The Complete Guide to Rotorua© Te Puia - Destination Rotorua
The Complete Guide to Rotorua

The Complete Travel Guide to Rotorua ♨️ [2024]

© Te Puia – Destination Rotorua
Article Single Pages© NZPocketGuide.com
Article Single Pages© NZPocketGuide.com
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How to Plan a Trip to Rotorua

The caldera-formed lake that Rotorua sits on the shores of is just the beginning of its geothermally-formed landscape. From a vibrant-red volcano to the steaming lakes, hot springs, colourful sulfur formations and bubbling mud, Rotorua is like stepping onto another planet. But its culture will bring you back to earth with captivating Māori performances and meals prepared in an underground oven known as a “hāngī”. Not forgetting that this is, indeed, New Zealand so breathtaking lake and forest landscapes and adventure activities are all part of the Rotorua experience.

So whether you’re seeking a bit of luxury or sticking to a budget, taking the kids or enjoying a getaway just the two of you, let this travel guide to Rotorua be a launching pad for planning a trip according to your unique travel style.

Frequently Asked Questions About Rotorua

Before we get into this complete travel guide to Rotorua, here are a few common questions travellers have about visiting this geothermal hotspot.

Is Rotorua worth visiting?

Absolutely! Rotorua is home to some of New Zealand’s (and the world’s) best examples of geothermal parks and Māori cultural shows. These are the two main reasons to visit Rotorua, while the city is also packed with diverse tourist attractions.

Where is Rotorua located?

Rotorua is located in the inland Bay of Plenty region of the North Island of New Zealand.

How do you get to Rotorua?

Rotorua is well connected to the rest of New Zealand by road, located on State Highway 5, 2 hrs 45 mins from Auckland and one hour from Tauranga and Taupo. The closest international airport is Auckland Airport with plenty of car rental options available, as well as domestic flights to Rotorua Airport. Rotorua is also on the main national bus route, which you can find more information about in our guide to the Bus Networks in New Zealand.

How many days do you need in Rotorua?

One day in Rotorua is the minimum number of days you need to enjoy a stay here, but we highly recommend at least two to three days in Rotorua due to the breadth of activities!

What is the weather like in Rotorua?

The daily average temperature is 12.8°C (55°F), while the yearly average rainfall is 1,522 mm (60 in) – find out more in What is the Weather Like in New Zealand?

Why does Rotorua smell?

Many liken the smell in Rotorua to “rotten eggs”, which is the naturally occurring smell of hydrogen sulphide caused by geothermal activity.

The Complete Travel Guide to Rotorua© NZPocketGuide.com

What to Do in Rotorua

Rotorua might be known for its geothermal parks and Maori experiences but the town also offers its fair share of adventure and relaxation. Have some adrenaline-fuelled fun by rolling down a hill in a Zorb ball or in a Luge kart, ride giant ziplines through the forest, or see amazing native birds at the town’s conservation centres.

The Top Experiences in Rotorua

What are the must-dos? Here are some of the Rotorua highlights:

… And the list continues over in our 50 Best Things to Do in Rotorua.

Rainy Day Activities

Rotorua is not a bad place to be caught in the rain, as you can enjoy highlights like geothermal parks and Māori shows whatever the weather. Regardless, here are some all-weather backups, just in case:

  • Go white water rafting on the world’s highest commercially rafted waterfall
  • Play mini golf, bowling, laser tag, escape rooms and more at Motion Entertainment
  • Relax in the hot pools of the Polynesian Spa.

For more ideas, head to the 15 Things to Do in Rotorua on a Rainy Day.

Things to Do at Night

The daytime is just the beginning! Let the excitement continue well into the evening with these experiences:

  • See a cultural show and try a hangi meal at Mitai Māori Village
  • Have a good feed at the Rotorua Night Market
  • See the Redwoods Treewalk‘s amazing light displays…

… And, of course, we have more where that came from over in the 10 Things to Do in Rotorua at Night.

The Complete Travel Guide to Rotorua© Pxhere

Where to Stay in Rotorua

Other than the accommodations we recommend on the righthand side of this complete travel guide to Rotorua, we have compiled entire lists of places to stay based on price, what’s best for families or a couples’ getaway, as well as premium stays. What’s more, each list is compiled by real writers; not some dodgy algorithm.

And for a list of the best, skip straight to Places to Stay in Rotorua: 50 Best Accommodations!

The Complete Guide to Rotorua© Volcanic Hills - Destination Rotorua

Where to Eat in Rotorua

With a street literally called “Eat Streat“, food is kind of a big deal in Rotorua. Māori cuisine can be experienced through evening dinners with cultural performances, as well as through unique bush walks to collect indigenous herbs and spices. Rotorua is also home to a winery, including a blueberry winery, while two weekly markets are a great place for more artisanry experiences. Even your accommodation can be a foodie experience, with some of the top fine dining restaurants located in Rotorua’s hotels. So plan a getaway with food being the main focus in The Food Guide to Rotorua.

The Best Restaurants in Rotorua

  • Atticus Finch (1106 Tutanekai Street, Eat Streat)
  • Saigon ’60s (1205 Fenton Street)
  • Ali Baba’s Tunisian Cuisine (1146 Tutanekai Street)
  • El Mexicano Zapata Cantina (1148 Tutanekai Street)
  • Giovanni’s (346 Te Ngae Road)
  • Mokoia Restaurant (77 Robinson Avenue)
  • The Regent Room (1057 Arawa Street)

Again, learn more about these restaurants in The Food Guide to Rotorua: Places to Eat & Food Tours.

Food Tours and Experiences in Rotorua

For elaboration on each activity, check out the 10 Best Foodie Experiences in Rotorua.

Foodie Accommodation in Rotorua

Some of Rotorua’s top fine dining restaurants are established in Rotorua’s hotels, while self-catering accommodation is abundant for those who want to cook with produce perhaps picked up from one of the local markets. Check out your options in the 15 Best Hotels in Rotorua and 10 Best Self-Catering Accommodations in Rotorua.

The Complete Guide to Rotorua© NZPocketGuide.com

Rotorua for Budget Travellers

You don’t have to spend big bucks to enjoy the geothermal and cultural hub of Rotorua. Once you’ve picked your hero activities that you absolutely must do, the rest of your time can be filled with free and cheap experiences. Find the hidden hot pools that are free to bathe in, potter around the geothermal park in the city centre or visit affordable nature centres like Wingspan. Take a deep dive into the budget activities and accommodations in The Budget & Backpacking Guide to Rotorua.

Things to Do in Rotorua on a Budget

For more ideas, just head to the 15 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Rotorua.

Budget Accommodation in Rotorua

Travellers on a budget are spoiled for choice when it comes to budget accommodation in Rotorua. A seemingly endless list of hostels, holiday parks and motels exist in and around the city, suiting most tastes and budgets. Whittle down some of your options with the 20 Best Budget Accommodations in Rotorua.

The Complete Guide to Rotorua© Polynesian Spa - Destination Rotorua

Rotorua for Luxury Travellers

From tranquil experiences indulging in the mineral-rich waters of Rotorua’s hot pools to exciting adventures like helicopter flights onto the famous Mt Tarawera volcano, Rotorua really offers something for all types of travellers looking for something special. Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or simply prefer to travel in style, Rotorua offers enough variety to curate the ideal luxury getaway for you. Get all the advice you need with The Luxury Guide to Rotorua.

Luxury Activities in Rotorua

For more details on each experience, as well as other ideas, check out the 10 Best Luxury Experiences in Rotorua.

Luxury Stays in Rotorua

Rotorua has it all: the international hotels, the luxurious boutique lodges and B&B accommodations. Indulge in resorts with a day spa, hotels with geothermally-heated pools and delectable dining options, as listed in the 20 Best Luxury Accommodations in Rotorua.

The Complete Guide to Rotorua© Redwoods Treewalk - Destination Rotorua

Rotorua for Families

Create exceptional family memories in Rotorua, whether it’s through a captivating Māori show or seeing some of New Zealand’s wildlife up close. Witness the earth in motion at one of the many geothermal parks or enjoy an interactive experience with New Zealand’s farm animals on a farm tour. The opportunities are endless in Rotorua, no matter the age of your little ones, so continue exploring your options in The Family Guide to Rotorua.

Family Activities in Rotorua

For more information on each experience, check out the 20 Things to Do in Rotorua with Kids.

Family-Friendly Accommodations in Rotorua

Self-catering motels with thermally-heated swimming pools, holiday parks with children’s playgrounds and bouncy pillows, and hotels with rooms even decorated for the kids, Rotorua certainly offers something exciting for families when it comes to accommodation. Take your pick from the 20 Best Family Accommodations in Rotorua.

The Complete Guide to Rotorua© Te Puia - Destination Rotorua

Rotorua for Couples

Rotorua is all about treating the senses, which is why it makes such a compulsory stop on any honeymoon itinerary or romantic weekend getaway. The soothing mineral thermal springs, the local tastes at wineries and restaurants, and the sights of beautiful treetop light displays and glowworms in hidden lake caves all add a romantic touch to any couples’ trip to Rotorua. See what other activities, accommodations and eateries we recommend for a special trip with your loved one in The Honeymoon & Romantic Getaway Guide to Rotorua.

Romantic Activities in Rotorua

  • Kayak or SUP through a cave of glowworms
  • Enjoy the views and the ride of a guided horse trek with Adventure Playground
  • Roll down a hill in a giant Zorb ball together
  • Enjoy the pretty light show of the Redwoods Treewalk at night
  • Fly through the trees together on a ziplining tour with Rotorua Canopy Tours.

For more information on each activity, check out the 20 Most Romantic Things to Do in Rotorua.

Romantic Accommodation in Rotorua

A boutique hotel on the lakefront, a lavish hotel stay in the city centre, or how about a quaint B&B stay? Set the tone right by staying in one of the 15 Best Romantic Accommodations in Rotorua.

More About Rotorua

That’s it for our complete guide to Rotorua, but, unbelievably, not the end of our advice about this amazing hotspot in New Zealand. Check out the following guides to learn more:

Finally, if you found this guide useful then you might find planning the rest of your trip super easy with The Best Travel Guide to New Zealand, as well as our North Island in 2 Weeks: NZ Road Trip Itinerary and North Island in 1 Week: NZ Road Trip Itinerary.

Sources:

The information in this guide has been compiled from our extensive research, travel and experiences across New Zealand and the South Pacific, accumulated over more than a decade of numerous visits to each destination. Additional sources for this guide include the following:

Our editorial standards: At NZ Pocket Guide, we uphold strict editorial standards to ensure accurate and quality content.

About The Author

Laura S.

This article has been reviewed and published by Laura, the editor-in-chief and co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. Laura is a first-class honours journalism graduate and a travel journalist with expertise in New Zealand and South Pacific tourism for over 10 years. She also runs travel guides for five of the top destinations in the South Pacific and is the co-host of over 250 episodes of the NZ Travel Show on YouTube.

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