Rotorua, New Zealand

Rotorua is New Zealand’s Best Travel Destination! But is it worth visiting?

Rotorua AccommodationIt is New Zealand’s most popular tourist city… for good reason.
Overflowing with Hot Steamy Attractions and interesting activities man-made and natural.

A constant contender and regular winner of New Zealand’s Best City Awards…

However well travelled you happen to be – You will find Rotorua worth visiting – possibly a high point of your trip.

One very popular attraction or activity in Rotorua is to soak in the many wonderful and varied thermal hot pools. Good for your body and soul.

You will find geothermal hot pools throughout the Rotorua area including in the secluded backyard of our oldest hostel – Spa Lodge.

As well, there are select Rotorua hotels or motels that offer private spa’s included in the room rate – not all use mineral water straight from the ground, some use the thermal water to heat normal tap water with a heat exchanger. They normally won’t tell you that, but either way, you can still enjoy a relaxing and therapeutic soak without leaving your motel!

Rotorua has many natural spas to choose from.

Some are simply warm streams flowing through rural bush areas you can visit for free like Kerosene Creek.

My favourite hot pool without a doubt is Waikete Hot Pools.

This family orientated swimming pool has a couple of things going for it – it’s great for kids, it’s cost effective (cheap) as well it is excellent for those of you who struggle with the sulphur smell of Rotorua – as Waikete Hot Pool mineral water has No Smell At All!

You won’t feel the need to shower several times in the vain hope of removing that odd “rotten egg”smell attached to your skin as you would after swimming in most of the more popular hot pools around Rotorua – did I mention the price is better as well?

The pools are drained and cleaned every night so there is no need for chlorine or any other nasties – that’s why We like to take our 4 year old there.

The water is just pure H20 Spring Water with a few minerals – you could probably drink it.

Waikete Hot Pool is a short drive (25 minutes) south of Rotorua (off SH5) it comes to you complete with a Cafe/Takeaways as well as Tent and Campervan Camping  Highly Recommended – Open 10am to 9pm check it out here –  Waikete Valley hot pools

Rotorua can also provide high-end spa retreats offering therapeutic pools and beauty treatments  if that is what you require these often include massage or mud baths for those who are so inclined.

Rotorua Paid Attractions

Video – Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Resort

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Rotorua is a tourist town… with all the usual tourist traps and delights you would expect to see in a popular tourist destination.

Keep that in mind when you plan your Rotorua visit, But don’t be put off by this even the touristy places offer great deals especially if you are traveling with your kids and want to save a few dollars.

The Geothermal Attractions in Kuirau Park are free – including footpools, or walking or swimming any of the amazing lakes (also free) will make you say WOW! You can visit these attractions without it costing a penny! – That’s a Great Deal!

Rotorua is not boring – I guarantee that!

It has been an amazing place to live, it is even more interesting for a short visit – (it’s been my hometown for the past 30+ years and I’m easily bored.)

I suggest you stay at least 2-3 nights in Rotorua, longer if you have the time, you will wish you had stayed longer once you discover even the “touristy attractions” are worth seeing at least once.

  • Te Puia: a range of thermal activity, home to well known Rotorua Mud Pools and the famous-Pohutu Geyser
  • Rotorua Museum: Local art and history plus a section on the Mount Tarawera eruption…visit the Museum theatre but hold on to your seat! (currently closed due to earthquake damage but the Gardens are still nice)
  • Polynesian Spa: A great selection of hot pools, voted one of the world’s Top Ten  Natural Spa’s
  • Agrodome: A farm show and farm tour that’s been around for a very long time but people still – Flock To It!
  • Rafting The Kaituna River: a short but stunning raft trip through a narrow tree clad gorge includes a thrilling drop over a 7-meter waterfall

But to experience the Best Rotorua Attractions  you need the inside knowledge of our travel guide.

Some form of transport will help as well as some of the best free places to visit are a little out of town, even a hire bicycle would do for some of the closer attractions.

Rotorua Free Attractions

Many of the best things to do in Rotorua are Free or at least quite Cheap… including all the lakes and walking tracks or mountain biking.

One of the Rotorua’s best-kept secrets is Lake Okataina, a 30-minute drive from Lake Rotorua off the Whakatane Highway (Highway 30) the last section of the drive to Lake Okataina follows a magical narrow winding road through native bush.

This is a lovely area, clean water, great fishing, one of the few lakes in the North island that is completely surrounded by native bush, there are no buildings around the entire lake – just one hotel at the end of the road.

The well maintained walking track along the Eastern edge of lake Okataina  takes you through to Lake Tarawera’s Humphries Bay – return the same way, for a comfortable day walk.

Or if you have your camping gear, turn left at Humphries Bay and walk a few more hours to Tarawera Falls. Camping is allowed at Humphries Bay and Hot Water Beach on Lake Tarawera or close to Tarawera Falls.

If you don’t want to walk the complete track there is a water taxi that services all 3 camping areas’ on Lake Tarawera.

Rotorua Points Of Interest

  • trout fishing, (you do need a fishing license )
  • kayaking
  • short hikes around various  lakes in the Rotorua Region…Lake Okareka, Blue Lake, the landing at Lake Tarawera a (great cafe here as well) Sulphur Point Lake Rotorua, Hongi’s Track at Lake Rotoiti, Kaituna river walk at Okere Falls (great cafe here too)
  • just enjoy the solitude and swim in the crystal clear waters of Lake Okataina.
  • Tarawera Falls, walk beside the Tarawera river as it disappears underground only to reappear through a hole in a sheer Cliff face… Tarawera Falls, There is a basic campsite you can drive to so you could take your tent or campervan and camp a few days
  • As well as camping at Tarawera Falls camping is also allowed at Humphries Bay and Hot Water Beach, all of these camping spots are on the shore of Lake Tarawera-a water taxi will take you to all three leaving from the Tarawera Landing
  • Kuirau Park, Rotorua’s only free to visit mud pools this surprisingly active geothermal park is a short walk from the city centre, well worth a visit, while you are there take the time to pamper yourself, rejuvenate your tired feet in purpose-built naturally heated foot baths – what better way to enjoy the priceless (FREE) geothermal activity of Kurau Park.
  • Visit the Redwood Forest – 30 min to 1 hour walk through ancient Redwoods and mature Pine Forest, great for kids to run off their excess energy, the entrance to the Redwoods is off Tarawera Rd, so you can include this in your visit to Blue or Green Lakes, both of these lakes have a lovely longer walk around their shores (about 1 hour).
  • Rotorua Gondola and Luge

Mountain Biking

As well as boiling mud and that magical whif of sulphur. (Yes, You Do Get Used To It)

Rotorua is now famous for its many mountain biking trails, most of the best trails are quite close to town in the Whakawerawera forest, where an ever-growing selection of  well-designed tracks snake through new and mature pine forest. take your lunch and spend the day.

You will find a track to suit all grades and ages for every style of riding.

You can hire mountain bikes at most bike stores in Rotorua or at the entrance to the Whakawerawera Forest Tracks.

If you want to experience truly unique biking trails you should take the drive to the recently built track in Whirinaki Forest Park, about 1 hours drive from Rotorua.

Whirinaki Mountain Bike Tracks take you through stunning ancient rain forests, you can ride areas only recently opened to mountain biking, Whirinaki Forest Park has a long history as a popular spot for walking, it is home to some of the best Rain Forest Hiking in New Zealand, also pristine Wild Trout Fishing in the rivers and Deer Hunting in the surronding bush, feel free to try any of these activities…

There are a couple of hostels quite close to the Whirinaki Tracks they offer a Car-Security drop-off and pick-up service to all the track entrances – this service is offered for a fee using your own vehicle they drop you off then park it at there base and pick you up at a prearranged time.

The Road-Ends and track entrance is not safe for overnight parking!

Things To Do In Rotorua

  • jet boating : Lake Rotorua, Waikato River
  • kayaking, all the 12 lakes are suitable for kayaking
  • rafting : Kaituna River, Rangitaiki River, Wairoa River
  • sailing, Lake Rotoiti a 53ft catamaran yacht… Pure Cruise
  • trout fishing, all the lakes offer great fishing
  • water skiing, most lakes have power boats for hire
  • hunting 
  • skydiving, based at Rotorua airport…NZone is the company

With over 12 major lakes and 3 rafting rivers in the Rotorua area it should be no surprise water sports are very popular Activities:

Maori Culture

You can also check out the Maori culture, Rotorua is known to be its heartland. You can enjoy visiting Maori villages, view their arts and crafts, taste their food and perform with them their, Traditional Songs and Haka.

Video – Mitai Maori Village

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There is a wide range of accommodation in Rotorua starting with camping grounds ideal for those travelling New Zealand by campervan or using a tent and a car, plus many backpacker hostels and Rotorua has an impressive list of Motels, Hotels, and Resorts that you can choose from.

There are also a select few  Luxury Hotels or Luxury Lodges your accommodation decisions depend entirely on your expectations and chosen budget.

Many  hotels and resorts offer off peak deals or is some cases unique locations overlooking Active Geothermal Parks or one of the many lakes in the Rotorua area, as well as private thermal hot pools.

It is well worth you spending the time to do a little research in order to find the Best Hotels Deals.

Do this well before you plan to visit Rotorua as you will find the “No Vacancy” sign is the norm in peak times – like school holidays and weekends.

Relaxing In Rotorua

The bonus for all visitors to Rotorua, especially the active traveller  – is the many natural Hot Pools… You simply can’t beat a relaxing soak in Rotorua’s hot pools after spending a hard day – mountain biking,  hiking,  rafting, riding the luge… or a long day sightseeing.

If you think about it, A visit to Rotorua New Zealand should be compulsory!

Author: Ian

Based in Rotorua with an interest in Photography, Deer Hunting, Mountain Biking, Hiking, Kayaking and Travel... Our aim is to provide you with travel tips and all the local knowledge you need to discover amazing natural locations throughout New Zealand...

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