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Ask a visitor what they're hoping to find in New Zealand and they'll probably mention our stunning natural scenery, unique Māori culture – and sheep! It's little wonder, then, that the city of Rotorua is such a drawcard for travellers, boasting an unforgettable mix of geothermal activity, cultural offerings and rural encounters.
Rotorua sits in the centre of the North Island on a volcanic plateau, surrounded by lakes and mountains. Home to the Te Arawa iwi, the region was also settled by Europeans in the late 1880s and a spa-style town was developed to take advantage of the many thermal springs in the area. Today it’s a hotspot for tourists, and for good reason. Offering a rich array of experiences for every type of traveller, Rotorua is a great place to discover the real New Zealand.
Things to do in Rotorua
• Experience New Zealand’s rich Māori heritage at Te Puia with a traditional welcome and cultural performance, then take a tour through the Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley and marvel at the forces of nature at play in this incredible landscape of boiling mud, forceful geysers and bubbling mud pools. The famous Pohutu Geyser is a highlight – watch it shoot jets of vapour up to 30 metres high. Te Puia is also home to the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute. Take a tour of its woodcarving and weaving schools and see how these ancient arts are being passed on to a new generation.
• Explore Rainbow Springs Nature Park, where you can get up close to all kinds of native and exotic wildlife, including the famous kiwi, a flightless native bird and New Zealand's national icon. Learn about these unique endangered creatures and sneak a peek at them in the nocturnal viewing house.
• Get a sense of rural life in New Zealand at the Agrodome, a working farm on the outskirts of the city. Learn all about our thriving agricultural industry with an entertaining show where you'll see sheep being shorn and sheep dogs showing off their amazing skills.
• If farming’s not your thing, prepare for thrills at the Agroventures adventure park, the ultimate adventure playground for young and old. Choose from a range of high-adrenaline activities like Shweeb, the world's only human-powered monorail racetrack, Agrojet - the fastest and only jet sprint experience in NZ, the Swoop swing and Freefall Xtreme.
GreatSights offers a range of Rotorua sightseeing day tours to some of the city’s most popular visitor attractions. You can choose to add more activities to your GreatSights Rotorua tour – travel on the Skyline Gondola up the side of Mount Ngongotaha for stunning views, or take a one hour lunch cruise around Lake Rotorua on board a historic paddle boat, the Lakeland Queen.
Visitors who are keen to soak up as much of the local culture as possible might consider an evening tour of Tamaki Māori Village on the outskirts of Rotorua, where they can experience Māori culture with traditional ceremonies, cultural performances and an authentic hangi dinner.
More Rotorua attractions
If you’re short on time, you can combine your Rotorua tour with visits to Waitomo Caves or the Hobbiton Movie Set. Rotorua day tours from Auckland depart daily with return and one-way options available.
Other Rotorua activities include a visit to the Buried Village, a settlement destroyed by the 1886 eruption of Mt Tarawera; a relaxing soak in mineral waters at the Blue Baths or the Polynesian Spa or try the crazy sport known as Zorbing. Mountain bikers will appreciate the range of forest trails around Rotorua, and outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy walks, fishing and more. This friendly little city really does have something for everyone.