Rotorua, earth’s geothermal wonder situated in the volcanic zone stretching from White Island off the Bay of Plenty coast to Mount Ruapehu in the central North Island. It’s home to the Rotorua lake, which the city is named after. It is popular amongst tourists for many reasons, some amongst them are to enjoy the various geothermal sights such as, bubbling mud pools, hot springs, volcanic craters, geysers etc and to immerse in the ancient Maori culture. What’s peculiar about this region is the eggy smell, it is due to a large amount of sulfur in the air. All these factors combined add a unique flavour to the region and makes Rotorua a must-visit destination in New Zealand. Without any further ado, let’s look at the top ten things to do in Rotorua.
Wai O Tapu Thermal Park
No trip to Rotorua is complete without experiencing these geothermal offerings; Wai O Tapu is home to some of most spectacular volcanic crater lakes that comes in stunning shades of red, green, yellow, orange, blue etc. The park can be reached through numerous transport options. Also, various tours packages are available for interested visitors. If you are on a budget you can enjoy various mud pools and steaming craters by the Rotorua base. There are several hot pools that are free of charge. Campagne Pool is its most popular offering. Other noteworthy attractions are Lady Knox Geyser; Artist’s Palette and Devil’s Bath.
Tamaki, Whakarewarewa (The living Maori village) and Mitai village offer a glimpse into the Maori culture. Tamaki should be your pick to immerse in authentic Maori culture that goes beyond the usual performances at the hotels. Whakarewarewa gives you a glimpse into the culture of the Tuhourangi/Ngati Wahiao people, one can see how the tribes use thermal vents to prepare their food and can get a taste of the traditional hangi meals on the ground. There is also a spirited performance ‘Maori Haka’ to be enjoyed, which is an amalgamation of traditional songs, stories, and legends. One does not need to venture far for a taste of the Maori culture, the conveniently located Mitai Village serves as an ideal spot to immerse in the traditions of the tribe. The hight light of the trip has to be the handcrafted canoe ride through the glowworm forest
North Island Lake
Rotorua is home to many lakes such as lake Rotorua which can be accessed via traditional paddle steamer; Lake Rotoiti which is accessible through kayak, paddle boat or luxe catamaran. The region has 18 sparkling lakes which are all treasured national assets and are considered sacred ‘taonga’ to the Te Arawa people. The lakes also serve as an ideal spot of fishing enthusiasts as trophy trouts are in abundance in the lakes and streams. If chilling indoor is more your scene you can enjoy some quiet time in the numerous lakeside motels around the Rotorua and Rotoiti lake.
Mokoia Island is situated in the heart of the Rotorua lake, this small island which extends up to 1.35 square kilometers is considered a sacred spot by the Maori tribe. It’s home to a rhyolite lava dome which abounds with geothermal springs and hot water pools. It is also considered a protected bird sanctuary and hence is only available for a visit through selected tours and packages only.
Redwoods Forest Park
The idyllic setting at Redwood Forest Park is perfect to soak in some nature. Spectacular Californian Redwoods lend majestic ambiance to the forest. You can venture out on foot or can trail down various mountain biking trails available. Whatever the pick, this park is a must-visit when in Rotorua.
Waimangu Volcanic Valley
Waimangu Volcanic Valley is one of the largest geothermal regions open for exploring. It is a mystical land where the lakes boil, mountains are covered in steam and bubbling mud pools are strewn across the landscape. It is home to what is considered one of the largest hot springs in the world. Lake Rotomohana is a haven for bird watchers, it’s home to several endangered bird species.
Te Puia is one of the popular geysers in Rotorua which erupts roughly 20 times a day and sends a jet spray of steaming water almost 30 meters towards the sky. One can also visit the National Carving School and National Weaving School to see the artworks of local students. An informative guided tour of the entire region is available which looks at various cultural aspects of the region and the Maori tribe. The tour starts at 6 pm and concludes with a traditional hangi meal and performance. It also hosts a gift shop wherein you can shop for authentic Maori handicrafts and beauty products made from Te Puia’s mineral-rich soil.
For all the adventure seekers, Kaituna River serves as the perfect spot. Located a shy of 15 minutes drive from the Rotorua city, the river is famous for its nerve-wrecking drops, majestic waterfalls, and whirlpools. Tutea Falls is the world’s highest white water rafting waterfall, this should make the most extreme adrenaline junkies happy.
No trip to Rotorua is complete without a visit to the Hobbiton Movie Set, a short drive away, located by Matamata. Tours depart from the city daily and allow you to explore the movie set featured in the Lord of the Rings and other Hobbit movies. This is a must visit spot for any true blue ‘Lord of the Rings’ fan.
Wingspan National Bird of Prey Centre is an ideal spot to get up close with some of New Zealand’s endangered aviary species. It’s charged at a mere NZ$25. Make sure you reach there by 1 pm to view the 2 pm flying display.
Rotorua is easily accessible
Rotorua is well connected with Wellington, Auckland, Queenstown, Gisborne, Christchurch and North Shore by air. One can get Rotorua airport car rentals for the commute from the airport to the city. One can also reach Rotorua by Bus. The buses (direct, indirect and tour services) are connected to other centers such as Auckland, Napier, Gisborne, Hamilton etc.