Rotorua is one of the most popular tourist destinations on the north island. Rotorua is the launching ground for nature walks, Maori cultural experiences, trips to smelly geysers, and luxury spas. Everything is centrally located around a few streets as it is a small town. There is really not much to do in town other than a few bars and a handful of restaurants and shops. The real fun is all the activities you can do from the city.
- Hostel Prices: Dorm rooms cost $15-20 USD per night while private rooms cost around $60.
- Budget Hotel Prices: Budget hotels start around $50 USD per night.
- Average Cost of Food: A typical restaurant meal with cost you about $13 USD or more. If you choose to cook your food, plan to spend about $33-50 USD per week. You can find sandwiches around for $5 USD and fast food like McDonald’s or Burger King costs between $5-8 USD.
- Transportation Costs: The city is really small and can be walked around very easily. It takes about 20 minutes to walk from end to end. There are some 2 hour walks that include the lake and nearby hot springs.
Top Things to Do
- See the Whaka Thermal Reserve – If you like geysers, than the thermal reserve is a good place to see some as well as learn about the natural history and geology of the area. While it’s not free to get into, the guided tours are free. The reserve is split into two parts, with the more touristy one, Te Puia, closest to town.
- Marvel at the lake – Rotorua sits right on a lake. There’s even an island in the middle. A good way to spend a beautiful afternoon is cruising along the lake and hiking around the island. Just wear sunscreen. The burn time here in NZ is 7 minutes.
- Go Zorbing – This is a popular activity with backpackers. You get put into a giant see through ball and rolled down a hill. I picture it very much like what being in a washing machine would be like. It’s pretty expensive for the 5 seconds you get. You also have the option to add water into your ball, which is probably really like being in a washing machine.
- Hot Baths – All the sulfurous springs in the area means that there are lots of hot springs to relax in. There is the big Polynesian Spa where you pay for all day access and drinks. The Blue Baths also have a heated pool. If you just want a lazy day relaxing, a heated pool/spa day is the way to go.
- Get to know Maori culture – There are a variety of cultural shows and educational tours in the area. If you are going to learn about Maoris, this area would be the easiest to do it in. They cultural tours all are similar (some are smaller, some have better food, some are different length) and you learn and see a lot of the same stuff. The Tamaki Maori Village tour comes highly recommended.
- Whakarewarewa Forest – A 6 hectare grove of majestic redwoods is filled with spectacular walks, mountain bike tracks (over 60km in total) and riding trails. It’s a good way to get away from the stinkiness of the city (due to the sulfar).
- The Buried Village – Self-descriptive, the village was swamped with ash by the nearby Mt. Tarawera in the massive 1886 eruption which killed 153 people. You can see the remains at this historic site.
- The Government Gardens – This is a beautiful park, near the Sportsdome and a golf course. The Blue Baths can be found here as well as the city museum. This is a great place to walk around and experience the thermal atmosphere at an inexpensive rate.
- The Agrodome – This is an agricultural park, complete with farm animals and rural New Zealand living. There are a few shows to check out in addition to a tour of the farm and a Freefall Experience simulator or, if you are crazing more adrenaline, the highest bungee jump of the north islands is here.
- See the lakes – There are 14 scenic lakes throughout the area. There is a cheap 90 minute tour which traces along the edge of several of them. If that isn’t your idea of a lake trip, rent a car and visit them one by one so you can spend more time at them. Fishing is a big attraction here.
- See the free geysers – A lot of people go visit Te Puia but while the hot springs and geysers there are nice, you can walk around town and see plenty for free. Save your money for a Maori show.