Rotorua Government Gardens
Government Gardens (Photo credit: Lei Sheldon)

Rotorua Travel Guide

QUICK FACTS

  • Located in New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty, with a population of ~70,000.
  • Known as a spa town since the 1800s, owing to its natural geothermal activity which results in bubbling mud pools and rejuvenating hot springs.
  • Renowned as the heartland of Māori culture for its rich relationship with the early settlers.
  • Nickname: Sulphur City

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

  • Currency: New Zealand Dollar (NZD).
  • Spoken languages: English and Te Reo Māori.
  • Best time to visit: from November to April for the warmest weather (expect occasional rainfall).
  • Arriving via airport: Rotorua International Airport (ROT) operates a shuttle service into the city centre for NZ$17 for one person or NZ$22 for two. Taxi rides cost NZ$26 – NZ$30.

WHERE TO STAY

Fenton Street is favoured by visitors looking to base themselves central to the city and within walking distance of the major attractions. The compact city centre is easy to navigate and is clustered by an array of spa hotels, luxury lodges, backpacker hostels, and quaint bed & breakfasts. Wonderful lakeside accommodation is available along Hamurana Road – although removed from the centre, this is one of the most idyllic locations in the city.

GETTING AROUND

  • CityRide buses traverse the compact city for single cash fares of NZ$2.20, while a day pass is priced at NZ$7.80 (valid for 24 hours from time of stamp).
  • Car rentals are a popular and efficient method of transportation in Rotorua and its environs. Major international companies such as Budget, Avis and Hertz operate offices at both the airport and the city centre, with day rates starting at NZ$35.

ROTORUA NIGHTLIFE

  • Drinking age is 18, and last call is at 3 AM.
  • Rotorua has a small but lively offering of bars that are within walking distance of each other where the crowds turn into for all night benders.
  • Pig & Whistle and Lava Bar are institutions of their own right, popular among locals and tourists alike.
  • Tutenakai Road is home to The Craft Beer Pub, Caspers Bar and Atlas Restaurant.

UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT

  • Whakarewarewa is a thermal village set amidst thermal springs, erupting geysers and bubbling mud pools. It’s affords an interactive experience with the Tuhourangi Ngati Wahiao people, who have come to harness the geothermal activity and use it in everyday living.
  • Te Wairoa is also known as the Buried Village, a former Māori settlement that was buried in the 1886 Mt. Tarawera eruption.
  • The Rotorua Museum of Art and History offers innovative displays and exhibitions on the region’s Māori culture. Set in the historic Bath House building, the country’s first major investment in the tourism industry, the museum offers Rotorua Stories Cinema and Māori Battalion Cinema, each an educational adventure covering the history of region’s landscape and first people.
  • Te Puia, or the New Zealand Māori Arts & Crafts Institute, is the cultural centre of Māori culture by depicting traditions and customs set amid a geothermal valley. Home to the world famous Pohutu geyser.

INTERESTING WALKS

  • Explore Motutara or Sulphur Bay as it is known. Follow the pathway as it winds to Amohau Street and listen for the many water birds that inhabit Lake Rotorua.
  • Visit Whakarewarewa Forest and admire its magnificent Californian Coastal Redwoods. Can also be explored on mountain bike.
  • Tour the grounds of the Government Gardens, a public recreational area encompassing an Elizabethan Tudor bath house and a Mediterranean-style swimming pool. 50 of the sprawling acres belonged to the Māori people, who gifted them to the crown in the 1800s.

LOCAL WISDOM

  • No trip to Rotorua is complete without a visit to the Polynesian Spa, a beautiful retreat for thermal tranquillity in private pools. Indulge in massages, body wraps and facials at the hands of certified professionals.
  • Attend a Hangi at Tamaki Māori Village and partake in the traditional Māori feast, where food is cooked in an earthen oven for several hours. Dinner is followed by cultural performances, such as the haka.
  • Where to find good cheap eats: Tutanakei Street is clustered by inexpensive restaurants and cafés and is also the seat of the city’s night market, which hosts dozens of food stalls every Thursday night from 5 PM onwards.
  • Dangerous areas: Rotorua is generally very safe. It is vital to pay attention to signs posted along walkways, especially those found in the geothermal parks that warn of geothermal activity such as erupting geysers. Always observe fences and respect the park warden’s judgement.

RECOMMENDED ROTORUA GUIDE BOOKS

Recommended trip duration: 1-2 days


SEE ALSO:
Rotorua Travel Guide was last modified: September 20th, 2016 by Nick
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