Any visit to Rotorua should include a trip to Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Wonderland, a walk round Te Puia or Whakarewarewa Maori thermal village, and a soak in the hot pools of the Polynesian Spa. All of these can be done in one day, but they don’t come cheap!
HOWEVER, for those on a tight budget there are many things to see and do which don’t cost anything or only very little.
So let’s begin with those shall we? Go to the lake front and just watch and feed the swans. The kids can play in the children’s playground. Then take a stroll to your right along the lake walk which will allow you to enjoy Lake Rotorua and a few small geothermal features. Listen out for the hiss of steam and the plop plop sound of mud bubbling from small craters.
Soon you will be at the Energy Events Centre, not a pretty sight I’m afraid, but fortunately that modern building is then replaced by the jewel which is the Rotorua Museum building. It costs a little to go round there but it is very, very interesting. It’s a great place to start your visit to this area.The lake walk actually continues past the museum and beyond the Polynesian Spa baths and the best geothermal landscape is to be seen there. It ends at Te Ngae road, but if you go under the that road a path continues alongside the river all the way parallel to Sala Street and finishes not far from this motel, adjacent to The Holiday Inn. In fact this is a very good walk to take in the opposite direction from the motel all the way to the lake via the weird and wonderful geothermal landscape.)
By the museum are Government Gardens, and you can see the Blue Baths over to the left, and the Polynesian Spa Baths are found just round the corner. Take the short drive to Kuirau Park and witness more extensive thermal features including bubbling mud and steaming lakes at no cost! The museum will probably stimulate you to explore the Buried Village attraction, but when you take Tarawera Road out of town to that area do also visit Whakarewarewa Forest for some beautiful walks amongst the Californian Redwoods planted just over a 100 years ago. Further on stop and walk round the Blue Lake (anti-clockwise is easier), and try a stop at Lake Tarewera for more walking.
There is another very easy and beautiful walk out at Hamurana Springs, on the North end of Lake Rotorua. Here there is another small plantation of redwoods, but what makes this walk a winner is the crystal clear turquoise water bubbling from the spring and filling this ‘river’.
Of all the geothermal places to visit my personal favourite is Wai-O-Tapu. Go early to see the geyser and expect to use the whole morning there. Collect a 10% discount voucher from the office before you go.
Then there is Hell’s Gate, a much more active area, and well worth the effort. Plus you can get a mud bath and sulphur spa there in the recently modernised facilities. Collect a discount ticket from us first!
Waimangu is another amazing area created since the eruption of Mount Tarawaera in 1886, but you only have so much time… On the doorstep of this motel is Te Puia and again do collect a 10% discount voucher from the office before you go and see the famous Pohutu geyser, the Kiwi house, the huge crater of bubbling mud, the Maori carving school, the Marae, and the Cultural performance. Now a separate attraction, the Maori Thermal Village at Whakarewarewa is also very good, but there you only get to see the geyser from a distance, but you do get a better glimpse of Maori life as it has been for many years here in Rotorua.
As long as you can cover both the geothermal and the cultural aspects of this amazing place you will have done well. BUT there is so much more to do and many of the other attractions are adrenalin rushes.
The kids and the young at heart just love the Luge ride, but you must take the Skyline Gondola to reach that. You will get a great view over the city and the lake.
Go to Rainbow Springs for Kiwi wild life especially the Kiwi breeding programme.
Go to Paradise Valley for more exotic wild life like the Lions.
The Agrodome offers a Kiwi agricultural experience including a sheep shearing show.
Rotorua’s most popular new activity is Canopy Tours, and it is indeed very very exciting and quite challenging.
Adrenaline ‘junkies’ might go to Agriventures, the Zorb, Riverjet, Kayaking, Rafting, and others too numerous to mention. See the racks in the office for more ideas.
we wholeheartedly endorse the best Jet Boating experience I have had at Aratiatia called ‘Rapids Jet’. Just North of Taupo before you get to the new bypass watch out for signs on the left. (In Rotorua we have our own jet boat ‘Kawerau Jet’ on the lake in town if you want something more local.) The geothermal attraction closer to Taupo called Orakei Korako is also well worth the effort, if you haven’t exhausted yourself already here.
For an alternative to the Polynesian Spa try Waikite Hot Pools, very close to Wai-o-Tapu, on the other side of SH5. These hot pools are out in the country and less ‘touristy’ than here in town.
There are several evening Cultural experiences to enjoy which also include a Hangi meal of meat and vegetables cooked in their own steam in the ground the traditional Maori way.
We have been to most of them and all are very good and similarly priced at a little over a hundred dollars. That’s not cheap, but how often will you get such a unique opportunity? Don’t forget we can often offer discounts on these, and always have ten percent off Te Puia.
We would recommend them all for different reasons. Whichever one you choose to enjoy let me book it for you, and at busy times you need to book early in the day.
Tamaki Maori Village offers a very good recreation of a Maori settlement in the bush about fifteen minutes south of the city. The bus will pick you up from here and bring you back. In fact the bus trip is part of the whole experience, and is great fun. In all the whole evening takes about three and a half hours.
Mitai Maori Village, adjacent to Rainbow springs, is also a very good cultural experience and it has the advantage of having the warriors arrive on a Waka (canoe) at the beginning, and a chance for you to see glow worms at the conclusion.
The Hangi meal at both the above attractions is very good, but if fine dining is what you prefer you might choose Te Puia’s offering called Te Po, where the food provided is excellent. The cultural show is terrific and you also get the chance to see Pohutu Geyser under floodlight. Te Puia is just a short walk away, but they will pick up if you prefer.
By now you should be thinking of staying extra nights, hint hint….That will give you time to stop ‘smelling the sulphur’, maybe?
Whatever you choose to do here when in Rotorua, do have a good time, and if you have to miss anything this time you can always come back….