What to do in Rotorua, New Zealand, North Island
Rotorua lies in the heart of New Zealand’s Northern Island in an idyllic landscape filled with sweeping green valleys, natural geothermal hot springs, steaming geysers, ancient volcanos and 16 picturesque lakes. Besides these precious landmarks, Rotorua offers exciting places showcasing the Maori cultural traditions and New Zealand’s farming features.
Moreover, it is home to New Zealand’s largest Kiwi Conservation Centre and the world’s largest Skyline Luge. As a first-time traveller to New Zealand, I was lucky to spend two days in Rotorua and get an in-depth insight into New Zealand’s history and cultural treasures; here below is a recap of things to do in Rotorua.
Te-Puia – New Zealand’s best Maori Cultural Centre
This is the no. 1 highlight of Rotorua and one of the most impressive arts and crafts centres I have visited in Oceania. In a 90-minute guided tour, we could learn so much about the Maori Culture. From customs, beliefs and traditional ceremonies to how people use geothermal water for cooking to the natural beauty of Pohute Geyser and mud pools. We could also witness practical training in the workshops area of the national Carving School (Whakairo) and the Weaving School (Raranga), as well as the Taonga Gallery, where you can see the authentic works created by the artists—absolutely a great place where to buy something special and unique in New Zealand. For more information about Te Puia Cultural Centre, visit their website: www.tepuia.com
Go on a guided tour of 👉Te Puia Geothermal Valley Guided Tour
Scenic Air Tour – View the Rotorua volcanic area from above.
Viewing the picturesque landscape from above is, in my opinion, another big attraction among the things to do and see in Rotorua. There are several types of Rotorua Air Tours you can do there. The basic flight experience is viewing Rotorua with five crater lakes and steaming cliffs from geothermal geysers. Or the combination of air tour + guided walk tour by exploring White Island, the active volcano and its fascinating sulphur deposits and mine remains. Or the unique experience of discovering the hidden wonderland of Mt. Tarawera. While there, we got invited to a scenic air tour of Rotorua & surrounds. The view was simply stunning. It conveys the scale of Rotorua Region’s spectacular scenery at a glance.
Click here to book 👉 Scenic Air Tours in Rotorua
Mitai Maori Cultural Performance
Learning about the Maori culture in a relaxed and entertaining way is a must when in Rotorua. The evening highlights are the Unveiling and Uplifting of the Hangi Meal while they explain how food is cooked in the ground and how the Hangi feast is celebrated. The cultural performance is very educational, “Kapa Haka” with its powerful, cheerful dances and talks about the significance of customs, face tattooing “ta Moko”, and the Maori language.
Rainbow Springs – Get close to New Zealand’s wildlife
When thinking of New Zealand, the first thing that comes to mind is its iconic native animal, the Kiwi. But you should know that in 99% of cases, you will not be able to see the kiwi in the wild when in New Zealand. This is why the Rainbow Spring Kiwi Conservation Centre is famous. The Kiwi Conservation Centre is the largest in NZ, created in 1995, that could breed over 1000 kiwi and release them into kiwi conservation areas to protect them from extinction.
Kiwi is an endangered species. Rainbow Springs offers a fabulous night tour to see the Kiwi live and listen to the Kiwi conservation program. We were lucky to see four Kiwis wobbling in darkness that evening. Next to the Kiwi Encounter experience, bird feeding and bird shows are also offered during the day. Check their website for more info:www.rainbowsprings.co.nz
The Rotorua Luge – a fun-filled gravity ride not to miss out
Rotorua is not only about cultural performances and viewing beautiful scenery by air, land and sea. You can take a ride at the Rotorua Luge. This is something unique to Rotorua and New Zealand. For the first time, I tried out the luge. Onboard a 3-wheel cart, slid down the track towered with tall trees. Once you get down, hop on the chairlift and have another go.
There are two more tracks for seasoned lugers or adventurers. Next to the Rotorua Luge fun, there are traditional ways of enjoying the scenery on the Gondola Ride or taking in the panoramic vista from the skyline cafe. Moreover, there are nature walking tracks starting from the Gondola Top Terminal. For more information about activities, check out their website: www.skyline.co.nz
Relax on a Rotorua Lake Cruise
There are many more things to do in Rotorua that will keep you busy for days in this little town of Northern New Zealand. Another exciting way of exploring the area is taking a cruise to enjoy a beautiful 360° panoramic vista of Lake Rotorua Lakeland Queen Cruises, a paddle-wheel driven boat which offers a variety of cruises from early morning to sunset cruises. For us, it was a great way to have a lunch break and a perfect spot for taking photos of Lake Rotorua.
Explore the Rotorua Lakes on a Duck Tour
To take in the picturesque landscape and see many of the colourful lakes and Rotorua attractions, you can check out Rotorua Duck Tours and get on an old WWII amphibious to float on the water’s lake. It’s a different and fun way of exploring the area. We did experience this on to the Blue Lake and Lake Okareka. Very peaceful and secluded lakes filled with unique birdlife and uninterrupted solitude dotted with million-dollar villas overlooking the lake.
Visit the Agrodome for a Farm Experience
Did you know how many sheep breeds are there? I did not. This is another exciting thing to do in Rotorua if you want to get a deeper insight into the agricultural scenery of the region. On a Farm Tour at the Agrodome, you can see 19 sheep breeds together on stage, witness a live sheering demo, and learn how wool garments are made.
Although Rotorua is regarded as a touristy destination, I think it should be on the bucket list of everyone who wants to learn about New Zealand’s culture and witness its geothermal wonderland.
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