Feel the earth's power
The faint scent of sulphur in the air and escaping curls of steam are the first hints of the region's dramatic geothermal character when entering Rotorua.
- Rotorua is part of the Volcanic Zone, a geothermal field extending from White Island off the Bay of Plenty coast to Mount Ruapehu in the central North Island.
- Brilliant colours are a feature of Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland's Artist's Palette and Champagne Pool. Lady Knox Geyser erupts every day high into the air.
- Visit the amazing Waimangu Volcanic Valley, which is the youngest geothermal eco-system in the world with the largest hot water spring - 3.8 hectares - called Frying Pan Lakes. It was formed during the eruption of Mount Tarawera in 1886.
- Watch the famed Pohutu Geyser, the undisputed star of the Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley, erupt up to 20 times a day to heights of 30 metres at Te Puia.
- Hell's Gate is New Zealand's most active geothermal reserve with the largest hot waterfall in the Southern Hemisphere and the only geothermal mud baths in New Zealand.
- At Whakarewarewa - The Living Thermal Village, the people have been hosting and welcoming visitors into their homes and backyards since the early 1800s, demonstrating the utilisation of the natural geothermal wonders for cooking, bathing and everyday living.
- Take a scenic flight to White Island (New Zealand's only active marine volcano) or over the gaping red crater of Mount Tarawera (now dormant).
Feel the history
Rotorua has a rich history with the city's heritage visible all around you.
- Rotorua's beautiful Government Gardens is a Waahi Tapu area and is sacred to Maori, with a fascinating past as a battle and burial ground.
- Rotorua Museum was finally completed as a heritage building (origins in the 20th century) in 2011. Learn the history of the Te Arawa people, the original inhabitants of Rotorua. Other galleries host a rich programme of local, national and international art exhibitions and shows.
- Have a relaxing swim at the Blue Baths pool, which is also a museum - the changing rooms showcase the building's colourful past. You may also want to have high tea upstairs in the elegant 1930s tearooms with views over the beautifully manicured Government Gardens.
- Visit the excavated sites at the Buried Village of Te Wairoa, which was buried by the 1886 Mount Tarawera eruption.
- Take a walk around Rotorua City following the information walking trail signs. They feature stories of the area and its history including black and white photos of the areas in the past to provide a stronger sense of Rotorua's historical identity.
Feel the spirit of Maori culture
Offering genuine warmth of welcome and hospitality (manaakitanga) is something that the Te Arawa Maori have been providing visitors to the Rotorua region for well over 150 years.
- Take a journey back in time at a Maori village. In the depths of the forest, you will gain a clear picture of Maori lifestyle and traditions - with singing, dancing and a traditional hangi feast to enjoy.
- View, appreciate and learn about the traditional Maori arts preserved at the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute (Te Puia). Speak with expert carvers and weavers and learn the history and processes involved with each art form.
- Visitors looking for a 'real slice of New Zealand' should seek out a marae stay, hosted by an extended Maori family (whanau).
- The famous Maori love story of Hinemoa and Tutanekai is brought to life with a day trip to Mokoia Island.
Feel the thrill
Rotorua is home to an innovative bunch of Kiwis who invented the Luge, the Zorb, OGO, the Schweeb and Railcruising.
- The Whakarewarewa Forest's unbeatable blend of 130km of mountain biking trails caters for all skill and fitness levels ranging from Grade 2 (beginner/families) through to Grade 6 (expert).
- White water rafting has never been more exhilarating than on the Kaituna River where you can raft over the world's highest commercially raftable waterfall at 7 metres high!
- At Agroventures fly unattached on a giant wind column with Freefall Xtreme, take a ride on the Agrojet sprint boat, test yourself on the human-powered monorail – the Shweeb, scream away on the Swoop and experience a Bungy jump with views of Lake Rotorua.
- Embark on a magical journey with Rotorua Canopy Tours through untouched native New Zealand forest mixing thrill and wonder through an incredible network of trails, tree platforms, ziplines and swing bridges.
- At OGO or the Zorb jump inside a 3.5 metre inflatable globe and hurtle down specially designed hills on a 1 metre cushion of air. Hear the squeals of tyres and feel the G-forces on hairpin bends at Off Road NZ, home to New Zealand's newest and longest A-rated Kartsport circuit with Fench Sodi karts.
- Fly-fish the rivers and lakes - hiring a guide almost guarantees a catch. Rotorua has 15 fishable lakes, a myriad of crystal clear streams and four different species of trout.
There's plenty of fun for all ages in Rotorua. Try some of these activities with your 'whanau' (family).
- Stop in at Rainbow Springs for an intimate peek at New Zealand's iconic Kiwi and to learn more about nature on the new log flume water ride 'The Big Splash'.
- Experience an action-packed farm show featuring trained rams, sheep dogs, sheep shearing, cow milking and lamb feeding.
- See the lions, trout, giant eels, waterfowl, deer and other interesting residents at Paradise Valley Springs.
- Catch the gondola to the top of Mount Ngongotaha. Luge down the side of the mountain on the purpose-built tracks or scream your heart out on the Sky Swing.
- Whakarewarewa Forest is a gem to explore, whether on foot or by bike. There are easy grade walks suitable for families and 14 beginner grade mountain bike trails. Rafting on the lower Rangitaiki River is available to families with children as young as five.
Relax and rejuvenate
There is a reason Rotorua is known as ‘Nature’s Spa of the South Pacific'. It offers visitors the opportunity to rejuvenate their spirit.
- Overlooking native forest sceneryand Lake Rotorua, you can relax at Polynesian Spa in mineral hot pools (26 of them). A range of unique spa therapies will renew your sense of wellbeing.
- Experience New Zealand's only mud baths at Hells Gate and pamper yourself with a traditional Maori Miri Miri massage and mud therapies at Wai Ora Day Spa.
- As the direct successor of the Rotorua Bath House, Spa at QE is a geothermal health spa renowned for its healing mineral waters and volcanic mud treatments.
- Sail or kayak to Manupirua Hot Springs outdoor thermal pools, only accessible by boat on Lake Rotoiti.
- Find natural pleasure in soaking in natural thermal streams like Kerosene Creek and Twin Streams.
- Visit the Te Manaroa Spring at Waikite Valley Thermal Pools. Gushing 1800 litres of boiling water per minute, it's the largest single source of natural boiling water in NZ.
- Not into pampering? Then unwind with a round at Rotorua Golf Club
Where to next?
- Lake Taupo: New Zealand's largest lake has a whole lot of watersports on offer, as well as the incredible Huka Falls, geothermal phenomena and world-class trout fishing.
- Bay of Plenty: Enjoy the harbour city of Tauranga and New Zealand's most active volcano, White Island.
- Hamilton - Waikato: Home to Hobbiton Movie Set, Raglan's surf beaches and a number of stunning nature reserves, Hamilton - Waikato is a region not to be missed.