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Rotorua has long been a hub for visitors to New Zealand. As a rich cultural centre set in the mystifying geothermal landscape, it’s no wonder tourists have flocked to this unique area for centuries.
While there’s plenty to do in Rotorua, it can take a little digging to discover the real Rotorua, as seen and experienced by locals. Read on for some tips for a truly authentic Rotorua experience.
Since the earliest days of New Zealand tourism, Rotorua has long been a hub for visitors. As a rich cultural centre set in the mystifying geothermal landscape, it’s no wonder tourists have flocked to this unique area for centuries. While there’s plenty to do in Rotorua, it can take a little digging to discover the real Rotorua, as seen and experienced by locals. Read on for some tips for a truly authentic Rotorua experience.
The Redwoods and Blue Lake are popular Rotorua site-seeing stops, with gorgeous scenery and great walking paths. However, if you’re looking to get off the beaten track, turn to the nearby Lake Okareka for a bit of a change of pace. Bypassing the tiny Okareka township, the off-the-beaten-track Lake Okareka DOC Campsite provides a secluded haven for campers and day-trippers alike. Take in the surrounding native bush and get a glimpse of what New Zealand looked like in pre-history. Follow the unassuming trail at the far side of the camping area for a 15-minute bush walk to the nearby point, where you can join the locals bombing into waters below.
Rotorua’s Eat Street is an excellent place for a bite and a favourite among visitors and locals alike, but further afield, you can discover a bit more variety. For some local eats, pop down the industrial-looking White Street neighbourhood to Ciabatta Bakery, where you’ll find a steady stream of Rotorua residents popping in for an artisan sandwich, delicious hand-made pastry or gourmet barista coffee. You can also try your luck at Baked on Tryon Street, which sells handmade artisan doughnuts and cheesecakes… but get in early as the small-batches quickly sell out!
Experience a true Kiwi weekend by taking in a local rugby game. The Whaka Rugby club, based at Puarenga Park hosts a bi-weekly home game throughout the Autumn and Winter seasons. Watch the local all-stars show off their homegrown skills and stick around for some excellent post-game entertainment, which includes beers in the club room, post-match speeches and a special club haka.
Follow the geothermal steam to the South of town to take in the most authentic Māori experience in Rotorua at the Whakarewarewa Living Māori Village. Here you will walk among residents as you enjoy a tour guided by one of many second and third generation local Māori guides. You will learn about the unique way of life in the Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley, wonder at the geothermal hot pools spread throughout the village, take in a Cultural Performance from the award-winning Kapa Haka group, and have the opportunity to take an authentic Hangi meal cooked in geothermal steam.
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