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 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 thermal hot pools throughout the Rotorua area including in the back yard 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) or my favourite, family orientated hot pools complete with Tent and Campervan Camping ( Waikete Valley hot pools )

Through to the high-end spa retreats offering therapeutic pools and beauty treatments which can include massage or mud baths for those who are so inclined.

Video – Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Resort

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Rotorua is a tourist town… with all the usual tourist traps you would expect to see in a popular tourist destination so keep that in mind when you plan your Rotorua visit, it has been my hometown for the past 30+ years – I can comfortably recommend several of the Rotorua attractions  “as well worth seeing” – at least once,

  • Te Puia : a range of thermal activity,  home to 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 !
  • 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 been around for a very long time, but people 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 inside knowledge and transport as the best places to visit are a little out of town, even a hire bicycle would do for some of the closer attractions.

Free Attractions

Many of the best things to do in Rotorua are free… including all the lakes and walking tracks or mountain biking tracks.

One of the Rotorua’s best-kept secrets is Lake Okataina, a 30-minute drive from 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, 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.

Things To See

  • 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 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, a free thermal park close to the Rotorua city centre, there are thermal foot baths and thermal activity.
  • Visit the Redwood Forest – 30 min to 1 hour walk through ancient Redwood trees and mature Pine Forest, great for kids to run off their excess energy, the entrance to the Redwoods is of 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).

Mountain Biking

As well as boiling mud and the stink of sulphur. Rotorua is now famous for its many mountain biking trails, most are close to town in the Whakawerawera forest, an ever growing selection of  well-designed tracks for various grades of riders to suit 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  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 trout fishing or deer hunting is available, you are free to try any of these activities… There are a couple of hostels quite close to the Whirinaki Tracks they offer a drop-off or pick-up service to all the track entrances for a fee.

Things To Do

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

Maori Culture

You can also check out the Maori culture, Rotorua New Zealand 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 war dances.

Video – Mitai Maori Village

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Accommodation…

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 Rotorua accommodation decisions depend entirely on your expectations and chosen budget.

Many Rotorua hotels and resorts offer unique locations overlooking geothermal parks or one of the many lakes in the Rotorua area, as well as private thermal hot pools.

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 just a long day sightseeing in Rotorua.

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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