Rotorua is a place in the middle of the North Island of New Zealand, it is known for its geothermal activities, Maori culture and outdoor sports. Rotorua is often visited during a trip through the North Island because of its central location. From here you can easily go in all directions.
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Must see & do
Thermal parks Rotorua
You can see (and smell) geothermal activities all around Rotorua. However, Wai-O-Tapu is the best place to see and learn about this in all its glory. Wai-O-Tapu is a thermal wonderland with geysers, a mud pool and a large geothermal park. This is considered New Zealand’s most colourful and versatile geothermal attraction. You can easily order your tickets online here.
In addition to the geothermal park, you can also enjoy natural hot springs in many places. There are many free springs around Rotorua and on the way to Taupo, or soak in one of the spas. The Maori influence is evident in many of the spas. They use, for example, native herbs or mud and Maori massage techniques. Read here about the natural hot springs and where to find them.
Rotorua is home to a wealth of Maori culture, which is why this is one of the most popular attractions in this area. Places like Te Puia, Mitai Village and Tamaki Village offer cultural packages through tours. You can enjoy a delicious Maori meal combined with singing and dancing. You can also learn everything about their song, dance, tattoos, carvings (for example canoes), medicine and history. Local folktales and myths are also discussed.
Rotorua is not known in New Zealand as a place for adrenaline activities, but there are quite a few of them. For example, you can skydive, bungee jumping, luge and go zip lining. You can also raft on the Kaituna river, where you go down a 7 meter high waterfall. Find your adrenaline activity here!
Rotorua is an ideal place for cycling, for all levels. The city is surrounded by nature and therefore you can cycle through forests, around lakes or in the mountains. Of course you can also cycle around geothermal activities, such as on the Te Ara Ahi route. This route takes you to a natural hot spring. Rotorua even has a downhill mountain bike park: Skyline Gravity Bike Park.
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Rotorua is very centrally located on the North Island of New Zealand and is therefore very easy to reach. By car, Rotorua is approximately 3 hours from Auckland, 3 hours from the Coromandel, around 6 hours from Wellington and an hour from Taupo. The nearest international airport is Auckland, but Rotorua and Taupo have airports serving domestic flights.
The Waitomo Caves are about 2 hours from Rotorua and are a highlight for many travellers. The caves are a labyrinth of passageways, sinkholes and underground rivers. You can also see glow worms in the caves. You can visit these caves by means of a walking or boat tour. Are you adventurous? Then take a different approach: climb, swim, tube, zipline, abseil and raft through the caves. In other words: there is something for everyone! Book your tour easily here.
If you are a Lord of the Rings or Hobbit fan, you have to go to Matamata, this is where you will find the Hobbiton movie set. Here you can walk through the Shire and see famous spots from the movie, such as Bag End (Bilbo Baggin’s house). After a tour you can have a drink at the Green Dragon Inn. Find out more about the Lord of the Rings filming locations in New Zealand.
Bay of Plenty
Tauranga is the largest city in the Bay of Plenty and is an hour’s drive from Rotorua. Tauranga is a lovely coastal town where you can go sailing, fishing, dolphin watching, go on boat trips and even diving. Located a ten minute drive from Tauranga you will find Mt Maunganui, this is a popular surf spot with a wonderful atmosphere. Mt Maunganui has been crowned New Zealand’s best beach and is in the top 25 of best beaches in the world. The mountain can also be climbed for beautiful views. Read more about Bay of Plenty here.
Taupo is mainly known for its large lake; Lake Taupo and its activities. Here you can swim, fish, paddle board, take a boat out on the water and even hit a ball into the water at the golf tee. Taupo is also known for the Huka Falls, this is an 11 meter high waterfall just outside the village, which is very impressive. Taupo is also a good place to stay if you are exploring Tongariro National Park for hiking the famous Tongariro crossing or for skiing in the winter. Read more about Taupo here.
Redwood Forest is a large park located in Rotorua. It is the perfect place for walking, cycling or horse riding, all paths are well marked. You can choose whether you want to take a short or a long walk or even do a multi-day hike. There is also the possibility for a “canopy walk”, you walk over several suspension bridges, at a height of 20 meters through the treetops. Doing this in the evening is an amazing experience as the forest is beautifully lit!
Putaruru Blue Springs
The Putaruru Blue Spring is about a 40 minute drive from Rotorua. Then it’s about an hour’s walk from the Whites Road car park or about 10 minutes from the Leslie Road car park. But it is well worth the trip, this water here is internationally acclaimed for being so pure. That is why about 60% of the spring water in New Zealand comes from here. The Blue Spring is a beautiful location that is absolutely non-touristy. It is truly a hidden treasure that is only frequented by the locals. It is a nice place to, for example, have a picnic and enjoy nature that way. You can also enter the water, but it is incredibly cold!