Rotorua is a world-renowned cultural destination. One glance at the iSite or a hotel’s pamphlet board and any visitor can be quickly overwhelmed by the myriad options for taking in Rotorua’s rich cultural heritage.
Dating back from Aotearoa’s first people through early European settlers and on to today’s modern eclectic influences, Rotorua offers extensive opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of the area’s unique cultural history. From past to present, these are some popular favourites.
One of the cornerstones of Rotorua’s cultural significance literally lies in the lay of the land. Geothermal activity in the area drew and shaped the culture of the first Maori people with its utility in cooking, heating and shaping the earth. Take in astonishing sites and learn about the ancient geological foundation of Rotorua’s long-term cultural history at one of Rotorua’s many excellent geothermal attractions. Excellent options include Waiotapu Geothermal Wonderland, Waimangu Volcanic Valley and Te Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley at Te Puia.
Utilizing Rotorua’s unique landscape, the first people to occupy the area wove an intricate cultural tapestry. Through generations, these Maori settlers developed unique practices in dance, arts and crafts, warfare, farming and more. Centuries later, many of these same ancient practices have been passed through generations and are now preserved and celebrated. At Whakarewarewa Thermal Village, you can get a glimpse of the Maori way of life, lived today as it was generations ago. Explore the impressive breadth and quality of Maori arts and crafts at Te Puia, home to New Zealand’s national weaving and carving schools. Finally for an entertaining and comprehensive look at ancient Maori life, spend an evening at the Tamaki Maori Village and share in a traditional Maori feast.
The same geothermal wonders that drew and shaped the lives of early Maori people also had a strong influence on the first European settlers and tourists. At the Buried Village Museum, learn about the lives of early European settlers and re-discover Rotorua’s world-famous Pink and White Terraces that were destroyed in the 1886 Mt. Tarawera eruption. Follow it up with a visit to the Rotorua Museum, located in Rotorua’s iconic Bath House building, for a comprehensive look at the area’s culture from ancient times to the present.
Over the years, Rotorua’s varied cultural influences have mixed and mingled to make up the uniquely Kiwi lifestyle seen today. Agriculture is still alive, well and celebrated throughout Rotorua’s emerald green landscape. Watch live sheep shearing and get a first-hand tour of a working organic farm at Rotorua’s Agrodome. You can also enjoy a modern twist on Rotorua’s legacy of healing, geothermic waters at the popular Polynesian Spa, which offers options for adult, family and private bathing in the mineral-rich waters.
For a truly educational cultural experience, Rotorua will not disappoint. Take the time to explore Rotorua and steep yourself in the rich history that makes this extraordinary place what it is today.