Rotorua City Guide
Located on the south shore of Lake Rotorua in the Bay of Plenty region, New Zealand, the city of Rotorua can best be described as a geothermal wonder. Steam rises from paths and cracks, the smell of sulphur hangs in the air and boiling mud pools, geysers, volcanoes and silica terraces are all part of the earth forces that will literally move you.
Many visitors are attracted by the pink and with terraces where they can relax and rejuvenate in natural therapeutic waters.
Adventure is all around. An amazing mix of attractions, from trips on the lakes, mountain biking on the world’s best trails or walking a volcano to rafting the highest waterfall in the Southern Hemisphere, turn this award winning city into a quality family destination. The 16 lakes, shaped by former volcanic activity, are linked like a chain and surrounded by beautiful scenic tracts of bush, forest and farmland.
In Rotorua there are organized tours that will give you a traditional Maori welcome where you will then be introduced to traditional Maori song, dance and haka and be given a feed of kai moana from the men who've gone out fishing.
You'll start learning about the Maori culture before you even get to the village. Your tour guide will explain the rules that come with entering the village. Then, once you're inside, you'll be given a peace offering. From there, you'll learn how the Maori made it to New Zealand in the first place - complete with facts and urban legends.
Once you go through the "welcome dance", you will officially transform from "guest" to "Tangata Whenua" - or, one of them.
Back in the heart of town, Rotorua is home to a number of relaxing thermal pools and mud baths:
At the Polynesian Spa, the entire family is welcome. However, if you're looking for a tranquil, quiet experience, there are private pools that you can reserve. No matter which alkaline rock pool you relax in, you'll emerge with skin that's soft and supple. If you want traditional spa services, the Polynesian offers them, too.
At Wai-O-Tapu, all of the pools are sculpted out of ancient volcanic activity. In fact, the reserve is still part of an active volcano site - making it one of the most unique thermal pool areas in the world!
At the Waikite Valley Thermal Pools, all of the water comes from the Manaroa Spring - a source of pure boiling water. In the individual pools, you can come up with a temperature that feels just right.
For something that's a little more action-packed, go skydiving. If you think Rotorua's scenery is breath-taking from the ground, imagine how great it will be when you're flying through the air!
If you'd rather get up close to Rotorua's sights from the ground, head to Paradise Valley Springs Wildlife Park. As a complete wildlife sanctuary, you'll get to see various birds, fish, and even lions! In order to get the full tour, take a stroll along the elevated treetops walk.
Close to the lakefront, at the end of Tutanekai Street, you'll find "Eat Street" - an area for outdoor dining that's closed to cars. While Eat Street is home to virtually every cuisine you can think of, you can't go wrong by heading to these popular restaurants:
- Cafe Ephesus
It may be small, but this restaurant packs in a lot of flavour! Home to Mediterranean cuisine, you can get everything from fish, to pizza, to spanokapita. Plus, they also have a great wine selection.
- Triple 1 Five Cafe
With its traditional New Zealand-inspired menu, the specials here change with the season. You can even get your meat cooked on the table right in front of you!
- Mita's Place
Many say its home to New Zealand's best Indonesian food. Instead of wine, opt for the Indonesian beer.
Because of its proximity to the water, Rotorua has some great seafood. The best place to get it is at Sizzler - where the fish specialities change by the day!
If you want to be a little more casual, you can always pack your own picnic lunch and eat it out by the lake. Or, get food that's been cooked in a thermal pool. It's a unique way to treat yourself!
Once your belly is full, Rotorua has plenty of night spots where you can live it up.
At the Pig and Whistle City Bar, you'll find plenty of beer on tap, lots of local wines, and live entertainment on the weekends. Plus, the building itself has been around since the 1940's - making it one of Rotorua's landmarks.
Mezz Bar sits inside the Rydges Hotel and Resort - right above the waterfall - making it a great place to unwind.
Seismic Gastrobar combines Rotorua's Maori roots with modern drinks and foods - making it the perfect trendy place that also gives you a glimpse at the local culture.
Rotorua is the heartland of New Zealand’s Maori culture and is extremely rich in heritage. The Maoris are renowned hosts who will enchant and amaze you with their warm-heartedness, proud spirit, deep sense of history and great sense of humour. People will welcome you with a "Rotorua – feel the spirit – Manaakitang" and let you take part in wonderful cultural activities. Enjoy an evening of traditional storytelling and savour local delicacies in the form of an earth-oven cooked meal.
At the Rotorua Museum of Art and History, you can learn about everything from the area's first Te Arawa inhabitants, to the town's modern-day love of rugby.
Among all of the activities, be sure to make time to look at all of the details in The Bath House building itself. It's one of New Zealand's most famous landmarks.
Rotorua offers natural beauty that you can't find anywhere else.
Need proof? Head to the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. There, you'll find the Lady Knox Geyser - that shoots water 10 to 20 metres into the air. You'll also find a mud pool - which was once a volcano that eroded over time. The thermal area was naturally-crafted by volcanic activity over thousands of years!
There's also plenty of fun to be had at Lake Rotorua. As the North Island's second-largest lake, it's home to great fishing. If you want to go boating, kayaking, or swimming, head into one of the many streams and channels that flow in and out of the lake.
Be sure to take one of the walking tours through Waimangu Volcanic Valley. The self-guided tours can last as little as 45 minutes or as long as 4 hours - depending on how much time you want to spend there. The walkways were all carved by ancient volcanic activity!
Whether it's warm or cold, you can enjoy a view of Rotorua from the sky in a gondola. When you get to the top, you can get a great view of the area. If it's cold enough, you can even luge back down!
If you want to be close to the action - and close to the water - stay at one of the many hotels on either Tutanekai Street or Hinemaru Street. As an added benefit, the Tutanekai Street accommodations will also put you within a few blocks of Eat Street.
Apart from a waterfront view, there are plenty of other places to stay right in the centre of town. There is a large variety off of Pukuatua Street.
A few blocks north of Pukuatua Street, you'll find a few accommodations for backpackers. That way, even if more luxurious accommodations aren't in your travel budget, you can still take in the beauty of Rotorua!