Rotorua or “Rotavagas” as its also know, is defiantly a tourist hot spot in New Zealand. You will see all sorts of tour groups come through the town and its hard to escape the crowds of foreigners, the high prices and the wealth our tourist traps.
Having said that, i really enjoyed Rotorua, and it was mainly for the things we did around the town, rather than actually in it. Its also a good place to stay if you want to base yourself in one place for a while, rather than moving accomodation all the time, as there are many towns such as Taupo, Hamilton and Tauranga that are ~1hrs drive away. I stayed at Rotorua thermal Holiday Park, in a private cabin with a shared bathroom for $80AUD per night ($40pp). You can stay here cheaper in the off season and also if you camp or hire a van site, its also alot cheaper.
Here my Top things to do while your in Rotorua
- Go white water rafting: This was one of, if not, the best thing I did while i was in New Zealand. You can read about why this was the best $30 I’ve ever spent and decide for yourself weather or not your game to take on the grade 5 rapids and 7 meter Waterfall. Just a 15 minute drive out of Rotoura, this little gem is a must-do for any adventure loving traveler out there.
- Cost: $30-60AUD (book through bookme.co.nz, to get up to 40% off)
- Duration: 3 hours all up, with ~1hr spent on the water
2. Go to Skyline Rotorua and go luging AT NIGHT: Skyline in Rotorua isn’t your typical gondola ride. Well i mean technically it is just a gondola ride, but once you get to the top, there are so many things to do!
- On Top of Skyline you can go:
- Luging: You can go luging down the side of the mountain, which for those who don’t know, is like go karts without motors. This was such a fun thing to do, and really made me feel like a kid again.
- Zip lining: Take a zip lining tour and fly through the trees, before taking a leap of faith
- Sky swing: this is a 50 meter high swing, that is ‘self-releasing’. Although its over before you know it, t’s still tons of fun and the photos you get are priceless.
- Mountain biking: You can mountain bike down the mountain as many times as you pay for, and the return ride is on the gondola with bikes in tow.
- Cost: $20-$150+AUD – Depending on the package you buy but if you go at night the prices and lines are smaller. Personally i went at night and payed for the skyline adventure pass which included: Gondola, 5 Luge rides, sky-swing and Zip-line =$125 (or $100 at night)
- Duration: 1hr to a whole day activity. (I spent ~3hrs there and wish I had time to stay longer!)
3. Go to the Red Wood forrest: This was a great FREE afternoon activity. Take a stroll through some of the tallest tress you’ll probably ever see, or if you want some more adventure, you can go on the tree top canopy walk (for a fee).
- Cost: Free
- Duration: 1-4 hrs
4. Explore the FREE geothermal pools in the centre of town: You drive through town and the smell of sulphur, or rotten eggs, is over whelming. There are sulphur pools everywhere in Rotorua and the surrounds, but there are alot concentrated in the Park, which lies in the centre of town. Its completely free to walk around and its cool to see all of them bubble away, with their aqua blue, green and bright orange colours. I think however once you’ve seen and smelt one, you’ve seen them all. For this reason the paid Geothermal park, which is highly rated on Trip Advisor, doesn’t make my top 5 list, but by all means pay the $40 entrance fee to see more of the same pools, albeit maybe a bit more impressive.
- Cost: Free
- Duration: 1/2hr -1hr
5. Hire Bikes and go Mountain biking: The mountain bike trails around Rotoura are plentiful. Pick up a bike from the local bike hire shop, or your accomodation, and while your there ask for the best mountain bike trails around your area. They will more than likely give you a map and highlight where the best routes are, thats what we got anyway, and it was a great way to get out in nature and have some fun. The cost for bike hire will vary greatly, depending on weather your hostel/hotel offers cheap bike hire, or you hire high quality mountain bikes from one of the many touristy adventure stores in town. Either way its a great way to spend half a day or a full day if your feeling energetic!
- Cost: $30-75
- Duration: as long as your heart desires!
6. Take visit to Agroventures: This place is like a mini adventure wonderland. Its got Bungy jumping, Free fall Xtreme, Agrojet, Swoop (aka giant swing) and Shweeb. You can get a 4 tune extreme pass for $119, which includes 4 of the above experiences. Again booking through bookme.co.nz is a great way to save $$$.
- Cost: $30-200+
- Duration: 1/2hr to 3hrs
And thats it!
There are literally of hundreds of actives/tours you can do in Rotorua. The market is saturated with tour companies trying to show you the best NZ has to offer. You can have traditional Maori Dinner experiences and go to Polynesian spas amongst many other things, but depending on how much you can, and want to spend, will obviously dictate on what you do. Personally i wouldn’t spend more than 3 days there, as i think there are nicer, less touristy and more beautiful places, but it is worth a visit if you in the North Island of New Zealand.