An A-Z Travel Guide to Rotorua .....(Updated May 2018)
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.
Around Town - What's on in Rotorua - Download the free Around Town App to see what's on in Rotorua.
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 Sunday Sessions. Visit Facebook to keep up-to-date. Open 7 days.
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.
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.
Free Geothermal Spills
Kuirau Park, Ranolf Street/Lake Road, central city
See thermal 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.
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).
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.
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 $15. 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).
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.
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.
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 Walk 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 - $18 adults, $8 for children 10-15, under 9's free, family of five $49, Gold Card Holders are free. If you're a local ask about the locals card.
Happy Hour - See Rotorua Happy Hours.
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.
Join a one hour coffee cruise on the Lakeland Queen at 8am or 1pm ($29 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.
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.
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.
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 Rotorua water based activities offered by Mana Adventures on the lakefront in the city include pedal boat and kayak hire. Volcanic Air are also based on the lakefront and offer float-plane and helicopter flights to Mount Tarawera and White Island.
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.
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.
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 30 years and has raised around $800,000 for Rotorua charities - wow!
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.
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.
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 - 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, admission from $23 for adults.
Tour Rotorua By Segway - No Segway experience needed, tour group members will be given time to become familiar with the Segways before gliding down the streets of Rotorua. (Rotorua By Segway tours start and end at Urbano Bistro, 289 Fenton Street).
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).
Volcanic playground for children is located on the Rotorua Village Green at the lake front. Archie's Food Kiosk (formerly Waterfront Cafe) nearby is open daily for drinks, ice creams and takeaway meals.
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.
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.
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. OGO is your other rolling option, also priced from $45. Tip: Visit Bookme to check for up to 50% off OGO.