The Best Things To Do In Rotorua

Written By: Claire Hollands

New Zealand is full of interesting history and culture, so one place you definitely want to have on your must-see list is Rotorua. This part of the country is famous for its cultural landmarks, natural spring waters and soothing pools — definitely something to enjoy during a visit to this region of New Zealand. The location of Rotorua makes it unique and also draws in travellers from around the world — not only is the Maori culture immersed throughout the area, but the volcanic nature of the landscape gives the city its interesting recreational opportunities. This area of New Zealand is included in the volcanic zone, which means there are many geysers, hot springs and bubbling mud pools to enjoy.

No matter where you go, chances are you’ll have an opportunity to see some geyser erupt – the Lady Knox Geyser is a daily occurrence at the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. The Waimangu Volcanic Valley has some unique attributes about it including it being the youngest geothermal ecosystem in the entire world. Frying Pan Lakes is also located here and was formed in 1886 when Mount Tarawera erupted – making it the largest hot water spring! Once you’ve had your fill of checking out geysers, head over to one of the Maori villages to learn more about their impressive culture. Tamaki Village and Mitai Village all feature cultural aspects for visitors including singing, war dances known as haka and, of course, food. By visiting one of these villages still have the opportunity to see how the Maori use the important thermal waters as a way of life and see life in the village as it is lived by the indigenous people. There are historical tours that take you to the villages and give you important context to the life and culture of native peoples.

After a day of exploring, there’s nothing better than soaking your body in a mineral pool. Most of the spas and resorts feature natural mineral pools and many of the lakes are open to visitors. Are you ready to detox the skin and indulge in some of the restorative mud baths? There are plenty of places around Rotorua that include the skin treatment as part of its experience.


Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

Famous for its geothermal activity, and just a 30-minute drive from Rotorua, is one of the best displays of geysers and muds pools, the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland! Make sure you catch the Lady Knox Geyser Show at 10:15, and meander along the walking tracks taking your time to see these colourful and diverse natural attractions. They have been thousands of years in the making – enjoy them all!


Tamaki Maori Village

This evening tour transports you to another time before European settlement, to experience the Maori culture and traditions. Explore this recreated Maori village, and immerse yourself in the stories, songs and dancing that will take you on a journey from 3000BC to today. Experience the culture, watch the haka challenges and join a hangi feast with your Maori hosts. A trip to the Tamaki Maori Village is night of enjoyment and learning that you won’t regret!


The Living Maori Village (Whakarewarewa)

A trip to Whakarewarewa, The Living Maori Village, is a unique experience – a visit to a traditional village where people live according to ancient customs, unchanged for 200 years. Your guides are direct descendants, and will help you learn about the Maori culture and gain an understanding of their history. See the historical landmarks, catch the cultural performances, and then wander the geothermal nature trails. Add a hangi meal to your day and make it extra special!


Lady Knox Geyser

You can set your clock by the Lady Knox Geyser, at precisely 10:15am it will erupt! Triggered by a guide, using soap to break the surface tension of the cold water, the eruption will shoot 20 metres high and last for up to an hour. When you visit the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, this geyser is a must-see event.


Mitai Maori Village

A day or evening experience in the Mitai Maori Village is powerful. The evening visitor enjoys a hangi feast, and learns about the Maori culture through dances, stories and ceremonies. You will see warriors in traditional dress and see the natural beauty of this land as you visit the glow-worm forest. There is also a daytime tour to learn how the Maori people traditionally lived and hear the history of and legends of the area.



This original Maori settlement, Ohinemutu, is just a few minutes’ walk from the centre of Rotorua. Visitors are welcome to walk through the living Maori village, which was established around 1350AD and is the home of the Ngati Whakaue tribe. There is no charge for this experience, but please keep to the designated visitor paths. There are impressive buildings with exquisite carvings to discover, and there is plenty to learn along the way.


Kaituna River

For white water rafters, you have reached the pinnacle when you arrive at Kaituna River. World renowned, the Tutea Falls (and its 7-metre drop) is a magnet that rafters cannot resist! The local guides can tailor experiences for all comers, including novices, so give it a go on this famous river! If bushwalking is more your thing, enjoy the magnificent scenery, and watch the rafters as they follow the river.



Just a couple of hours’ drive from Auckland lies the picturesque town of Matamata. Home to the world-famous Lord of the Rings Hobbiton Movie Set, you can find yourself walking through the very heart of the Shire, as you explore more than 40 Hobbit Holes, including the home of the one-and-only, Bilbo Baggins! Once you have finished your adventure back to middle-earth, there is still so much to see! With plenty of amazing hikes through the region, you can experience the spectacular landscapes and beautiful scenery of the countryside, including the famous Wairere Falls!

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