My Guide of Things To Do in & Around Rotorua

R O T O R U A ; the geothermal wonderland of New Zealand. 

The best way I can describe Rotorua, would be an assault on your senses. If you can get over the constant egg smell, then be prepared to have your other senses blown-away! It is a mix of natural wonders, action and relaxation. But I know what you're thinking .. how can a place so smelly be so cool? Trust me - it is! 

So a little side-note ...
My parents came to New Zealand in June 2017 for the Lion's Rugby Tour - so they did some sightseeing around the North Island and got to visit Rotorua. My dad (Big Steve) is convinced that he is the one who told me about Rotorua and that I hadn't heard of it before. Cute.
Because he's been here before, and he's like me - an excitable planning freak, he wanted to make my itinerary for Rotorua. I waited for it, it never came, so I did my own. 

Big Steve doesn't see it the same as me, and wants a mention and credit in this blog for his HUGE contribution. I think he even referred to it as "our" blog post the other day. If I don't mention him, - he is even threatening to sue me. 
Classic diva Big Steve. 

So here is it: *rolls eyes*
I'd like to thank my dad, Big Steve, for his hard-work and incredible organising skills. I wouldn't have even heard of Rotorua if it hadn't of been for you. Thank you for your great itinerary and all your insider tips and tricks, they were an absolute life saver. I'm so hopeless and unorganised and can't do anything by myself so this trip wouldn't have happened without your help. 

Now that's out of the way, lets crack on with the top things to do in Rotorua.

The first thing you will notice as you arrive into Rotorua ... is the smell. The smell of rotten eggs absolutely everywhere around you. Delicious 
You may have just escaped the smell, and then BAM - a gentle breeze blows you a fresh dose. The reason for the smell my friends, is from the amount of Sulphur from the local geothermal parks. The Earth's Crust is thin in this part of the country so the smell is a reminder of the powerful activity happening underground. From the bubbling hot mud pools, the thermal springs and impressive geysers - there is so much activity to be seen (& smelt). 

Wai-o-Tapu; Geothermal Wonderland 
Wai-o-Tapu is one of the geothermal parks surrounding Rotorua, and considered the most colourful attraction. You'll have to adjust your eyes as well as your nose as you witness the luminous greens, yellows, oranges and blues of the various crater lakes and pools. 
If you time your visit well, you can even visit the famous Lady Knox Geyser - it erupts once daily at 10:15am. It is actually an induced Geyser; they throw in a surfactant into the vent each day at 10:15 to induce the eruption which product jets of water reaching up to 20m. 
Wai-o-Tapu is about a 20 minute drive South out of Rotorua, so if you don't have your own transport there are various companies who organise half-day tours from Rotorua. 
I booked on and organised a shuttle service from my hostel. 

Te Puia 
Probably the most famous geothermal area in Rotorua, is Te Puia. The park combines both geothermal attractions, with Maori cultural experiences. 
The Pohutu geyser is the main attraction. She erupts 1-2 times each hour and is the biggest geyser in the southern hemisphere, shooting water and steam up to 30m. If you pay a little extra (although tbh no one checked my ticket, so I could have gotten away with paying the normal price) you can add the Maori day or night experience to your visit. This is a 45-minute "show" full of traditional Maori songs and dance including the famous Haka. 
Its a really nice half-day activity and not too far of a walk from Rotorua central. Or there are local buses that stop right outside for a few bucks. 

One of the biggest things on my NZ bucket list! 
Certainly no visit to Rotorua is complete without a visit to Hobbiton. The movie set is about 45 minutes drive out of Rotorua, close to a town called Matamata. You can either self-drive to The Shire's Rest and book yourself onto a tour, or you can join an organised tours departing Rotorua and board the big, green, Hobbiton bus. 
Explore the movie set featured in both the Lord of the Rings and Hobbiton films and get your absolute geek-on as you visit the Hobbit holes and enjoy a drink in The Green Dragon Inn at the end of your tour. Don't forget to stock on up all the LOTR & Hobbit merch and gear at the gift shop. 
I truly found myself in Hobbiton and had the BEST day! 
Tickets are pricey but if you're a big fan of the books & films it's absolutely worth it. 

Kuirau Park
If you're on a budget, or just have some spare time during your stay - a walk through Kuirau Park is a must-do! It's Rotorua's FREE thermal park and includes some impressive mud and hot pools. You can even soak you feet in the thermal pools after a hard day!
If you're passing by on a Saturday, there is a market close by. 

Luging; Skyline Rotorua 
I'd heard a lot about Luging from people i've met in New Zealand and been told if you're going to do it; Rotorua is the place! 
Take a cable car to the top of Skyline Rotorua which sits on Mount Ngongotaha. The views  of Rotorua and Lake Okataina on the way up are crazy.
I purchased the Gondola plus 3 Luge rides 
Luging is basically like a toboggan / go-kart and there are 3 tracks to choose from; Scenic, Intermediate and Advanced. At the end of the track, you get the chair lift back to the top. 
Unfortunately the day I went the Advanced track was closed, BUT I still had a hilarious time. I got right into it and was racing little kids by the end and maybe got a bit too competitive, bumping into them and bashing them out of the way. 

There are so many more activities to do at Skyline; mountain biking, zip-lining, wine tasting and even a Sky Swing.

Polynesian Spa
I hadn't originally planned to visit, but due to cancellations a free morning opened up so decided to see what all the fuss was about. 
Found overlooking the shores of Lake Rotorua, this world-famous spa offers a range of mineral bathing and spa treatments. 
I paid $50 for the Deluxe Lake Spa package and loved it. Had I more time, I would have looked into a massage but with only about 3 hours to spare I choose to spend it floating my problems away in the different hot alkaline & acidic mineral pools. They range in temperature from 36-42 degrees. If you're feeling brave, take a dunk in the cold plunge pool for hot-cold hydrotherapy. 
Little tip for ya ... the Spa opens at 8am, and if you're after absolute peace & quiet, I would recommend going then. 
I was the first and ONLY person in the all the outdoor Deluxe pools for at least an hour and it was amazing.

Immerse yourself into the Maori Culture
Rotorua is considered the heartland of Maori Culture, so a massive hub for travellers who want to throw themselves deep into experiencing it first hand. 
Whether you're watching cultural performances of The Haka, treating yo'self to traditional Maori meals called a Hangi or wandering round Maori Villages- there are SO many places in Rotorua to do this.
The most popular are; Takami Village, Mitai Maori Village, Te Puia, Whakarewarewa, Rotorua Museum & Hells Gate Geothermal Park.

White Water Rafting 
Home to the world's highest commercially rafted waterfall, Rotorua & The Kaituna River  is the place if you want to go big or go home. This was the very reason for my trip; but alas, due to horrific weather, the river had been closed and no rafting for me. 
BUT thanks to a second visit to Rotorua in October 2018 with Stray I was able to tick this bad boy off my bucket list. 
We booked with Kaitiaki Adventures and had the best afternoon rafting. 
We were the last boat to enter the water, and our guide shouted at us "can you all swim?" "YES" "Good, prove it" as he rafts off down the river leaving us standing on a concrete platform. I pretty much laughed the entire time out of fear I was going to fall in the river. 

If you're into outdoor adventure activties, but rafting isn't your cup of tea, have no fear. From zip-lining, luging, or rolling down a hill in an inflatable ball (also known as Zorbing) there is always something to do in Rotorua.

Take a walk round Lake Rotorua 
Starting at Lake Rotorua jetty, take a nice leisurely stroll following the lake path. The path ends at the Government Gardens, home to Rotorua Museum. The museum is closed for development at the moment, but still a pretty classic Rotorua shot for the 'gram. 
Or head on down to the lake at sunset, watch the world go by while the sky changes all sorts of crazy colours.

EAT yourself silly 
You've gotten keep yourself well-fed when you're exploring, and thankfully Rotorua is full of great eateries. 
Breakfast at Fat Dog Cafe, lunch at Abracadabra, a post-afternoon coffee with cats at Fancy Meow, and a big pub-grub dinner at The Pig & Whistle. Or you could eat out for every meal just along the Eat Street, my favourite would be desert at Lady Jane's! 
After a cheap drink? Head to Lava Bar next to Base Backpackers for cheap drinks. If you request Cotton Eyed Joe - you'll get a good crowd on the dancefloor ;) 

Explore The Redwoods 
Something I recently got to do on my second visit to Rotorua was a visit to the Redwoods in Whakarewarewa Forest. 
This famous forest is either a 45 minute walk, 20 minute cycle or 10 minute bus ride from central Rotorua. 
TIP: If you're getting the bus - it is the green no. 3 bus which leaves from the iSite. Now I'm pretty sure it was our driver's first ever day on the job because he didn't really understand how the tickets worked. We asked for a return, paid for what we thought was a return, he even gave us two tickets each = sounds like a return right? Nope - turns out they don't do returns so no idea what he was up to. 
Single tickets were $2.80NZD each way and can be bought on the bus. 

Entrance to the main park and walks is free, with several different walking tracks to choose from depending on how long you have / level of fitness. 
You can also purchase tickets to explore the tree canopy boardwalk and explore the 21 suspensions bridges high up in the forest by day or night. 

There is SO much to do in Rotorua, so if you're heading there I would suggest at least 4 days to get a good feel for the area and see as much as you can. 

Click below to see my Rotorua video of my first trip there back in May 2018. 

If you enjoyed this blog, you might like some more...

- Top 10 things to do in & around Taupo - CLICK HERE
- How to survive the Tongariro Alpine Crossing - CLICK HERE 

Thanks for reading & happy travels 

♡ G

Join me on Instagram @gemwills 

& follow me as I continue my New Zealand Adventure! 

Next Post Newer Post Previous Post Older Post Home


Post a Comment