Rotorua was New Zealand's first tourist destination, with visitors being drawn to its dramatic geothermal activity and invigorating spa treatments. A cultural hotspot with sixteen lakes and surrounded by lush forests, if you're traveling around the North Island of New Zealand you simply can't pass up a visit to Rotorua.
Those who are interested in the indigenous people of New Zealand will be able to learn about Maori Culture, and thrill-seekers will be spoilt for choice in Rotorua with numerous adventure activities available. For those who prefer to relax, the hot springs, spa therapies, and thermal pools give visitors the opportunity for complete rejuvenation.
Rotorua is a multicultural town, with around 35% of its residents of Maori descent. This makes it the perfect place if you want to learn more about the history and culture of New Zealand.
Stop by the Tamaki Maori Village where tourists can spend an evening immersed in Maori culture, experiencing a powhiri (welcome), before being shown demonstrations of weaving and carving. Visitors then get to see how a Hangi is made (a meal that is cooked below the ground on hot stones), before watching a cultural performance including the Haka (Maori war dance). Finally, everyone sits down for the Hangi feast, enjoying songs and speeches as they eat. This is a cultural experience like no other, and you'll come away from it with a new understanding of the Maori people.
See the Buried Village of Te Wairoa that was covered in volcanic material of the Mount Tarawera eruption of 1886. This same eruption buried the Pink and White Terraces that were considered the eighth wonder of the world. The village is just 15 minutes south of Rotorua.
Those who want to relax should head to the Polynesian Spa. Featuring 26 mineral hot pools, including family, adult and private pools, there is also a tempting collection of spa therapies available, as well as a gift shop and café.
Want to experience the only mud volcano in New Zealand? Check out the Hells Gate Geothermal Lake and Mud Bath. Twenty minutes in the mud bath will leave your skin soft and glowing, and you can then relax in the sulphur spa for as long as you like. This is one of the best ways to have a total geothermal experience.
There are also many activities available for adrenalin junkies in Rotorua. The River Rats Whitewater Rafting has everything from scenic grade two rafting, to the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world. Or get strapped in to the Agrojet, the sprint course where you'll reach speeds of up to 100km an hour.
New Zealand is the birthing place of the Zorb - the 12ft inflatable globes that you squeeze inside before rolling down a big hill like a hamster. Imagine being stuck in a washing machine (you can choose to add water to your ride) and you get the picture. Zorb Rotorua operates daily from 9am.
With sixteen lakes and several rivers and streams around Rotorua, almost every type of water activity is offered here- you can even go trout fishing and then head to a thermal beach to cook your fish in the hot sands. Don't forget to check out the Pohutu Geyser at Te Puia which erupts up to twenty times a day, or the Lady Knox Geyser which erupts at 10.15am every day.
If you want to get close to nature you should take a walk in the Whakarewarewa forest. This forest is only three minutes from the city centre, and here you'll find huge Californian Redwoods, along with hundreds of kilometers of walking trails.
Rotorua was voted the most beautiful city in New Zealand six years out of eleven, and you'll see why when you arrive. Make sure you add on a few extra days to your trip, so you can see everything that Rotorua has to offer.
Rotorua is a great place to pick up souvenirs and gifts for friends and family back home. There are many souvenir shops in Rotorua, with New Zealand products such as Merino and clothing made out of possum fur, Maori gifts, and funny New Zealand themed presents.
There are four markets in Rotorua; the Kuirau Park Flea Market, the Soundshell market, the Hot Lakes Craft Market, and the Rotorua Night Market.
The Flea Market (as it's known to locals) is held every Saturday at Kuirau Park from 7am to 1pm. This market is run by the Rotary Club and you'll find local fruit and vegetables, ornaments and trinkets, clothing, and freshly cooked food.
The Soundshell Market is called the Craft Market by locals, and it's the biggest market in Rotorua. Usually on a Sunday between 9am and 3pm, it's located inside the Soundshell building. Visitors will find a lot of hand-made products, including soaps and carvings, as well as antiques and plants etc.
The Hot Lakes Craft Market is quite new, and here you'll only find handmade products made by New Zealand artists. This is a great place to find some unique gifts, and it runs from October to April on the second Sunday of every month from 10am to 2pm. You'll find it at the Rotorua Arts Village.
The Rotorua Night Market is every Thursday night from 5 to 9.30pm. This market is primarily locally made products, with delicious cheeses, wines, olive oils and more. You'll find it on Tutenekai Street as the street is closed off for the market.
Rotorua has plenty of options for a delicious meal, and with tons of cafés, bars and restaurants, you definitely won't go hungry in this town.
If you're after some real kiwi food and wine, check out the Solitaire lodge. This place used to be a luxury fishing lodge, but it's now open to a greater range of budget. Meals are cooked with fresh local produce, and the view from the restaurant is simply spectacular.
Those who like South American food should head to Sabroso on Haupapa Street. Make sure you book in advance as this is one of the most popular restaurants in Rotorua due to its authentic Latin American flavor, and delicious margaritas.
Try the Kurious Kiwi Restaurant and Bar for some New Zealand food that won't break the bank. Grab a table on a Sunday afternoon, and with a beer and a plate of Fish and Chips, it's the perfect place to relax after a busy day exploring Rotorua.
Weather in Rotorua
In summer you can expect temperatures up to around 30º Celsius (86ºF) between December and February, although in winter it can get as cold as 9º Celsius (48ºF). Rotorua is a good destination at any time of the year, since wallowing in the hot pools is relaxing no matter what the temperature.
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