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Rotorua, New Zealand – Everything You Need to Know

Your nose knows you’re in Rotorua before you do. That’s because the infamous stink hits you well before the sight of it does.
But while bad smells often serve as a natural indication to avoid a certain thing, don’t take the peculiar aroma of the central North Island town as reason to stay away.
Sulphur is to blame for this smell, and where there is sulphur, there are marvelous sights to behold.
If you just pass on through as many do, you’ll find you’re making the mistake of skipping all the fantastic offerings of Te Rotorua-nui-a-Kahumatamomoe. Let this handy dandy blog post set the deal straight, so no one has to make this mistake!
Speaking of not making mistakes, be sure to check out our NZ Adventure Tours – almost all of these take in Rotorua in all it’s glory.

Rotovegas. #rotorua #rotovegas #skyline #lake

A photo posted by xuhan (@anndyyyxuh) on


In the early 1880’s Rotorua was built as a town for visitors who wanted to see the ‘hot lakes’. Orginially leased from Maori tribe Ngati Whakaue to the government, relations fell through and the crown was given full ownership in 1888. Obviously not deterred by the smell, the population grew over the last century and Rotorua blossomed into the adventure fuelled town it is today.



If you’re like me and thinking “oh lord help me, I’ve got 2 dollars and 40 cents in my bank account, how am I supposed to have fun?” don’t fret. Rotorua hasn’t forgotten about you. There are plenty of sights to see that won’t cost you a penny. Sights that if uploaded onto Insta, need no filter and will score you heaps of likes.
Firstly, you need not even move an inch for your first taste of geothermic excitement. There is activity occurring constantly right beneath the city centre, and steam is often wafting from the drains on the side of the road.
While it may not be something to write home about, it does a great job of painting the picture of what to expect during your time in Rotorua.
If the billowing steam is a taster, head to Wai-O-Tapu for the full blown meal. Certain mud pools in Wai-O-Tapu require an admission fee, but skip this nonsense and head to the Wai-O-Tapu boardwalk. This walk is so short it should almost be called a stand.
Take this as an easy opportunity to check out the amazing bubbling mud pools. Be wary though. This is NOT the kind of beauty-mask mud you put on your face. Unless you no longer want your face.

Now you might be thinking “stuff this, I want to hop in!” Hold your horses. Wait till you find yourself on the banks of Kerosene Creek just an 8-minute drive away. This isn’t quite the devil’s bathtub of Wai-O-Tapu, more a pleasant natural spa. The heat is spread throughout the flowing water, so have a wee swim-around until you find a cosy spot. Don’t forget your bath toys.

A family enjoying the unattractively named but amazing Kerosene Creek hot springs.

A photo posted by Luke Barrett (@barrettphoto) on

A stark difference to the murky brown sludge of the Wai-O-Tapu pools, the water of the Hamurana Springs is a crystal-clear blue. Instead of being ferociously hot, it is absolutely frigid all year round. Hold off on the touching, go hard on the looking.

After a leisurely stroll through the grove dotted with mighty Californian Redwoods, you’ll hit the Hangarua Spring. An impressive 15m deep (roughly 5 stories), even the clearest water can only reveal the spring walls to a certain level.
It’s been tradition for decades to throw coins into the spring for good luck, so some altruistic divers from Wellington collected 5000+ pennies in 1957 and donated them to local children’s charities. Ka Pai NZ.

If you’re of the young and spritely variety, chances are you’ll blitz these walks in no time at all. To satiate your thirst for a longer outdoors hike, take the opportunity to drive the 15 minutes from the Rotorua centre to the Green and Blue Lakes.
Lake Tikitapu (the Blue Lake) is a loop track taking roughly 1 and half hours return. True to its name, you’ll catch glimpses of the blue lake waters through the gorgeous native forest.
In the summer, take a dip (not the skinny kind, the fat kind). If you’re going to feel at one with nature somewhere in Rotorua, it’s likely to be here.

Lake Rotokakahi (the Green Lake) is sacred, so swimming is not permitted. However, there is a 1-hour track with equally wonderful landscape if you’re feeling something slightly shorter.

#greenlakerotorua The sacred or tapu lake of Rotorua. #newzealand

A photo posted by Jazmin Valk Lee (@jazmin_flowerchild) on



Unfortunately, not all the great things in life are free. Here are some activities for those with a bit of dough to spend.
Take the Skyline Gondola up the side of Mt Ngongotaha. Not only are there killer views from the top, but right here is the extremely fun Luge.
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of Luging, you’re essentially letting gravity hurtle you down the hill on a small cart with only steering and braking capability. How EPIC does that sound? Because it is.

If you don’t feel like rolling down the hill on a cart, how about on the inside of a giant transparent ball? OGO was launched by the inventor of Zorbing, and the Rotorua location is now the largest downhill park in the world. Take your pick of a dry, or wet and slippery roll. Either way, good luck remaining standing!

Gotta love these sunny fun filled work days #ogorotorua #worklife

A photo posted by Pete Waerea Kingi (@pkkingi) on

Take the time to check out the Champagne Pools in Wai-O-Tapu. There is an admission fee ($32.50 for an adult, $11 for a child), but there’s a lot more to see here than on the free walks. These pools present a beautiful array of vibrant colours (here’s where the “no-filter-needed” comes in).

Une ptite baignade ? #latergram #waiotapu

A photo posted by Cécile dx (@c.cile.dx) on



Anyone who knows anything about Rotorua knows that if you want a great coffee and a superb meal, you should hit up the Fat Dog Café. While it may not be the most enticing name for an eating establishment, you’ll feel like one yourself after dining there (in the best way possible).
The portions are huge, there’s an impressive range of meals on the menu, and the prices are reasonable.
Packed out a lot of the time, but never long to wait for a table. They also won the Rotorua hospitality award for outstanding barista in 2015, so they’re doing something right.

For dinner, it’s worthwhile taking a short walk over to Eat Streat. No that is not a spelling error we made, that’s how it’s spelt. Forgive whoever made that decision, just be grateful for its existence. Eat Streat is a wee boulevard of brilliant restaurants that are perhaps a bit dearer – but worth dishing out for.
Think Thai, Indian, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Italian and more. It’s as if the entire world came together to dine in little ol’ Rotorua.



Admittedly, we’re cheating here a little. But we promise it’s worth it.
Instead of staying in Rotorua itself, head to the Haka Lodge in Taupo – one hour away. It’s close enough that you can still spend an entire day in Rotorua, while still enjoying the comforts and views of our highly rated Taupo Lodge.

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