle hire. You can explore almost all geothermal and cultural sights on your cycle.
  • Hiking: You can hike through one of the many fantastic parks in and around Rotorua. Tarawera Trail, a 15km hike, is loved by both international and domestic tourists.

What to eat in Rotorua?

Rotorua is one of the most popular places to try the traditional Maori feast, the Hangi. This “earthen oven” method is similar to the Indian and Hawaiian Imu and results in a very distinctive smoky, earthy flavor – well worth trying. There are many places to try a Hangi around Rotorua.

Rotorua has gradually acquired some nice cafes in the last decade – good options include Relish, Capers, Ciccio Italian cafe, or the Fat Dog.

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