Rotorua Travel Guide
Introduction to Rotorua
You’ll know when you’re close to Rotorua. The distinctive smell of sulphur, which is emitted by its geothermal features, is a signal you are approaching one of the must-visit cities for first-time visitors to New Zealand.
In addition to its multicoloured pools, geysers, and thermal springs, you’ll have an opportunity to connect with Maori culture during your time in Rotorua – if you’ll be spending significant time on the North Island, give this place at least a couple days.
Cultural Attractions in Rotorua
For years, travellers interested in history and culture have often begun their visit here by dropping by the Rotorua Museum. However, the building housing many of its attractions recently failed a seismic assessment, forcing it to close indefinitely.
They hope to have it open again as soon as possible, but renovations will take months to complete. If your trip to Rotorua won’t be happening until 2019 or later, this shouldn’t be an issue: if it is open when you go there, you’ll find artifacts from local Maori tribes and works of art inside a stunning former Tudor bathhouse.
If you are due to head to Rotorua soon, museum staff will still be offering guided tours of the grounds, including the lush Government Gardens.
Experience the culture of New Zealand’s indigenous people by spending time at the Tamaki Maori Village. Winning the most rewards of any cultural attraction in the country, you’ll be treated to dancing, songs, and authentic buildings which accurately reflect how Maori villages looked centuries ago.
It all starts from the moment you get picked up by the bus – along the way, your driver will regale you with tales of how life was in Aotearoa (Maori for New Zealand) before the Europeans came, cracking a few jokes for good measure.
Upon your arrival, you’ll be greeted by friendly villagers, you’ll get to tour their houses, watch them perform traditional chants and dances, and at the end, you’ll get to enjoy a hangi – a meal cooked in the earth, wrapped in banana leaves and underneath hot coals.
If you are looking to delve even deeper into the culture of the Maori while you are in Rotorua, make sure Whakarewarewa Village is on your itinerary as well. Here, you’ll learn how the Maori were able to not just survive, but thrive living within smelling distance of the geothermic features that have made Rotorua famous.
Like in Tamaki, you’ll be treated to a Haka dance and chant, but you’ll also have the opportunity to get a Maori tattoo, observe geysers in action, and take a bath in a thermal or mud spring.
Other Attractions in Rotorua
As natural attractions go in Rotorua, Waiotapu is far and away the best of the lot. Consisting of multiple steaming pools which include shades of blue, green, orange, and yellow, this geothermal wonder has plenty of geysers, mud pools, and thermal lakes to satisfy avid photographers.
Looking to sample the heated waters of Rotorua? At a commercial operation named Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, there are numerous hot springs and mud baths that will soothe your aches and pains, while the Lady Knox Geyser is a feature which can be induced to erupt on demand by the addition of a surfactant.
Want to experience everything the Rotorua area has to offer in one attraction? If you are tight on time and got money to spend, spend some time at Te Puia. Here, you’ll find a kiwi enclosure, which houses two of New Zealand’s national birds, a performance space where local Maori hold concerts on a regular basis, and most important of all, access to the Pohutu geyser, the most spectacular geothermal feature in the Rotorua area.
Want to get away from the tourist crowds in Rotorua and recharge? The Whakarewarewa Forest is the perfect place to do this, as it allows everyone from casual walkers to mountain bikers a chance to relax and unwind in a truly magnificent natural setting.
In addition to having trees endemic to this part of the world, you’ll also find a grove of California redwoods, which dominate the park with their massive trunks and vertical prominence. Humbling in their appearance, those encountering them for the first time will be able to appreciate the awesomeness of nature after seeing these behemoths up close.