A Personal Guide To Travelling In Rotorua New Zealand

Travel Rotorua

This article is​ a​ basic tour guide to​ traveling in​ Rotorua highlight and evaluating the​ main sites in​ the​ district.


If you​ had only one day in​ the​ North Island of​ New Zealand and you​ asked me where should one go for that day I would without hesitation say Rotorua.

This article is​ my personal guide to​ Rotorua from someone who has visited it​ more times than I can remember and if​ given the​ chance I would visit it​ again. This article is​ non-commercial and is​ intended to​ be for general information.


Rotorua is​ approximately 2.5 - 3 hours drive south of​ Auckland. Head south through Hamilton and Cambridge,​ or​ for a​ quicker route via Mata Mata. Shortly after Cambridge turn left and take the​ number 5 which will lead you​ right to​ Rotorua. Coming up from Wellington head to​ Lake Taupo and take the​ number 5 to​ Rotorua. Train and Bus routes also service Rotorua.


Rotorua is​ a​ jewel in​ the​ North Island,​ with geothermal wonders,​ a​ center of​ Maori Culture,​ Parks,​ Lakes,​ Natural History and numerous modern day attractions. Most visitors comment on​ the​ smell when they arrive. it​ is​ Hydrogen Sulphide (rotten egg gas) and while distinct at​ first,​ if​ you​ stay for any length of​ time you​ will adapt and seldom notice it.

Geothermal Parks

The main geothermal parks in​ Rotorua and its surrounds include Whakarewarewa thermal area,​ Waimangu Volcanic Valley,​ Waitapu Thermal wonderland,​ Orakei Korako Geyserland and Hell's Gate. All these required payment.


Visiting this site used to​ be standard fare in​ any visit to​ Rotorua. Unfortunately the​ park has now divided into two parts,​ and I personally don't believe either site has enough to​ stand alone. So what you​ used to​ get for one entry price now costs two (be warned). on​ the​ Hemo Road entrance is​ the​ NZ Maori Arts and Crafts Institute with its master carvers. Also includes a​ weaving house,​ kiwi house,​ and Maori meeting house. Pohutu (big splash) and the​ Prince of​ Wales geyser are also on​ this side. (Prince of​ Wales geyser so named because the​ 3 directions the​ geyser shoots out resembles the​ feathers on​ the​ Prince of​ Wales crest). on​ the​ Tyron street entrance you​ get another meeting house where a​ cultural show is​ put on,​ a​ village,​ shops and some hot pools,​ etc. Also here outside school hours you​ may find the​ local Maori children willing to​ jump off the​ bridge into the​ stream below in​ return for chasing your loose change thrown into the​ same.

Waimangu Volcanic Valley:

A nice walk along a​ valley with numerous hot pools,​ lakes,​ and near the​ end of​ the​ track the​ Warbrick thermal terrace - a​ multi coloured silica terrace,​ probably the​ most colourful terrace in​ Rotorua. Worth a​ visit if​ you​ have already seen some thermal parks and want more,​ or​ like a​ more expansive tour,​ you​ can link with a​ boat tour. (see the​ gallery for some photos courtesy Waimangu's website). the​ pink and white terraces once existed in​ the​ area prior to​ the​ 1886 eruption.

Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland:

My personal favourite,​ about 20 min. south of​ Rotorua towards Taupo. Be prepared to​ walk abit. Numerous rainbow pools,​ the​ huge champagne pool,​ artist palette,​ sulphur vents,​ boiling mud and a​ huge silica terrace. if​ you​ arrive early in​ the​ morning,​ before 10am,​ a​ short drive leads you​ to​ the​ Lady Knox geyser that gets set off once a​ day by them feeding it​ with soap,​ cost of​ this is​ included in​ your admission (was $25 an​ adult). Also on​ this road is​ a​ natural mud pool which is​ the​ best display of​ boiling mud I have seen and its free.

Orakei Korako Geyserland:

Closer to​ Lake Taupo than Rotorua on​ a​ side road connecting route 5 to​ the​ main route 1. you​ need to​ catch the​ ferry across the​ lake to​ begin exploring the​ park. Like most of​ the​ parks good tracks requiring you​ to​ walk to​ see mud pools,​ a​ large cave,​ the​ emerald terrace and the​ largest silica feature in​ the​ country. Worth the​ visit if​ you​ are passing that way.

Hell's Gate:

Another thermal park with numerous boiling things,​ including Adam's frying pan,​ a​ mud volcano,​ hot water falls and one of​ the​ few places I found I could buy the​ multi-colour sand in​ a​ glass container (quite pretty). Once visited by Mark Twain who stated he would have gladly paid not to​ have gone there. I'll have to​ disagree; I think it’s worth the​ visit.

Maori Culture

Rotorua has plenty of​ Maori based attractions. These include Tamaki Maori Village (I've yet to​ visit). the​ NZ Maori Arts and Crafts Institute (already spoken about),​ the​ Buried Village and numerous Hungi and Cultural Performances.

The Buried village is​ what it​ sounds like,​ a​ half buried village. During the​ 1886 eruption a​ number of​ local Maori perished buried in​ mud. Some of​ the​ village has since been dig out and rebuilt to​ give tourists an​ idea of​ a​ Maori village.

I haven't been to​ Tamaki Maori Village so can't give a​ review.

If you​ really want to​ get a​ good taste of​ Maori culture food and hospitality then book one of​ the​ many feasts and concerts put on​ by the​ local hotels. the​ food,​ music and friendship are always top rate.

Other Attractions

Rainbow Springs Park:

A nice park with trout fish as​ its centerpiece,​ beautiful clear running water and a​ top bushland. Lovely walking tracks and you​ can feed the​ fish. Also has a​ farm show attached.

Skyline Skyrides:

The main reason to​ take this ride on​ a​ gondola is​ not just to​ get to​ the​ top for the​ view,​ the​ main reason is​ to​ ride the​ luge. Massive fun,​ as​ long as​ you​ don't fall off. They have a​ small chairlift operating so that you​ can ride the​ luge for as​ long as​ your budget can afford.


Everything you​ wanted to​ know about sheep. Surprising a​ show about sheep and farming in​ NZ is​ interesting and entertaining.

Rotorua Museum of​ Art:

One of​ the​ first buildings built in​ NZ solely with tourists in​ mind. Originally built as​ a​ bath house and hot water treatment center it​ has now been converted. Good museum but the​ highlight is​ the​ movie on​ local history,​ sit down and be sure to​ be holding on​ - a​ total multimedia experience. Definite must do. the​ building itself is​ one of​ the​ finest examples of​ Edwardian design and is​ an​ art piece in​ itself. the​ surrounding gardens are always nicely maintained.

Natures Wonders

There are numerous things to​ do,​ totally free for nature lovers.

Huka Falls:

Just North from Lake Taupo on​ the​ M1 is​ Huka Falls and the​ world famous Huka Falls Lodge (for the​ novu-rich of​ the​ world). Huka Falls itself is​ free for all. Near the​ beginning of​ the​ mighty Waikato river (NZ longest river) it’s not the​ height of​ the​ falls but the​ sheer volume of​ water that is​ forced through which is​ impressive,​ few people have gone over the​ falls and survived. Boat trips are now run up to​ the​ base of​ the​ falls for those wanting a​ different perspective.

Whakarewarewa Forrest Park:

On the​ road to​ the​ blue and green lakes. Contains beautiful stands of​ redwood trees,​ walking and horse riding tracks. the​ redwood trees are relatively young for trees,​ but they are already huge in​ size.

Government Gardens:

Outside the​ Rotorua museum is​ well kept flower beds,​ rose gardens,​ bowling greens and more.

Kuirau Park:

Opposite the​ main hospital on​ Kuirau road is​ Kuirau Park with numerous boiling pools and geothermal activities. Contains some foot pools to​ ease your sore feet and a​ children’s park with miniature railway. on​ my last visit there was a​ huge hole in​ the​ ground and several trees blown over or​ covered in​ mud due to​ a​ localized eruption. it​ is​ a​ reminder the​ whole area is​ geothermally active and has the​ potential to​ be dangerous.

Blue and Green Lakes:

Past Whakarewarewa Forrest Park is​ the​ blue lake,​ great for swimming or​ boating activities,​ clear water with a​ pumice bottom,​ those further out there is​ a​ problem with weeds. Keep going on​ the​ road to​ get a​ view of​ Mt. Tarawera. the​ green lake is​ banned and tapu (Maori for cursed,​ sacred,​ special) and no is​ supposed to​ enter it.

Mt. Tarawera:

For the​ true adventure fanatics. Take the​ back road and climb Mount Tarawera. Enter the​ crater and run down to​ the​ bottom at​ full speed. the​ massive crater was caused by the​ 10 June 1886 eruption which destroyed the​ pink and white terraces and buried many villages.


The number of​ lakes is​ simply too many to​ mention. Great for trout fishing,​ boating or​ picnics. Some lakes even have black volcanic glass and/or pumice stone lying on​ their shores.

Hamurana Springs:

If you​ want to​ see a​ beautiful spring feed stream,​ this is​ worth a​ visit,​ pure water with a​ hint of​ blue flowing over white pumice bed. There is​ also a​ nice stand of​ redwoods and I would be surprised if​ you​ didn’t' see any trout in​ the​ stream (no fishing allowed,​ sorry).

This list is​ by no means exhaustive and like any tourist destination new venues are always opening up. I hope this provides you​ with a​ basic to​ do list when visiting. to​ see pictures go to​ the​ website in​ the​ resource box below.
A Personal Guide To Travelling In Rotorua New Zealand A Personal Guide To Travelling In Rotorua New Zealand Reviewed by Henda Yesti on September 26, 2018 Rating: 5

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