Are you planning a trip to New Zealand and want to include a stop in Rotorua on your New Zealand itinerary? Keep scrolling to find out lots of fun things to do in Rotorua, where to stay, and where to eat.
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You’ll find a wide range of things to do in Rotorua, one of the most popular destinations on New Zealand’s North Island
With its amazing mud pools, luxury spas, beautiful bush walks, and spectacular geysers, it is definitely a place like no other.
When it comes to Maori culture, Rotorua is known to be the epicenter. And it’s where you’ll find an impressive number of geothermal wonders!
It’s a spectacular place and one I definitely recommend spending time in.
Read this complete travel guide to things to do in Rotorua. You’ll find out how to get there, where to stay, and more.
Guest post by Camille
Don’t have time to read a bunch of New Zealand blog posts and reviews? Here are some of our top picks for visiting Rotorua.
Popular Rotorua Tours/Activities
- Hell’s Gate Mud Bath & Spas (perfect excuse to get muddy)
- Kaituna White-Water Rafting Adventure (for those who are up for some excitement)
- Tamaki Maori Village (the ultimate cultural experience)
- Hobbiton Day Tour (this is perfect for Lord of the Rings fans!)
Favorite Rotorua Hotels/Motels
How to Get to Rotorua
Rotorua is located 228 kilometers south of Auckland. There are many ways to get to Rotorua, but the easiest one is to get there by car.
But, if you don’t have a car, you can still get to see the amazing geothermal activity of Rotorua!
Here are your options.
Rotorua by Car
As I said, renting or having a car is, by far, the easiest way to get to Rotorua. From Auckland, follow Highway 27. This is a very popular destination, so you’ll see many signs along the way.
Rotorua by Plane
There’s a regional airport in Rotorua. You can fly there from 3 cities in New Zealand: Wellington, Auckland, and Christchurch. The flights are operated by Air New Zealand, a very good and reliable air company.
Rotorua by National Coach
If you don’t fancy flying to Rotorua, your best option is to catch a coach. Intercity runs daily direct coaches from Auckland to Rotorua.
The journey takes approximately three and a half hours. You can also take a direct coach to Rotorua from other cities on the North Island, including Tauranga, Wellington, and Taupo.
Take a Tour
There are many tour operators in New Zealand that offer day tours to Rotorua. If you don’t want to spend too much time there, this could be a good option for you.
Organized tours are a little bit expensive, but you usually get a very knowledgeable driver and guide, so you learn a lot about the area on these trips.
Best Things to Do in Rotorua
Before you go to Rotorua, you should know that the whole city smells of rotten eggs… It’s caused by the sulfur emissions of the many geothermal features in the area.
But that really shouldn’t stop you from visiting this wonderful area of New Zealand.
This is a magical place, and there is no lack of things to do in Rotorua. In fact, you could easily spend days exploring the many geothermal wonders in the area.
There are natural hot springs, hot pools, mud pools, geothermal geysers, and more! Even the historic Whakarewarewa Maori village features a sulphur spa.
But there’s more to Rotorua than that.
Whether you want to relax at the spa, explore beautiful gardens or immerse yourself in the Maori culture, Rotorua is a fantastic destination.
Explore Waimangu Volcanic Valley
Waimangu Volcanic Valley is a fantastic geothermal destination and one of the top Rotorua attractions. It is less popular than its neighbor Wai-O-Tapu, but it still is spectacular.
Waimangu offers self-guided tours of 45 minutes to 4 hours depending on how much time you have to explore.
There’s an easy walkway to follow where you’ll see all the main highlights of the park including the stunning Frying Pan Lake and Inferno Crater.
You can even take cruises on Lake Rotomahana and admire the hundreds of birds that live there.
See the Bubbling Hot Springs of Wai-O-Tapu
Wai-O-Tapu is definitely one of the most popular geothermal parks in Rotorua.
The famous Champagne Pool and Lady Knox Geyser are the reasons most people choose to visit Wai-O-Tapu instead of other parks.
Wai-O-Tapu really offers stunning geothermal features that you won’t see anywhere else in the world.
If you’re looking for a truly unique experience in Rotorua, then I suggest you visit Wai-O-Tapu. You’ll definitely be impressed by the park and all it has to offer.
However, if you choose to visit this park, be ready for the crowd, even in low season.
Spend the Day at Te Puia
Te Puia is a natural and cultural park where Maori culture mixes with geothermal activity.
In Te Puia, you can watch the famous Pohutu Geyser that erupts 20 times a day. You’ll also see Maori cultural performances and even see live kiwi birds!
And there’s the beauty of the Whakarewa Valley, with its mud pools, natural hot springs, and living Maori village.
In addition, you can visit the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute. Here, traditional carving and weaving techniques are taught to young Maori residents.
Te Puia is a fantastic place to spend a day out with friends or family. Discover the beauty and cultural heritage of the Rotorua region.
Relax at the Polynesian Spa
Maybe you want to indulge yourself, unwinding and relaxing in beautiful and unique surroundings. Then visit the Polynesian Spa, one of the top things to do in Rotorua.
The spa’s geothermal hot pools are sourced from 2 natural springs in Rotorua, which makes it pretty unique.
You can try the geothermal mud therapies or bathe in the slightly acidic Priest Spring waters. Or simply enjoy a day out at the family pools.
There’s something for everyone at the Polynesian Spa.
Take a Stroll Around Government Gardens
The historic Government Gardens surround the Tudor-style spa bath near Lake Rotorua. These famous gardens can be visited with a guide who will explain the history of the place.
The Rotorua Museum is now in the beautiful old Bath house building but has been closed for repairs since 2016 due to earthquake damages.
However, you can still take a stroll around the gardens, and admire the surrounding buildings.
Soak at Kuirau Park
If you’re looking for free things to do in Rotorua, check out the free geothermal park, Kuirau Park.
This awesome park located in the center of Rotorua is great for those who want to discover Rotorua’s geothermal features without spending a lot of money.
You can take a nature walk along a short walkway around the park. Soak in mineral-rich mud baths or take a foot bath in the hot mineral water pools.
It’s a fantastic place for a relaxing afternoon. But be aware that the sulfur smell is really strong at Kuirau Park!
Hike Rainbow Mountain
Rainbow mountain is an active geothermal mountain with beautiful colored rock and surrounded by native bush.
It’s located just a few minutes’ drive outside of Rotorua and is definitely worth a trip.
You can hike all the way up to the summit for stunning views of the area.
If you’re not up for the challenge, a short walk to Crater Lakes will take you to the steamy orange mountain and stunning volcanic craters.
Swim at Kerosene Creek
Located on Old Waiotapu road, Kerosene Creek is a very popular hot spring in Rotorua. Here, you can relax and unwind in naturally hot waters.
It’s a spectacular place in the New Zealand bush offering a natural bathing experience. You can go there for free and enjoy the beauty of nature with your friends or family.
Explore the Redwoods Forest
The Redwoods Forest is the perfect spot for nature lovers.
It’s home to the famous Californian Coast Redwoods. And you can see them if you follow the Redwood Memorial Grove track.
Whether you want to hike, mountain bike, or go horse riding, you’ll enjoy spending time in this spectacular natural area.
The forest is also home to a tree walk, which you can enjoy day and night. Actually, it is one of the best things to do in Rotorua at night.
Read my full post about the Redwoods Tree Walk in Rotorua!
Tour the Ohinemutu Maori Village
Ohinemutu is a living Maori village you can visit for free on your New Zealand trip.
It’s located right next to the city centre of Rotorua and is home to the Ngati Whakaue tribe.
The village was built on the shore of Lake Rotorua. It’s a pretty special place.
You’ll love admiring the stunning Maori meeting house, the old Anglican church by the lake, and the many geothermal features in the area.
It’s a place not to miss on your trip to Rotorua!
Where to Stay in Rotorua
While you’re looking for things to do in Rotorua, you’ll also need to think about where to stay. And you have tons of options!
Rotorua is a touristy spot. So, your choice of accommodation is vast. From budget to luxury hotels, you’ll definitely find what you’re looking for in the center of Rotorua.
I’ve also included campsites in this travel guide of Rotorua for those who are traveling in a van or a car.
If you’re traveling by campervan around New Zealand, then staying in a campsite is your best option.
For those willing to stay in a quieter place, I definitely recommend staying at the Lake Okareka Campsite.
This camp is located 10 kilometers outside of Rotorua but it’s very scenic, super quiet and only $15 per person.
You can find the exact location of both these camps on the app Campermate.
Most hostels in Rotorua are located close to the famous Eat Street and the Government Gardens.
They’re a great choice for solo travelers who’d like to meet new friends in Rotorua. Below, you’ll find my 3 favorite hostels in Rotorua.
Funky Green Voyager is located close to everything, offers a great atmosphere and feels more like a home than a hostel.
With its clean facilities and friendly staff, Funky Green Voyager is a great place for a short stay in Rotorua. Also, the hostel has a tour desk and offers many discounts on local activities.
If you’re looking for a quiet place with a homely feel, then head to Funky Green Voyager.
Rotorua Central Backpackers is my number one choice for hostels in Rotorua. This amazing hostel has a spa pool (yes!), a garden, and free Wi-Fi.
Located right in the heart of Rotorua, this hostel is simply the best in the area. The place offers comfy beds, a friendly atmosphere, big rooms, and clean amenities.
And best of all, it’s one of the most affordable places in Rotorua.
The centrally located Rock Solid Backpackers is a modern hostel that offers dorm, double and single rooms.
It offers many amenities, including free Wi-Fi, a rock-climbing wall, a library, and a cinema. You can see why this hostel is definitely a backpacker’s favorites in the area!
On top of that, it’s located next to all the main sights in Rotorua, like the Kuirau Park and the Government Gardens.
Rock Solid Backpackers offers good prices, so don’t miss it if you’re on a budget.
If you’re not traveling on a budget and can afford to splurge a little bit, then staying in one of the many beautiful hotels in Rotorua is a good choice.
Here are a couple of hotels I recommend in Rotorua.
The Millennium Hotel is simply stunning. It offers gorgeous rooms with lake views, outdoor swimming pool, spa, and fitness center.
This hotel has everything you need for a perfect stay in Rotorua.
The hotel also has its own restaurant, the Nikau, that serves dishes made with local products.
The Millennium Hotel Rotorua is luxurious hotel that’s definitely worth the price.
With a stay here, you’re guaranteed to spend an unforgettable time in Rotorua. Check the latest rates and availability.
Jet Park Hotel is a Kiwi-owned property that’s ideal for families.
With its beautiful outdoor pool, stunning spa and amazing playground, this hotel is simply perfect.
Its location is ideal to explore Rotorua’s many tourist attractions, including the weekly night market.
In addition, the hotel has a boutique café where you can enjoy New Zealand wines or coffee. Check the latest rates and availability.
For those looking for cozy rooms, motels are great in New Zealand. They usually offer fully equipped kitchenettes and many amenities like swimming pools and playgrounds for children.
Here are my favorites.
Six on Union Motel is located near Rotorua’s biggest shopping mall.
With its swimming pool, spa pool and free Wi-Fi, the motel offers good amenities. You’ll find a computer in each room, which you can use for free.
The motel is a 10-minute walk from Lake Rotorua and the city centre. The rooms have a fully equipped kitchen with microwave, kettle, and fridge.
In addition, the friendly staff will do everything they can to make your stay enjoyable. Check the latest rates and availability.
Malones Spa Motel is a great place for those looking for relaxation. Indeed, some rooms have a hot tub, which is absolutely amazing.
The motel is located a little bit outside Rotorua’s city centre, and only 5-minute drive from the famous Whakarewarewa Thermal Village.
All rooms feature a kitchenette, tv with satellite, and ironing facilities. The Malones is an affordable motel perfect for couples and families alike.
Aura Accommodation is one of the best motels in town. Located near Lake Rotorua, Aura offers fully equipped studios with a kitchen, TV (with Netflix), and free wifi.
On top of that, the motel has an outdoor pool and barbecues you can use anytime.
From this motel, you can easily access all the main sights of the city. Check the latest rates and availability.
There are also lots of amazing Airbnbs in Rotorua that are great for large families or group travel.
Where to Eat in Rotorua
A guide on things to do in Rotorua wouldn’t be complete without a list of the best restaurants in town.
The famous Eat Street is where most restaurants are located in Rotorua.
For something more exotic, head to Indian Star Restaurant, a fabulous traditional Indian restaurant.
Another great option is the Stratosfare Restaurant. This luxury restaurant is located at the top of the Skyline gondola and is very famous for offering delicious meals.
How Many Days Should You Stay in Rotorua
We stayed 3 days in Rotorua, and I found it to be enough to explore the main sights.
But if you wanted to stay longer, you could. There’s so much to do, you could easily spend 4-5 days in the area.
If you have a car, there are many places to visit outside of Rotorua’s city center that are simply stunning, like Rainbow Springs Nature Park or the Waikite Valley Thermal Pools.
If you’re short on time, then I recommend spending 2 days in Rotorua. This is definitely enough to see the geothermal wonders and explore a Maori village.
When is the Best Time to Visit Rotorua
You’ll find things to do in Rotorua year-round. Summer (December to February) is a good season to visit New Zealand and Rotorua. The summer is warm and dry, but it is also the busiest season of the year.
We visited Rotorua in winter (June to August), and the weather was quite cold and rainy. But I enjoyed visiting in the winter, because we practically had the place to ourselves!
However, I think the best time of the year to see Rotorua is spring (September to November). In spring, the scenery is perfect, the sun shines and the place isn’t too crowded yet.
Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Rotorua
There are things to do in Rotorua for every kind of traveler! From spectacular geothermal features and incredible living Maori villages to fantastic forests, Rotorua is an unmissable place to visit on your trip to New Zealand.
There are many things to do, see and discover in this incredible area. I hope this travel guide helped you plan your perfect trip to Rotorua.
AUTHOR BIO: Camille is a blogger at Crystal Healing Ritual and a craft blogger from France. Dedicated to traveling sustainably, Camille has been roaming the world and living abroad for over 7 years. When she’s not traveling, you’ll find her hiking or reading a good book.