I’ve visited Rotorua on three occasions in the last year, once for a weekend away, once for an overnight trip with friends and another overnight trip on the Kiwi Experience hop-on-hop-off bus.
Here’s a short summary of all the activities on offer to you in Rotorua from the relaxing to adrenaline filled. I would advise spending two nights in Rotorua to fully enjoy the area.
Rotorua, or Rotovegas as it’s commonly known, lies on the edge of Lake Rotorua in the Bay of Plenty. One of the first thing you will notice about this town is the “old rotten egg” smell to the town. This is because it lies within the Te Puia’s Whakarewarewa Valley which is renowned for it’s geothermal activity. Once your nose adjusts to the smell, you’ll find yourself in the town with everything to do.
The town of Rotorua boasts a relaxed shopping experience along with many brilliant eateries to enjoy after a day of activities. You can take scenic walk through the Government Gardens before venturing round part of Lake Rotorua stopping off at Sulphur Point to watch the activity on the lake. Another in town walk is around Kuirau Park where you can walk through the hot springs on a raised platform with the steam blurring the view in front and the heat warming you feet below.
The biggest and most popular Maori cultural experience is based in Rotorua. Visit the Tamaki Maori Village for the evening watching cultural performances followed by a traditional hangi (a meal which is cooked underground for several hours) or stay overnight and enjoy sleeping in a carved wharemoe (sleeping house) with breakfast and spa pools included.
Sadly this is one of the things I haven’t had the chance to experience yet however it is on my New Zealand bucket list after all the high praise it receives from tourists.
Another centre you can visit to learn in depth about the geothermal wonder of the Te Puia’s Whakarewarewa Valley and about the Maori culture is at Te Puai.
Because of the geothermal activity in the area, there are several hot springs, mud baths and spa and wellness centres to visit.
To enjoy this geothermal wonder for free, head on over to Kerosene Creek where the cold stream meets the bubbling spring creating a perfect outdoor hot pool to enjoy. Or, if you fancy treating yourself then head on over the Hells Gate or the Polynesian Spa. Take a walk around Hells Gate to admire the strength of the hot springs before hopping into the mud bath and masking your body in the warmth. If you’re staying in town and fancy something withinsohort walking distance, head-on over to the Polynesian Spa where you have the choice of 7 different hot pools ranging in temperatures with some more acidic and the others more alkaline concentrated along with a heated pool to swim in all whilst overlooking Lake Rotorua.
Wildlife and Nature
Head just a short drive south of town and you’ll come across the beautiful Redwoods Forest. Depending on how much you enjoy tramping (hiking in Kiwi), there are a range of walks varying in length for you to enjoy along with a suspended bridge walk through the trees (fees apply).
If you’re looking to encounter a kiwi bird, head over to the Rainbow Springs Nature Park where you can go behind the scenes in the hatchery and see baby kiwi birds being raised.
There are 4 main dateline spots in Rotorua to enjoy:
1. Skyline Rotorua – head up the gondola for panoramic views of Lake Rotorua and the towns that surround the lake before jumping into one of the luge karts and racing your friends / family down one of the three tracks. Time it right and you’ll be able to do the night luge offering great evening views before the sun sets and your chasing down the tracks in minimal lighting. When you’ve finished, you can relax at the on-site bar.
2. Velocity Valley – an adrenaline filled park boasting jet boats, a bungy, shweeb races and much more. A day for raising the heart beat and ideal for families.
3. Zorb Rotorua – make your way down one of three tracks racing against friends and seeing how long you can stand up for!
4. Mountain Biking – there are several spots for Mountain biking around Lake Rotorua, check out the Rotorua tourism website for more details.
5. White Water Rafting – using the Okere Falls, you can experience the thrill of white water rafting just North of Lake Rotorua or simply head over here and keep dry by walking round and watching the rafters instead.