An A-Z Travel Guide to Rotorua


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.

Shweeb at Velocity Valley
Agrojet at Velocity Valley
Freefall Xtreme at Velocity Valley


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.

Brew
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

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.

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, Fenton Street
Boulevard Motel, Fenton Street
Palm Court Motor Inn, Fenton Street
Oppies Fish 'n' Chips, Fenton Street

Festivals & Events
A & P Show (January); Wooden Boat Parade (February); Rotorua Walking Festival and Crankworx Mountain Biking Festival (March), and Rotorua Bike Festival (October) are a few of the festivals and events celebrated each year.

Rotorua Bike Festival
2013 Wooden Boat Parade
Creation Fest 2014

Karearea (NZ falcon) at Wingspan National Bird of Prey Centre

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.

Mud pool at 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, 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.

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 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.

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

Free Lakeside Concert is held annually in February or March - Lakeside Concert.

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 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).

Skyline Gondola Rotorua
Volcanic Hills Tasting Room
Luge at Skyline Gondola Rotorua

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.

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

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.

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 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.


Happy Hour - See Rotorua Happy Hours. They don't have a happy hour anymore but if you visit Rotorua in winter and are looking for a nice bar for a drink, Clarke's Bar at the Novotel near the lakefront has an open gas fire. It's a smart bar for a beverage or two (granted, not the cheapest beverages in town).
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. The mask will leave your skin feeling beautifully soft and smooth. Read all about it - DIY Mud Masks at Hells Gate via thecuriouskiwi/blog.


High Tea - Two options for high tea in Rotorua are Distinction Rotorua at 390 Fenton Street, high tea from $17pp; and Prince's Gate Hotel at 1057 Arawa Street, high tea from $29pp. For more information about high tea around New Zealand see our High Tea guide.

High Tea at Distinction Rotorua
Pavilion Restaurant at Distinction Rotorua
Prince's Gate High Tea
Memories Restaurant at Prince's Gate

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. Read about our Hobbiton adventures - Feasting at Hobbiton, Hobbiton Movie Set Tour and The Green Dragon Inn.

Hobbiton Movie Set
Hobbiton Movie Set - No admittance except on party business
The Green Dragon Inn - Hobbiton Movie Set

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.

Lady Janes Ice Cream Parlour
Lakeland Queen

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.

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 at Rainbow Springs
Rainbow Springs

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.

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.

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.

Pedal boats on Lake Rotorua
Helicopter on Lake Rotorua
Pig & Whistle


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



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.

St Faith's Church - photo taken from Third Place Cafe
Ohinemutu Meeting House

Motion Entertainment - If you're looking for rainy day 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 in the Government Gardens


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.

Rotorua Night Market
Rotorua Night Market
Rotorua Night Market
Off Road NZ raceline karting

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 all the details.


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!

Kuirau Park Market
Kuirau Park Market

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.

Paradise Valley Lions
Paradise Valley Rainbow Trout
Paradise Valley Kea

Rotorua Duck Tour

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 via thecuriouskiwi/blog. See Rotorua Duck Tours for full details.


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.

Unique toilets at The Redwoods Whakarewarewa Forest
Pond on Redwood Memorial Grove Walk in The Whakarewarewa Forest

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.

Blue Baths
Blue Baths Pool
Lake view hot pool at 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.


Te Puia offers a combination of geothermal activity, the chance to see a kiwi bird (or two) in the kiwi house, and the opportunity to watch Maori carvers and weavers at work at the New Zealand Maori Arts & Craft Institute. See Te Puia, and the blog post Te Puia, Rotorua via thecuriouskiwi/blog for more information.


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. If you're looking for local and New Zealand made art and gifts visit Iti Gifts - Maori Art Craft & Fashion, 1184 Hinemoa Street.

Unusual tour option - glide down the streets of Rotorua with Rotorua By Segway, 1371 Pukuatua Street, no segway experience needed.


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 adult. (Trip Advisor reviews).


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.

Volcanic Playground
Waterfront Cafe - now Archie's Food Kiosk

Agrodome Farm Show Rotorua
Valais Blacknose Lamb at Agrodome Nursery, 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. 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.


Wooden Boat Parade is held each February on Lake Rotoiti - see Wooden Boat Parade for date and details. We went along and took some photos back in 2013 - Classic & Wooden Boat Parade via thecuriouskiwi/blog.

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 slice

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 at The Buried Village
Bottles recovered from Rotomahana Hotel at The Buried Village
Original Stone Pataka (Storehouse) at The Buried Village

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 $35 for an adult. (Check Bookme for discounts).


Zorb

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.


Comments to date: 1. Page 1 of 1.

Nikos Taskos

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!

Admin:  Hi Nikos, Good to hear NZ lived up to your expectations, I hear you about Hobbiton, I think it's an NZ highlight too and I'm not a LOTR fan. Happy travels to wherever you head to next.

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