Planning a solo trip to Rotorua, NZ? Here’s everything you need to know for your visit:
- Located in New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty, with a population of ~65,000.
- 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.
- 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
- Best Rotorua hostel for solo travelers: Rock Solid Backpackers. This is a basic hostel – the main draws are the low prices and the central location. Comfortable beds. Very friendly and welcoming staff. Downsides: can get a bit loud. Rock climbing wall located right next door.
- 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.
- Fenton Street is favoured by visitors looking to base themselves central to the city and within walking distance of the major attractions.
- Wonderful lakeside accommodation is available along Hamurana Road – although removed from the centre, this is one of the most idyllic locations in the city.
- CityRide buses traverse the compact city for single cash fares of NZ$2.80. See fare schedule here.
- Car rentals are a popular and efficient method of transportation in Rotorua and its environs. Major international companies such as Budget and Hertz operate offices at both the airport and the city centre.
- 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.
- Great bars for travelers: Pig & Whistle, Rotorua Sports Bar (to catch the game), Hennessy’s Irish Bar, and The Salty Shekel.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Great restaurants to try: Wildrice thai rotorua, The Fainting Goat (Gastropub – book in advance for dinner), Atticus Finch, Sabroso (Latin American), and El Mexicano Zapata Cantina.
- 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 trip duration: 1-2 days