🚗 self-drive itinerary
🛏️ minimum 3 night stay recommended
🍽️ dining suggestions offered
📅 visit any time of year
A trip to Rotorua will capture your heart and elevate your soul. Ancient towering trees frame wonderful bush walks and mountain bike trails, while the soft sand shores of 18 pristine lakes are a temptingly short trip from the city centre.
Highlights can include:
- take the Gondola and enjoy the 180 degree views at Skyline Rotorua - try out The Luge, a 3-wheel, gravity-based cart ride 👨👩👦👦
- travel on the steep gradient railway in your own self-drive RailCruiser on the Mamaku Express Rail Cruising experience 🛤️
- explore Whakarewarewa The Living Maori Village with a fully guided tour including a cultural performance and access to geothermal nature trails 🌋
- ride to 27 historical, geothermal and cultural sights with Happy Ewe Cycle Tours, a leisurely paced bicycle adventure through central Rotorua 🚴
- fast fun for everyone and home to the world's only Schweeb Racer, Velocity Valley offers adventurers the Swoop, Agrojet, Freefall Xtreme, Rotorua Bungy and the Freestyle Airbag
- eco tour through the world's youngest geothermal system at Waimangu Volcanic Valley and round off your visit with a boat cruise on beautiful Lake Rotomahana 🌋👟
- extremely photogenic Lake Tarawera is one of the largest lakes in New Zealand with a backdrop of Mount Tarawera, the volcano responsible for a large eruption in 1886 🌋🛥️
- situated on the lake’s edge in downtown Rotorua, the Government Gardens are the perfect place to relax 🌷
- Lake Rotoiti is popular for boaties and is home to Manupirua Hot Springs, located on an island within the lake 🛥️ 🎣♨️
- Kerosene Creek is a hot spring which flows through natural bush to a 2 metre waterfall into a secluded hot pool - take care not to damage this special environment ♨️
- get back to nature at Hamurana Springs, where crystal-clear water emerges from the deepest natural fresh spring water in the North Island 👟
- you can't help but laugh as you get all topsy turvy rolling down the hill with OGO Rotorua and Zorb
- discover steaming, hissing, and boiling geothermal activity at Kuirau Park - NZ’s only geothermal public park 🌋👟
- New Zealand's most colourful geothermal attraction Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland sculptured by geothermal activity - unique volcanic features can be viewed from well defined tracks including the incredible Champagne Pool 🌋👟
- the internationally acclaimed Polynesian Spa offers relaxing hot mineral spring bathing, sumptuous spa therapies and picturesque Lake Rotorua views ♨️
- take the Kawarau Jet to Mokoia Island and discover the bird sanctuary, Maori culture and geothermal hot pool ♨️
- discover Rotorua's rich culture, volatile landscape and dramatic history in the world-class Rotorua Museum
- Planet Bike offers mountain bike tours for first timers to expert - see why Rotorua is a mountain bike haven with a diverse and unique bike trails 🚵
- visit Te Puia is home to world famous Pohutu Geyser and also known for Māori cultural experiences, geothermal valley with famous geysers and interesting guided tours 🌋
- Paradise Valley Springs is a beautifully presented NZ Trout, Bird and Wildlife park, along with a pride of African Lions - a family favourite 🦁
- soak in the 'Living Waters' of the Te Manaroa Spring at Waikite Valley Thermal Pools ♨️
- relax in a Rotorua Mud Wrap + Massage allowing rich minerals to release protective antioxidants for clean and refreshed skin
- play with mud in the Mud Bath + Spa Complex at Hells Gate ♨️
- journey back to a time of proud warriors and ancient traditions with Tamaki Maori Village, experiencing ceremonial rituals, powerful performances like the haka and a hangi feast
- white water raft the world’s highest commercially rafted waterfall with the River Rats 🌊
- when you are after an adrenaline-filled off road experience, a stunning scenic horse trek or simply some fun with a gun clay bird shooting, Adventure Playground is the place to be
- discover family fun at Rainbow Springs and get up close to the wonderful birds, bugs and beasts that call New Zealand home - the Kiwi Encounter is unforgettable 👨👩👦👦
- stroll through Ohinemutu Village to Te Papaiouru Marae and get a sense of the richness and depth of this living Maori village set on the picturesque shores of Lake Rotorua
- St Faith’s Anglican Church is intricately decorated with Maori carvings, tukutuku (woven panels), painted scrollwork and stained-glass windows
- The Buried Village of Te Wairoa is New Zealand's most visited archaeological site where stories of the 1886 Mount Tarawera's volcanic eruption come to life 🌋
- see the sacred Green Lake (Lake Rotokakai) then take a walk around the Blue Lake (Lake Tikitapu) an easy enjoyable walk in native bush with quiet beaches 👟
- fly with Volcanic Air to the site of the largest eruption in New Zealand’s living memory and experience a volcanic landing 🌋
- for over 40 years visitors have come to The Agrodome to see the Farm Show starring a cast of talented animals 🐑👨👩👦👦
- known to locals as ‘The Redwoods', the Whakarewarewa Forest is a perfect for horse riders, mountain bikers, walkers and hikers with the Redwoods Treewalk especially popular when illuminated after dark 🌲
- visit Wingspan Rotorua’s aviary and their amazing birds of prey flying display which is both thoroughly entertaining and educational 🦅
- a magical eco-adventure in native forest suspended high amongst ancient trees with Rotorua Canopy Tours
AT A GLANCE
📍 # of Visitors 7.0
🐚 Beaches 1.5
🌦️ Chance of Rain 3.5
👨👩👦👦 Family Fun 8.0
🛒 Shopping 6.0
🍽️ Food + Wine 7.0
🏳️🌈 LGBTQI+ friendly 👍
Note: the highest possible score is an 8.0
🎥video courtesy of Rotorua NZ on YouTube
Sit back and relax. We've planned it all for you.
Day 1 : Arrive in Rotorua
You'll travel to Rotorua either by car, coach, or by flying into Rotorua's Airport. Upon arrival you'll check in to your accommodation, settle in and get acquainted with your surroundings for the next 3 nights.
The perfect way to get your bearings and see some of the sites in Rotorua is with Happy Ewe Cycle Tours, which will take you leisurely by bike to popular city sights such as the Rotorua Museum, through the Government Gardens and Ohinemutu Village featuring St Faith's Anglican Church and via Kuirau Park before looping back to the city.
Later, be welcomed to Rotorua's heart and soul by the Tamaki Maori Village offering authentic insight into Maori traditions, a memorable cultural performance, and famous display of the 'haka', before being treated to a delicious feast cooked in an earth oven we call a 'hangi' - all in all, an unmissable experience for any visit to New Zealand.
Day 2 : the floor is lava? not quite, but close!
The geothermal wonders of Rotorua are evident wherever you go, so it's time to discover more fascinating areas and try and make sense of it all. The colours alone will have you wondering if you're still on planet earth at times!
Start your morning with a soak lakeside in the natural hot springs of the Polynesian Spa. A great idea is to visit during the early hours of the morning as you avoid creating 'tourist soup' with other visitors, and the experience is more peaceful and invigorating as it is meant to be.
Wai-O-Tapu's Lady Knox Geyser, its Champagne Pool and mud pools are a great place to start. Continue on to Waimangu Volcanic Valley, the youngest geothermal system in the world for a walk/hike in an environment like no other, before taking the boat cruise on Lake Rotomahana for a different perspective in a relaxing way.
The Buried Village of Te Wairoa is likely to enthuse anyone interested in history and showcases the 1886 Mount Tarawera's devestating volcanic eruption which destroyed entire villages and The Pink & White Terraces. The lookout point over Lake Tarawera towards Mount Tarawera is worth a photo, and can help colour in the imagination when thinking back to that frightening day in 1886.
All this touring around can be exhausting, so why not treat yourselves to a mud bath at Hells Gate or better still, a mud wrap and massage back at Polynesian Spa.
Tonight, make sure you venture out to Eat Streat which features some of the best dining in the region, and something to suit all tastes. You can continue after dinner to one of the great bars or night hotspots from here easily enough too.
Day 3 : the adventure playground side of Rotorua
Rotorua's reputation for being plenty of fun for everyone is thanks in part to the huge range of activities on offer. In addition to world wide favourites like white water rafting, mountain biking and horse riding, you'll have the opportunity to experience the Scheeb, Zorbing (invented in New Zealand) or Jet Boating too.
Personal favourtie activities of mine, and also popular with people of all ages include Skyline Rotorua's gravity powered Luge carts which together with the compulsory gondola ride to a breathtaking viewing platform over the entire area. Or you could choose to mix fun with conservation when you take time to explore native forest and zipline from tree to tree with Rotorua Canopy Tours - especially good at dawn and dusk for birdsong.
For those more keen to experience the outdoors, you'll want to take the walk around the Blue Lake with views over sacred Green Lake, and stay grounded when you walk one of the many trails of The Redwoods in the Whakarewarewa Forest. If you come back after dark, you'll feel like you've been transported to an entirely different place when you wander high in the trees on the illuminated Treetops Walk.
Or if you're after a little adventure combined with a lot of relaxation, I'll pass along my secrets on how to combine Kerosene Creek's secluded natural hot pool waterfall, with a mini-road trip loop to Waikite Valley Thermal Pools immediately afterwards.
No matter what you've done with your day, we've arranged for you to delight in some more great New Zealand food during dinner and celebrate your last night in this region at one of our favourite restaurants in the area.
Day 4 : Depart Rotorua for your next adventure
If you're heading west, time your departure with the famous farm show at The Agrodome, or be amazed by New Zealand's birds of prey at Wingspan. Other directions you may want to stop by tranquil Hamurana Springs or picturesque Lake Rotoiti. We'll let you know the best way to get from this region to the next part of your New Zealand trip, wherever you want that to be.