Famed for the dynamism of its geothermal landscapes, Rotorua forms part of New Zealand’s picturesque Bay of Plenty region. It’s been a tourist hotspot since the 19th century, with city dwellers coming to bathe in the therapeutic waters of its hot springs. Today, Rotorua offers so much more, with everything from cultural experiences to adrenalin-pumping activities on offer.
In this guide, we’ll explain how to make the most of your trip to Rotorua, including the best time to visit and experiences for all interests. When searching for accommodation, you can begin by browsing the listings at rentola.co.nz to find something that suits your travel party. In addition to apartments in the heart of Rotorua, you’ll find spacious homes surrounded by the North Island’s scenic countryside.
How to get to Rotorua
Rotorua is located on New Zealand’s North Island, around three hours’ drive from the capital, Auckland. Tauranga Airport is roughly an hour away and has domestic flights to destinations across the country. Regular buses connect from Auckland and Tauranga to Rotorua or hire cars are readily available for getting around. Taking a break in one of the affordable Tauranga hostels can provide you with a refreshing pause before you continue your travels.
Best time to visit Rotorua
Rotorua can be visited throughout the year, although you’ll experience the driest and warmest weather from around October until April. If you plan on visiting during the peak summer months (particularly during the school holiday period from late December until early February), it’s essential that you plan ahead. In winter (June to August), daytime temperatures drop to between 9 and 16°C, with July the wettest month of the year.
Things to see and do in Rotorua
Discover the geothermal wonders of Kuirau Park
In the heart of Rotorua is this geothermal wonderland where you can experience the bubbling and hissing of the Taupo Volcanic Zone. An elevated boardwalk leads through the park, offering an up-close look at volcanic mud pools, fumaroles and spouting geysers. Be sure to soak your feet in the thermal foot baths that are available, alongside a children’s playground and barbecue facilities.
Ride the Skyline gondola
For elevated views across Rotorua and its geothermal landscapes, jump inside one of the eight-seater cabins of the Skyline Rotorua. During the 900-metre ride, you’ll enjoy a bird’s eye view of the Bay of Plenty Region and the waters of Lake Rotorua. Once you reach the top, you can descend along one of the scenic nature trails or whizz down on the luge track.
See kiwis on Mokoia Island
In the middle of Lake Rotorua is Mokoia Island, which is of cultural significance to the area’s Māori people as the setting of a famous legend. Join a guided tour to visit Hinemoa’s Pool (which played an important role in the love story of Hinemoa and Tūtānekai) and see an ancient fertility statue. Mokoia Island also serves as a sanctuary for native birds, including kiwis and kokakos.
Get your adrenalin pumping at Velocity Valley
Whether you want to race your family and friends along the only pedal-powered monorail in the world or experience the thrill of skydiving, you can do all of that and more at Velocity Valley. This adventure centre upholds New Zealand’s reputation as an adrenalin junkie’s mecca, with a reverse bungy and a superhuman swing among its attractions.
Go whitewater rafting on the Kaituna River
Taking in magnificent canyons draped in native bush and the world’s highest commercially rafted waterfall, a whitewater rafting adventure on the Kaituna River is not for the fainthearted. Most of its 14 rapids are Grade IV or V, ensuring it’s an exhilarating adventure from start to finish. The undisputed highlight is descending the seven-metre-high Tutea Falls!
Mountain bike through the Whakarewarewa Forest
Known locally as “The Redwoods”, this spectacular tract of forest is traversed by around 160 kilometres of mountain biking trails that will appeal to all abilities. Red Bull hailed it as the best mountain biking destination in the Southern Hemisphere and it’s hard to disagree. At the Mountain Bike Hub, you’ll find trail information, bike hire and a cafe serving hot drinks and snacks.
Zip-line through a prehistoric native forest
With the help of highly experienced guides, you can fly through the treetops and walk high above the forest floor on the Ultimate Canopy Tour. It’s not only an opportunity to get your heart pumping but also to learn about wild birds and the conservation efforts being undertaken to preserve New Zealand’s natural heritage.
Gain insight into Māori culture at Te Puia
Also known as the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute, this cultural centre nestles in the Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley. It’s a great place to see Māori carvers and weavers in action, with the on-site school keeping long-established traditions alive. After witnessing the immense Pōhutu Geyser erupt, end the day with a cultural performance and a delicious hāngī.