Rotorua is a city full of energy and adventure, and offers everything from extreme sports to amazing natural wonders.
Located three hours’ drive south of Auckland on New Zealand’s North Island, the city sits on majestic Lake Rotorua — one of several lakes in the Bay of Plenty region and a body of water that occupies what was once a volcanic crater. Rotorua is home to the proud Māori people of the Te Arawa tribe, who love to share their culture with visitors. The region is a geothermal wonderland, and has been drawing fascinated tourists to its bubbling mud pools, thermal springs and steaming geysers since the 1800s.
Rotorua is one of the country’s most popular destinations for both New Zealand and international travellers, and there are many activities, tours and attractions on offer. When planning your visit, you’ll quickly discover that it’s deciding what not to do that’s the biggest challenge. If you are planning to do a variety of activities, consider purchasing a Rotorua Super Pass.
This Rotorua city guide is packed with ideas for things to see and do. Enjoy your visit.
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Top cultural activities in Rotorua
Rotorua is the heartland of Māori culture in New Zealand.
The Te Arawa people have occupied this area for over 700 years and visitors can tap into a trove of rich cultural experiences. Along the way there are beautiful tales to be heard, including that of Hinemoa and Tutanekai — the region’s most famous lovers.
To gain an understanding of local Māori culture, there are two experiences that come highly recommended. The first is a visit to the Mitai Māori Village. Here you’ll be treated to a traditional meal and cultural performance. There’s also the option to add an extra dimension to your experience, including a night-time visit to Rainbow Springs Nature Park or a 4WD buggy trip up to the top of Mount Ngongotaha — which as you’ll hear, has special significance to the Te Arawa people.
The second must-do is Whakarewarewa — The Living Māori Village. This truly special place is home to the Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao people, who have been sharing their way of life with visitors for more than two centuries. Twenty-one families live in Whakarewarewa and welcome visitors into their homes each day. Located in a geothermal area, the village not only enables visitors to experience genuine Māori hospitality, but also to see enthralling geysers and thermal steam vents in action. The relationship between the people who live here and their environment is an extremely interesting one. You’ll learn more during your visit.
Whakarewarewa shares the famous Pōhutu Geyser with the Te Puia geothermal park. Te Puia offers daily Māori cultural presentations and is also home to the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute. You can visit the national schools of carving, weaving and other traditional art forms.