An A-Z Travel Guide to Rotorua .....
(Updated February 2020)
Adrenalin action - Velocity Valley Adventure Park (formerly Agroventures) is home to Agrojet, Rotorua Bungy, Swoop, Freefall Xtreme and Freestyle Airbag. We went for a spin on the Agrojet and flew (sort of) in Freefall Xtreme during a Rotorua Locals Weekend.
Basement Cinema - If you like small independent cinemas see the schedule for Basement Cinema at 1140 Hinemoa Street. Basement Cinema shares its space with The Wall - an indoor climbing facility.
Brew Craft Beer Pub at 1103 Tutanekai Street (aka Eat Streat) is owned and run by The Croucher Brewing Company. As well as Croucher beer there's a changing selection of NZ craft beers and Brew organise regular events like Beer Club and Open Mic Night. Hoppy hour is Friday 5pm - 7pm. Visit Facebook to keep up-to-date. Open 7 days.
Cafe Guide - Our Rotorua Cafe Guide includes cafes that we think visitors to the city will appreciate, in keeping with the unusual theme we have noted the most unusual aspects of each cafe.
Drink a cocktail or two at the slick Regent of Rotorua Cocktail Bar, 1191 Pukaki Street. Decked out in black, white and silver with two white rhinoceros heads keeping watch, the bar is a smart setting for a cocktail. The restaurant serves consistently good food, the staff are lovely and its become one of our favourite places to eat out in Rotorua (it's more fine dining than casual so good for a special occasion, or any occasion really).
Eat Streat is a section of Tutanekai Street near the lake front, it's open to pedestrians only so there are plenty of tables for al fresco dining. A retractable roof and underground thermal heating help make it an all weather dining venue. Some of the eating/drinking options on Eat Streat include CBK Craft Bar & Kitchen, Atticus Finch (highly recommended for food, and if you like pavlova it's one of the best we've had in NZ), and Ponsonby Road Lounge Bar.
Flying displays take place at Wingspan National Bird of Prey Centre, 1334 Paradise Valley Road. Note: Wingspan's new facility is under development, check the website and Facebook for up-to-date information about visiting times etc. (Read about our visit - Wingspan and the NZ Falcon via thecuriouskiwi/blog.)
Free Geothermal Spills
Kuirau Park, Ranolf Street/Lake Road, central city
See geothermal spills for free at Kuirau Park. Stay on the walking track and board walk, and heed the warning signs - there's a lot of hot activity here. There are also a couple of mineral pools suitable for soaking your feet.
Wai-O-Tapu Mud Pools, Waiotapu Loop Road (20 minutes drive south of Rotorua)
Turn left at Waiotapu Hotel on State Highway 5, drive a few hundred metres and turn left again to see mud pools in action free of charge, they are hypnotic. Kerosene Creek is another free hot spot in the area, you can get in the water at Kerosene Creek, but keep your head above the water.
Pay to see Geothermal Spills
Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, 201 Waiotapu Loop Road (20 minutes drive south of Rotorua)
Lady Knox Geyser gets a helping hand to erupt every day at 10.15am. Allow yourself plenty of time if you want to see it erupt as you need to purchase your entry ticket first, then drive a few hundred metres to the geyser viewing area. You'll hear a good story about the geyser before it erupts with enthusiasm. After the eruption, drive back to the main car park and start your self guided walk ..... Wai-O-Tapu blog post about our visit, Wai-O-Tapu is a stand out geothermal attraction. Wai-O-Tapu is open 365 days of the year from 8.30am.
Gondola and luge rides make for a fun day out at Skyline Rotorua on Mount Ngongotaha, see the combo packages. Rotorua residents and frequent visitors can purchase an Annual Gondola Pass. You can do a wine tasting with a view at Volcanic Hills Tasting Room - five wines for $16. We highly recommend a tasting, if you're travelling with children the tasting room is a quiet place to hideout while the kids let loose on the luge. (For more about Skyline Rotorua see Adrenalin Action at Skyline Rotorua via thecuriouskiwi/blog).
Government Gardens are in the central city and are a good spot for a picnic or a walk, especially when the flowers are blooming. The gardens were gifted by Ngati Whakaue in 1880 "for the benefit of the people of the world". Ngati Whakaue also presented the red totara carvings (originals in storage) you see at the garden entrance, they were given to commemorate the gift of the land.
The carvings were created by master carver Tene Waitere in 1907 and represent koromatua (tribal ancestors) that act as kaitiaki (guardians) of the area. The Prince's Gate arches (above left) were built in 1901 to represent a crown, they were built in honour of the visit by the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York (later King George V and Queen Mary). The arches at the gardens are only part of the original structure which once spanned Fenton and Hinemoa Streets.
Half price deals on attractions and activities in Rotorua like Rainbow Springs and Rotorua Duck Tours might pop up on Bookme. Also see GrabOne Rotorua - Taupo.
Hamurana Spring (also known as Hangarua Spring) & Dancing Sands Spring - Walk through the Redwood Grove and along Hamurana Stream to the point where the spring appears after travelling from the Mamaku plateau, a journey that is said to take 70 years! The photos show how clear the water is, around 4,500,000 litres flow out of the spring every hour. The spring was once filled with over 5000 pennies ... visit to find out what happened to them.
The spring is the largest in the North Island and the stream it feeds is home to rainbow and brown trout, and plenty of bird life. After passing the viewing platform for Hamurana Spring you will find Dancing Sands Spring where sand really does dance. Hamurana Springs Nature Reserve is a pretty loop track that takes around 30 minutes. To get there drive around Lake Rotorua for 15-20 minutes to Hamurana, the car park and starting point for the walk are next to Hamurana Golf Club. Note: There is now a charge to visit Hamurana Spring - self guided walk - $18 adults.
Ice Cream - Lady Jane's Ice Cream Parlour, 1092 Tutanekai Street (aka Eat Streat) near the lake is the place to go to get the kids some ice cream.
Join a one hour coffee cruise on the Lakeland Queen at 8am or 1pm ($30 adult). Breakfast, lunch, dinner and twilight wine cruises are also offered. Note that it's not espresso coffee, but filter, there is tea if you prefer. The captain was friendly, funny and informative, you don't travel that far out on the lake, but it's a pleasant way to spend an hour in Rotorua.
Kiwi conservation at Rainbow Springs, join a behind the scenes Kiwi Encounter to see the incubation, hatching and nursery rooms for kiwi birds. There is an extra fee for the tour that directly supports kiwi conservation. In the rest of the park you'll see tuatara, native and exotic birds, and trout.
You can also ride The Big Splash - we were sceptical but it really does create a big splash - see All the colours of the rainbow at Rainbow Springs. If you don't do the Kiwi Encounter but are still keen to see a kiwi, your ticket allows you to return at night to see kiwi in the outdoor enclosure.
Lakes - there are 18 lakes in the Rotorua area. One of the most visited lakes is Lake Tikitapu (known as the Blue Lake) on Tarawera Road. The lake is popular with boaties and water skiers and Blue Lake Top 10 Holiday Park is opposite as is the Airstream Cafe. On the lake shore is a playground, BBQ's and toilets. You can walk the Blue Lake Track (5.5 km, 1.5 hours return), it's not a difficult walk, but one section is along the roadside.
Continue driving down Tarawera Road and you will see Lake Rotokakahi (Green Lake), this lake is owned by local iwi and is closed to visitors.
Further on is Lake Tarawera, The Landing Cafe is on the shore - Trip Advisor reviews.
Lake Okareka Walkway is 3km from the Blue Lake and is a 5.5km return short walk good for bird watchers - see Lake Okareka Walkway via thecuriouskiwi/blog.
Lake Rotorua - the lake front in downtown Rotorua is currently being redeveloped so activity on the lake is minimal. However if you're keen for a spin in a jet boat or would like to go parasailing see Katoa Lake Rotorua.
Locally made fashion - Visit Adrienne Whitewood's ahu boutique at 1178 Eruera Street, and Iti Gifts at 1184 Hinemoa Street.
Maori Culture - Rotoruanz.com has an extensive list of Maori cultural experiences. Visit the historic Maori village Ohinemutu to see Tamatekapua Meeting House and St Faith's Church which has an image of a cloaked Jesus in the window that looks to be walking on water (entry to the church is by gold coin donation). Please note that Ohinemutu is a living village, visitors are welcome but please respect residents' privacy and stay on the paths - there is geothermal activity in the area.
Museum - Rotorua Museum is in the Government Gardens. Note: Due to earthquake damage the Rotorua Museum will be closed for the foreseeable future.
Night market - Every Thursday night from 5pm (weather permitting) a section of Tutanekai Street between Haupapa and Pukuatua is closed to traffic for the Rotorua Night Market. It's the place to go for an inexpensive dinner on Thursday night.
On Saturday morning from 7am to 1pm the Kuirau Park Market is held in Kuirau Park. There is plenty of food and produce for sale as well as books and second hand goods. You may also be able to get a Thai massage. The market has been going for over 30 years and has raised over $800,000 for Rotorua charities - wow!
Paradise Valley Springs - Lions are fed daily at 2.30pm. In the rest of the park you can hand feed farm animals, see trout, eels, and friendly kea in the walk-through aviary. You may see lion cubs but check the website, if they have cubs it will be mentioned. After the lion feeding you may be able to feed a kea and a possum or two, although on our last visit the possums weren't up for visitors, fair enough too, they're nocturnal so day time is nap time. Entry fee - $30 adult and $15 child.
Redwoods Whakarewarewa Forest - Photographs (ours anyway) can't do the forest justice nor capture the tranquility of the area or the majesty of the towering Californian Coastal Redwoods. The Redwoods Whakarewarewa Forest is ideal for peaceful walks or jogs, and there are separate mountain bike tracks. The Visitor Centre on Long Mile Road has information about all tracks including short walks like the 2km (30 minute) Redwood Memorial Grove walk and the 3.4 km (1 hour) Waitawa track. Both tracks are suitable for pushchairs and most wheel chairs, as are other tracks in the forest. The forest is 5 minutes drive from the city.
Hire mountain bikes onsite from Mountain Bike Rotorua on Waipa State Mill Road. Two tracks suitable for beginners are Tahi and The Dipper - see Ride Rotorua for more mountain bike track information.
RefillNZ - Help save the environment and yourself some money while travelling by refilling your reusable water bottle with tap water from RefillNZ stations around NZ.
Rotorua Farmers Market - Rotorua Farmers Market is held every Sunday 9am - 1pm at Te Manawa (at the intersection of Tutanekai and Hinemoa Streets and outside Starbucks).
Soak in hot water - Polynesian Spa at 1000 Hinemoa Street has hot mineral pools that cater for families and adults, and spa therapies are on the menu. See if your soles can handle the reflexology walk. Polynesian Spa is open 365 days of the year from 8am - 11pm.
Another soaking option is the Art Deco style Blue Baths in the Government Gardens, first opened in 1933. Admission is $11 per adult for entry to 3 hot pools (note there are no private pools, and the water is fresh as opposed to mineral). Open from 10am in summer, midday in winter.
Volcanic playground for children is located on the Rotorua Village Green at the lake front. Due to the lake front re-development there is currently no cafe on the Village Green but Lady Jane's Ice Cream Parlour and Eat Streat are only a short walk away.
Who Let The Ducks Out at Agrodome Rotorua? See Agrodome Rotorua on thecuriouskiwi/blog to read about the hijinks at an Agrodome Farm Show. For full details about what to see and do visit Agrodome. To see what are possibly the world's cutest sheep visit the Agrodome Nursery and say hi to the Valais Blacknose lambs.
Xtra good custard slices are served at Third Place Cafe, 35 Lake Road. The cafe looks out over Lake Rotorua and Ohinemutu Village, it's a popular coffee stop for locals.
You can visit The Buried Village on Tarawera Road to learn about the eruption of Mount Tarawera that buried the Pink and White Terraces and claimed many lives in 1886. We spent a couple of hours in the museum and reading our way around the story boards in the remains of Te Wairoa Village, we found it fascinating.
Zorb was the obvious choice. In May 2019 the founders of OGO (and inventors of the Zorb ball) bought the Zorb business back after leaving the company in 2006. Zorb and OGO are now combined and you can roll down the hills in an inflatable ball at the OGO site - 525 Ngongotaha Road in Fairy Springs.
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I have been to New Zealand recently and it certainly lived up to expectations. One of the highlights of my trip was Hobbiton; as a true fan, I couldn't afford to miss it!