Rotorua, also known as the “Little Town”, is a fantastic geothermal wonder on New Zealand’s North Island. The region is famed for mud pools and steaming geysers, as well as glistening lakes and incredible forestland.
The juxtaposition of the forests and rolling hills, with the volcanic landscapes, make it a wonderful place, and visitors on Trip Advisor talk about the awe-inspiring views and magical quality of Rotorua.
Rotorua is also a hotbed of Maori culture. With Maori history that dates back millennia, from the time the Polynesian warrior people arrived in New Zealand, the geothermal features have been part of the Maori way of life in Rotorua.
Alongside the beautiful setting and rich cultural history, you’ll also have the adrenaline-filled fun of some pretty awesome, spine-tingling activities, and some gorgeous wildlife and nature as well.
Let’s take a look at some of the activities that are best-rated in Rotorua, from which you might like to pick some things you’ll want to do while visiting.
This is a famous geothermal Park in Rotorua with one of the biggest draws being Pohutu Geyser. There are cultural performances by the Maori, and you will enjoy the traditional Maori welcoming ceremony, the powerful Powhiri.
You will be left in wonder as you amble around seeing bubbling mud pools and geothermal hot water.
This region, Te Puia, is also home to the Maori New Zealand Arts and Crafts Institute. You’ll be able to enjoy watching true artisans create masterpieces out of bone and wood, using traditional methods.
Te Puia is a must-visit, as it is well-organised, has a wonderful setting and great hosts.
Waimangu Volcanic Valley
This is one of the most popular geothermal spots in Rotorua, with silica terraces and mud that is whispering bubbles. There are walkways that help you experience the volcanic craters, seeing the terraces and sulphuric yellow deposits in a safe way. You might think you are in another world.
There is a huge geyser on the inferno crater which is a must-see. The hike goes around Lake Rotomahana, where you can jump on a boat if you wish and have a short cruise, taking in the local information from a guide and seeing nature from a different perspective.
This is the area where the Pink and White Terraces, formerly known as the eighth wonder of the world, were destroyed when the eruption of Mount Tarawera engulfed the geological phenomenon back in 1886.
Kaharoa Conservation Area
If you enjoy wildlife, then this is a great place to visit, and it is superbly rated on Trip Advisor. You will be able to see the Kokako, which is one of the most endangered species of birds in New Zealand. It is thought that there are only 1,400 still alive in New Zealand’s North Island. They aren’t easy to spot, but you’ll no doubt hear the birdsong, and with a bit of persistence, you might well eyeball one.
If you love nature, then the Kaharoa Kokako track, which runs for 1.2 km, is a dream. The totara trees and king ferns are home to a plethora of nature, including tuis and bellbirds. If you want to get closer to nature, this is another must.
Rotorua Museum is located by Lake Rotorua, in the government gardens. It’s a great spot to jump into if the rain comes down, although most of the activities don’t have your experience dampened much with a bit of precipitation.
In this museum, you’ll learn about Rotorua before Western influence, enjoy art galleries, learn more about the Te Arawa Maori Tribe, and get terrific views of the lake from the rooftop terrace. This is a fantastic way to learn about the history of the region, and also understand the present.
As we’ve seen, Rotorua is a Maori cultural phenomenon. In order to truly appreciate the place, you need to get close to the people, which might mean visiting Tamaki Maori village. When you do, you’ll be treated to cultural performances, Maori games, and demonstrations of how the Maori do their artisan crafts. The day will be topped off with a traditional Hangi buffet.
You can also visit Whakarewarewa, another great Maori village where the Ngati/Tuhourangi Wahiao tribes treat you to a glimpse into their heritage and culture. There are tours every hour with plenty of singing, dancing and even an opportunity to see traditional cooking on the geothermal stream.
If you want to truly appreciate the way these people live, then you can have an overnight stay in the Maori meetinghouse – the village Marae building.
The Maori people welcome you into their midst and you will be amazed at what you learn amongst them.
Whirinaki Forest Park
This park covers 55,000 hectares and provides a biodiverse, incredible backdrop for mountain bikers, hikers, and campers. With trails that are graded by difficulty, meaning you will always know what you’re getting into, you can enjoy the totara trees, kahikatea, and the rimu.
A Canopy Tour
One thing you’ll definitely want to do when visiting Rotorua is a canopy tour. Canopy tours are the best-rated activity on Trip Advisor and people talk about going back again and again.
With 600 metres of zip lines, including one zip that is 200 metres long, the experience is a thrilling one. You’ll be up amongst the tall trees, guided by a local expert who will tell you about the environment and nature, as you travel the trail up in the trees.
Rotorua has some amazing tourist attractions that offer different types of experience. You can fill your mind with cultural information, bask in the beauty and magnificence of glistening lakes and mountains, or enjoy a pamper day at the world-leading Polynesian spa. There really is something for everyone in Rotorua.