A Travel Guide 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 Maori performances and meals prepared in an underground oven known as a “hangi”. 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.
Fast Facts About Rotorua
Location: In the inland Bay of Plenty region of the North Island.
Climate: Daily average temperature – 12.8°C/55.0°F, yearly average rainfall – 1,522mm/59.9″
Find out more in What is the Weather Like in New Zealand?
Time zone: NZST / GMT+12/+13
How to get to Rotorua: Rotorua is well connected to the rest of New Zealand by road, located on State Highway 5, 2h45mins from Auckland and one hour from Tauranga and Taupo. The closest international airport is Auckland Airport with plenty of car rental options available. Rotorua is also on the main national bus route, which you can find more information about in Bus Networks in New Zealand.
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 in Rotorua 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 Guide to Rotorua on a Budget.
Things to Do in Rotorua on a Budget
- Relax in one of the free thermal pools
- Check out one of the surrounding walks, such as the Blue Lake Walk or the Tarawera Trail
- Check out the free geothermal park, Kuirau Park
- Visit the National Bird of Prey Centre, Wingspan
- Enjoy a cheap cruise and buffet meal on the Lakeland Queen (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor).
For more ideas, just head to the 13 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 10 Best Budget Accommodation in 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
- Visit Rotorua’s geothermal and volcanic highlights with Elite Adventures Rotorua Tours (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Fly and land on the Mt Tarawera volcano with Volcanic Air (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Enjoy an authentic Maori tour with Kahukiwi Experiences (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Drive the 4WD challenges at Off Road NZ (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- See one of the most stunning and off-the-beaten-track forests with Foris Eco-Tours (on Viator and Tripadvisor).
For more details on each experience, as well as other ideas, check out the 10 Luxury Activities in Rotorua.
Luxury Stays in Rotorua
Rotorua really 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 10 Best Luxury Accommodation in Rotorua.
Rotorua for Families
Create exceptional family memories in Rotorua, whether it’s through a captivating Maori 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 Guide to Rotorua for Families.
Family Activities in Rotorua
- Experience the famous sheep show and farm tour of Agrodome (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Meet the kiwi birds, giant trout and more at Rainbow Springs (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- See Rotorua’s highlights and lakes on Rotorua Duck Tours (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Do the family-friendly walks of the Whakawerawera Redwood Forest
- Experience that famous NZ adrenaline at Velocity Valley (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
For more information on each experience, check out the 10 Things to Do in Rotorua with Kids.
Family-friendly Accommodation 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 10 Best Family Accommodation in Rotorua.
Rotorua for Couples
Rotorua is all about treating the senses, which is why it makes such a compulsory stop of 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 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
- Roll down a hill in a giant hamster ball together
- Enjoy the pretty light show of the Redwoods Treewalk at night
- Fly through the trees together on a ziplining tour.
For more information on each activity, check out the 10 Romantic Activities in Rotorua for Couples.
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 10 Best Romantic Accommodation in Rotorua.
Rotorua for Foodies
With a street literally called “Eat Street”, food is kind of a big deal in Rotorua. Maori 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, as well as 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 Foodie Guide to Rotorua.
Food Tours and Experiences in Rotorua
- Try a traditional Maori hangi at Mitai Maori Village (on Viator and Tripadvisor), Tamaki Maori Village (on Viator and Tripadvisor) or Whakawerawera Living Maori Village (on Viator or Tripadvisor)
- Do the Mamaku Blue Orchard and Winery Tour (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Taste wine and craft beers at the local winery and craft beer pub
- Mingle with the locals at the Rotorua Farmers’ Market and Rotorua Night Market
- Join a Maori master chef for a bush food tour.
For elaboration on each activity, check out the 8 Things to Do in Rotorua for Foodies.
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 10 Best Accommodation in Rotorua for Foodies.