An A-Z Travel Guide to Rotorua

An A-Z Travel Guide to Rotorua .....

Agroventures Adventure Park - Geoffrey Barnett was living in Japan when he came up with the idea to cycle over the top of traffic. Fast forward a few years and you have a world first - Shweeb. The Shweeb (below left) is at Agroventures where you'll also find Agrojet, Rotorua Bungy, Swoop and Freefall Xtreme. Rotorua Locals - Agroventures hosted Locals Weekend: 28 February-1 March 2015, we went along to check it out - Agroventures Adventure Park via thecuriouskiwi/blog.

Freefall Xtreme

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. Brew organise regular events like Beer Club (link to thecuriouskiwi/blog), and Sunday Sessions. Visit Facebook to keep up-to-date. Open 7 days. (August 2013 - Brew opened on The Strand in Tauranga).

Wine & Snacks at the Sunday Session
Croucher Coffee

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.

Fat Dog Cafe
Coffee and a slice at Urbano
Abracadabra Blue Room

Cheap fuel - drive to Mobil, 238 Te Ngae Road. For more information see Cheap fuel in Rotorua blog post.

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. Considering staying at the Regent of Rotorua? Check out Trip Advisor reviews.

Regent Of Rotorua Cocktails

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. Retractable roofs and underground thermal heating help make it an all weather dining venue.

Eat Streat
Eat Streat

Fenton Street is home to the i-SITE Visitor Centre (1167 Fenton Street), motel and hotel mile and Oppie's Fish and Chips - 259 Fenton Street. Oppie's is a consistent winner of accolades for its fish 'n' chips and we've always found them to be a good choice.

Rotovegas Motel
Boulevard Motel
Palm Court Motor Lodge
Oppies Fish 'n' Chips

Festivals & Events
A & P Lifestyle Expo (January); Rotorua Bike Festival and Parade of Classic & Wooden Boats (February); Walking Festival (March) and Tulip Fest (October) are a few of the festivals and events celebrated each year.

Rotorua Bike Festival
2013 Wooden Boat Parade
Creation Fest 2014

Wingspan Karearea

Flying displays take place at Wingspan Bird of Prey every day at 2pm. Watch a New Zealand falcon swoop down from the trees and onto the end of a falconer's lure in search of food. For more information see Cheers to the New Zealand Falcon via thecuriouskiwi/blog.

Free Geothermal Spills
Kuirau Park, Ranolf Street/Lake Road, central city
See thermal spills for free at Kuirau geothermal 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.

Mud Pool, Kuirau Park
Kuirau Park
Kuirau Park

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. Kerosene Creek is another free hot spot in the area that's suitable for bathing (keep your head above the water).

Wai-O-Tapu Mud Pools
Wai-O-Tapu Mud Pools
Kerosene Creek

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 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 open 365 days of the year from 8.30am.

Champagne Pool at Wai-O-Tapu
Lady Knox Geyser
Devil's Bath at Wai-O-Tapu

Free Lakeside Concert is held annually in February or March. The 2017 concert date is Saturday 11 March.

2013 Lakeside Concert
2013 Lakeside Concert
2013 Lakeside Concert

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 Card. You can do a wine tasting with a view at Volcanic Hills Tasting Room - five wines for $12. 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).

Rotorua Gondola
Volcanic Hills Tasting Room
Rotorua Luge

Government Gardens are in the central city and are a good spot for a picnic. 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.

Prince's Gate arches, and carvings in the Government Gardens
Rotunda in Government Gardens
Totara Carving

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 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 like Rainbow Springs and Rotorua Duck Tours are common 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.

Hamurana Stream
Redwood Grove & Hamurana Stream
Shag in Hamurana Stream

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 Track 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 - expect to pay $18 for adults, $8 for children 10-15, under 9's free, family of five $49. There may be a discount for locals).

Happy Hour - See Rotorua Happy Hours.

Abracadabra Bar
Brew Hoppy Hour
Brew Hoppy Hour
Hells Gate mud bath

Hells Gate - Book a mud bath and sulphur spa combo at Hells Gate and you can give yourself a mud mask, it will leave your skin feeling beautifully soft and smooth. We wrote about our experience - DIY Mud Masks at Hells Gate.

High Tea - Two options are Distinction Rotorua at 390 Fenton Street, high tea is $12.50 per person; and The Princes Gate Hotel at 1057 Arawa Street, high tea from $28 per person. More details about both high teas.

High Tea Distinction Rotorua
Pavilion Restaurant, Distinction Rotorua
Princes Gate scone & cup cake
Memories Restaurant

Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata is a 50 minute drive from Rotorua. Great Sights run tours from Rotorua for those that don't have their own transport, Hobbiton Movie Set also runs its own tours from Rotorua. Our Hobbiton Movie Set Tour and The Green Dragon Inn blog posts give you a sneak preview of what you'll see at Hobbiton.

No admittance except on party business
The Green Dragon Inn

Ice Cream - Lady Jane's Ice Cream Parlour, 1092 Tutanekai Street (aka Eat Streat) near the lake. As well as scooping ice cream and making sundaes Lady Jane's have a few mountain bikes for hire.

Lady Janes Ice Cream Parlour
Lakeland Queen

Join a one hour coffee cruise on the Lakeland Queen at 8am or 1pm ($25 adult). Breakfast, lunch and dinner cruises are also offered. Tip: Visit Bookme for discounts, we booked a coffee cruise for $12pp. 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 actually travel that far out on the lake, but it's a pleasant way to spend an hour in Rotorua.

Lakeland Queen Muffin & Coffee
Lakeland Queen interior
View of Ohinemutu from the Lakeland Queen

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.

Rainbow Springs
The big splash
Rainbow Springs

You can also ride The Big Splash - see All the colours of the rainbow at Rainbow Springs for more information. If you didn'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. Tips: Stop and say hi to Mandela the talking African parrot, and fill your water bottle free at the fresh water spring.

Lakes - there are 18 lakes in the Rotorua area. Some of the more popular lakes include Lake Tikitapu (known as the Blue Lake) on Tarawera Road. The lake is popular with boaties and fishermen and Blue Lake Top 10 Holiday Park is opposite. 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).

Lake Tarawera
Lake Okareka

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). See Department of Conservation for further information about lakes in the Rotorua area.

Lake Rotorua water based activities offered by Mana Adventures on the lakefront include pedal boat, kayak, and Mana Ball hire - walk on water in a large, clear, inflatable ball. Cost starts at $10 (aged 12+) for 20 minutes in a pedal boat.

Pedal boats on Lake Rotorua
Mana ball on Lake Rotorua
Pig and Whistle

Live entertainment
- Pig and Whistle, corner Haupapa and Tutanekai Streets have live entertainment Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. The Princes Gate Hotel offer dinner and cabaret show packages.

Maori Culture - has an extensive list of Maori cultural experiences. Visit the historic Maori village Ohinemutu to see Tamatekapua Meeting House and St Faith's Church with its Maori Jesus who appears to be walking on water (entry 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.

Ohinemutu Village - view from Third Place Cafe
Ohinemutu Meeting House

Motion Entertainment - If you're looking for inside entertainment for the family head to Motion Entertainment at 346 Te Ngae Road in Lynmore. There is an 18 hole mini golf course, Laser Tag, Dialled Indoor Tramp Park, Chipmunks Playland and Cafe, Escape Masters, Time Zone video games, Strike Zone Tenpin Bowling, and XD Dark Ride.

Rotorua Museum

Museum - Rotorua Museum is in the Government Gardens. Admission $20 adult, $8 child (includes optional guided tour). Open daily except Christmas Day. NOTE: Due to earthquake damage the Rotorua Museum will be closed until at least April 2017.

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. If you're keen to try Rotorua's version of the cronut, look out for Go-nuts at the Ciabatta Bakery stall.

Rotorua Night Market
Rotorua Night Market
Rotorua Night Market
Off Road NZ

Off Road NZ near Mamaku offers Monster 4x4 rides, you can also take the wheel on a 4WD Bush Safari. We went Raceline Karting on the quality track. See Off Road NZ for details.

On Saturday morning there is a flea market at Kuirau Park. There is plenty of produce for sale as well as books, second hand goods, vegetable soap and craft work. You may also be able to get a Thai massage.

Thai Massage

Paradise Valley Springs - Lions are fed daily at 2.30pm, 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 - Rotorua residents half price.

Paradise Valley Lions
Paradise Valley Rainbow Trout
Paradise Valley Kea

Rotorua Duck

Quack at people on the street from a WWII Military Landing Craft driven by a 'Conducktor'. Curious? So were we - 'A quacking good time - Rotorua Duck Tours'.

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 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.

Unique toilets at The Redwoods
Pond on Redwood Memorial Grove track

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.

Rotorua Farmers Market - brand new to Rotorua from 2 October 2016, Rotorua Farmers Market is held every Sunday 9am - 1pm at the intersection of Tutanekai and Hinemoa Streets (outside Starbucks).

Soak in hot water - Polynesian Spa on 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. You can read about the history of bathing in Rotorua at the onsite Hot Springs Cafe. Polynesian Spa is open 365 days of the year from 8am - 11pm, admission from $15 for adults.

Blue Baths
Blue Baths Pool
Polynesian Spa

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.

Glass Art at Arts Village Market, The Arts Village

The Arts Village is located at 1240 Hinemaru Street, there will usually be an exhibition to view - The Arts Village.

Unusual airport transfer - the Kawarau jet boat will drop you off at lakeside accommodation or at the main pier. The transfer includes a fast ride around Mokoia Island (minimum six passengers).

Mamaku Express

Unusual cruising - ride onboard a self drive RailCruiser for 19km down the railway track from Mamaku Railway Station. Cruise for over an hour at a speed of 20 km/hr - nominate your RailCruiser Pilot and travel in convoy on the Mamaku Express. From $76 per person. (Trip Advisor reviews).

Volcanic playground for children is located on the Rotorua Village Green at the lake front. The Waterfront Cafe nearby is open daily for drinks, ice creams and takeaway meals.

Volcanic Playground
Waterfront Cafe

Agrodome Farm Show Rotorua

Who Let The Ducks Out at Agrodome Rotorua? See Agrodome Rotorua on thecuriouskiwi/blog to read about the hijinks at an Agrodome Farm Show.

Wooden & Classic Boat Parade is held each February on Lake Rotoiti. See thecuriouskiwi/blog for photos and more information.

2013 Wooden Boat Parade
2013 Wooden Boat Parade
2013 Wooden Boat Parade

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.

View from Third Place
Third Place Custard Square

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.

Replica Maori Whare
Bottles recovered from Rotomahana Hotel
Original Stone Pataka (Storehouse)

You need to be interested in reading about or listening to the history of the area to get the most out of a visit. There's a decent sized waterfall onsite, wear flat shoes if you take the steep route. Open 7 days, except Christmas Day, admission $32.50 for an adult. (See Bookme for discounts).


Zorb was the obvious choice, if you want to get wet (but not roll upside down) make it a Zydro Zorb. To become a Zorbonaut you roll down a hill in a large ball called a Zorb, get wet or stay dry, from $45. Mike became a Zydro Zorbonaut and highly recommends it - Keep Rollin' on You Tube. OGO is your other rolling option, also priced at $45. Tip: Visit Bookme to check for up to 50% off OGO.

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