This Weekend We Virtually Visited Rotorua
Rotorua is located in the Bay of Plenty region of the North Island of New Zealand. It lies right in the middle of an astounding array of hot springs, steaming mud pools, and gushing geysers- all of which make up the Pacific Ring of Fire! Apart from its geological majesty and adrenaline-infused activities, the warmth of Maori culture thrives in the region, with over a third of the population belonging to this indigenous community.
The great news for visitors is that Rotorua is one of the few cities in the world that hosts an Arts Trail, allowing tourists to participate in art and cultural activities alongside local artists, musicians, and craftsmen, many of whom belong to the Maori community.
Get ready to start your journey in Nature’s Spa of the South Pacific- a city that has become New Zealand’s playground for visitors craving cultural performances, adventure activities, and the most unusual geothermal formations!
36 Hours in Rotorua
9:00 AM: Embrace Maori Culture at Te Puia
Rotorua has always had a deep heritage of ‘manaakitanga’ or hospitality. At the geothermal valley of Te Puia, you will not only get to witness the world-famous Pohutu geyser (it erupts up to twenty times a day!) but will also have an encounter with a Maori guide, learn the traditional arts of carving and weaving, indulge in a hangi where food is cooked in an earth oven, and visit a kiwi bird sanctuary. With such a warm welcome, Te Puia makes for the perfect place to kick-start your 36-hour journey!
10:30 AM: All Aboard the Rail Cruise!
Next, get ready to explore the gorgeous hills and countryside of the Bay of Plenty in your self-drive Rail Cruiser! Listen to an audio commentary on the railway history of New Zealand as you sit back and enjoy unobstructed views of the wilderness in your unique ride.
Each vehicle can fit up to 4 people.
12:30 PM: Fish & Chips for Lunch
Following this action-packed morning, get ready for a delicious meal at Cobb & Co. Rotorua. Offering a mix of Kiwi as well as European food, this restaurant serves a fusion of both the cuisines with dishes such as Beer-Battered Fish & Chips and gravy-topped Lamb Liver. For those with a sweet tooth, the Hot Apple Shortcake will leave you drooling for more!
1:30 PM: Explore the Remnants of a Volcanic Eruption
The creation of the buried village of Te Wairoa dates back to the country’s largest volcanic eruption in 1889 that created a caldera of hot springs and boiling mud. Today, visitors can walk the eruption-infused archaeological site where the people of Te Wairoa once lived.
You can also embark upon a guided tour of the museum that houses a collection of century-old objects from the time of the early settlers of the region.
2.30 PM: Calling All the Nature Lovers
Described by many as one of the most surreal places in the world, Wai-O-Tapu, Rotorua’s vibrant volcanic park is a treat for Instagram enthusiasts. Encounter stunning lakes, waterfalls, mud pools, volcanic craters, colorful hot springs, and a turquoise ‘champagne’ pool as you take in this captivating landscape. Make sure you don’t miss the Lady Knox Geyser eruption that takes place daily!
3:30 PM: Let’s Go Zorbing!
For those craving a little adventure, get into a giant inflatable ball to roll down Mt. Ngongotaha. Zorbing was invented in Rotorua in 1997, and is the only place in New Zealand where you can check this off your bucket list! Choose from four different tracks as you roll head over heels down a hill!
5.00 PM: A Complete Cultural Immersion at Mitai Maori Village
For the last activity of Day 1 of your 36-hour journey in Rotorua, gain insight into Maori culture and lifestyle by spending the evening at Mitai Maori Village. Not only will you get the opportunity to learn about Maori history through carvings and tattoo art, but also a chance to see displays of ancient combat and warriors paddling on ancient canoes.
The highlight of this offbeat experience is the traditional Hangi meal cooked inside the steaming pools. Devour your dinner as you binge on pork, lamb, and potato pies, all freshly cooked in the ‘earth oven’.
9:00 AM: Lights, Camera, Action!
Put on your director’s hat as you visit Middle-Earth at the Hobbiton movie set. Embark on a two-hour guided tour of the set as you walk through all the significant landmarks from the movie The Hobbit. As part of the tour, you can also enter the Green Dragon Inn shown in the series and enjoy a traditional beef and ale pie.
11:00 AM: Get Rejuvenated in a Mud Spa
As one of the most active geothermal parks in Rotorua, Hell’s Gate is not only home to one of the largest hot water waterfalls in the region but also has an outdoor Mud Bath with a spectacular view of the landscape. The bath has three types of therapeutic muds to choose from, each with its own unique healing properties. Historically, these were used by Maori warriors to soothe the battle scars on their bodies. There is also an option to go for a night spa while stargazing!
1:00 PM: It’s Time for Brunch!
Treat your post-bath starved selves to some mouth-watering Kiwi food at Capers Epicurean. Despite having only lighter, cafe type dishes to offer, the restaurant lives up to the task of satisfying customer cravings for delicious Jaffle Toasties and Potato Waffles. An added bonus is their fast service, so you don’t need to keep those growling tummies waiting for too long!
2:00 PM: Fly Over a Volcano
Take flight from the Rotorua City Lakefront to experience the stunning Rotoruan landscape in the most unique way. Enjoy aerial views of crater lakes, geothermal reserves, national parks, and land on a volcano! This offbeat adventure will be accompanied with a narration of the region’s history and geology.
4:00 PM: Soar Through an Ancient Forest
Get ready to encounter an untouched forest ecosystem like never before through an exciting canopy adventure. Journey through the forest via ziplines, suspended swing bridges, and even via walks on treetop platforms. The tour also provides for a great opportunity to witness native birds such as Tuis and Tomtits. Are you ready to start gliding?
7:00 PM: Bathe in the Woods
Following the adrenaline rush at the forest, continue onwards to Kerosene Creek- the final activity stop of the trip. This heated spring bubbles up waters from the creek to create a natural bathing experience in the wilderness. After a long, thrilling day of adventures, this is a perfect way to relax amidst Rotoruan serenity.
8:00 PM: A Traditional Farewell Dinner
The traditional and eccentric Wai-O-Tapu Tavern makes for a unique culinary experience that offers lip-smacking, home-cooked Kiwi food. The Steak Pie and Beef Lasagna will leave you craving for more of the Tavern’s authentic dishes!
While Rotorua is a popular destination amongst travelers seeking unique experiences, it is not the first port of call for most travelers visiting New Zealand. The reason behind this is the general perception of South Island being the prettier of the country’s two islands.
In reality, however, Rotorua is a hidden gem that has a plethora of attractions to offer for every kind of traveler. Apart from its mystical volcanic landscape of spellbinding lakes and forests, this cultural heartland is also an adventurer’s paradise. Given the city’s great accessibility, as well as the dynamic nature of activities it has on offer, it is worthy of being checked off every traveler’s bucket list!
How To Get There
There are direct domestic flights into Rotorua from major cities in New Zealand such as Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch, and Queenstown. Alternatively, you can also rent a car or taxi from Auckland and Wellington.
Where To Stay
Treetops is a unique option for those wanting luxury accommodation. For budget travelers and backpackers, the YHA Rotorua is a highly rated value-for-money alternative.
When To Go
November to April is the best time to visit Rotorua.
The tourist visa is waived for travelers from the United States, Europe, and certain Asian countries. Tourists from other countries need to hold a valid New Zealand visa.
City buses, taxis, and bikes are the best way to get around the city. Walking is another great way to stop and mingle with local Maoris.
The New Zealand Dollar is the official currency of New Zealand.
English is the most widely spoken language in New Zealand. There is also a small percentage of the population that speaks Māori, which is also considered to be the official language of the country.
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