It’s hard to beat a tourism attraction as exceptional as Hobbiton, but rest assured, there’s plenty to keep you entertained in Rotorua. One of the North Island’s most popular tourist hot spots, Rotorua - or Rotovegas as it's affectionately called by locals - is the perfect mix of beautiful scenery and fast-paced fun. This leg will take you from there to some of the North Island's loveliest lakes.
As soon as you arrive in Rotorua, one thing will definitely capture your attention: the distinct smell of sulphur. Rotorua is a hub of geothermal activity, with bubbling mud pools, erupting geysers and natural hot springs found throughout the city. You’ll soon become accustomed to the smell of sulphur, but the geothermal landscape may continue to take you by surprise (in a good way) - seeing a geyser erupt is awesome in the truest sense of the word.
The best place to see these natural phenomena up close is at Hell’s Gate, a designated geothermal park. As one of the top Rotorua attractions, Hell’s Gate offers a huge variety of things to do. You can take a Geothermal Reserve Walk past steaming pools and geysers, or relax in a rejuvenating Mud Bath Spa. If you arrive around lunch or dinner time, you might even be able to tuck into a delicious steamed hangi. For most Hell Gate’s activities, it’s advised to book in advance to avoid disappointment.
Another excellent geothermal attraction is Whakarewarewa, otherwise known as ‘The Living Maori Village’. Not only is this set amongst beautiful pools and geysers, it’s also a cultural centre dedicated to celebrating local Maori heritage. Here, you’ll have the opportunity to learn about Maori customs through ancient myths and legends. You can also take a guided tour of a traditional Maori village and partake in a traditional geothermal hangi.
Geysers and mud baths are just the beginning of what this city has to offer. After you’ve enjoyed your time at Hell’s Gate and Whakarewarewa, head to Skyline Rotorua, a fun attraction for the whole family. Here, you have a choice from a dizzying array of adventure activities. You can soar among the treetops on the ‘Zoom Zipline’, race down the hillside on the Rotorua luge or enjoy an adrenalin-pumping workout on nearby mountain bike tracks. For the less adventure-inclined, you can opt for more relaxed activities, such as stargazing by night or enjoying a delicious meal at the Market Kitchen. However, the highlight of the entire Skyline Rotorua experience could very well be the Gondola ride to the top of the luge - this offers breathtaking views over the city.
If you’re travelling with kids in tow, you’ll definitely have to set aside a few hours to take them to the Rotorua Agrodome. Located a 10-minute drive from the city centre, the Agrodome offers a unique New Zealand farm experience. Here, you can watch a farm show, take a farm tour or both. During the show, you’ll learn the names of 19 different sheep breeds, watch a live sheep shearing demonstration and - if you’re lucky - you might even get the opportunity to feed a baby lamb. Clever, witty and educational, the Agrodome shows make great entertainment for all ages. On the farm tour, you’ll get to see a wider variety of animals - more sheep, yes, but also deer, cattle, llamas, pigs and more. You’ll also visit a Kiwifruit orchard and get to sample some delicious fresh Kiwifruit juice.
Once you’ve had your fill of outdoor activities, Rotorua offers plenty of low-key things to do. Of particular note is the Polynesian Spa. Situated on the lakefront in the centre of town, this facility is a peaceful oasis of relaxing spa treatments, secluded private hot pools and more. It’s the perfect place to relax and unwind after a long day out, plus the views are absolutely spectacular.
The above activities are just the tip of what Rotorua has to offer. Other popular things to do include mountain biking, fishing, golf, white water rafting and hiking. Whether you have a week here or a month here, you’re unlikely to run out of things to keep you entertained!
When you’re ready to move on, make your way to State Highway 5. You can either drive straight through to Taupo, or if you have time below are some great places to stop along the way.
Located just to the south of Rotorua, Lake Tarawera is a beautiful spot to check out before you leave the region. This serene lake is the largest of many in the area - it’s hard to believe it was the site of a large volcanic eruption in 1886. The eruption claimed the lives of more than 150 people and buried an entire Maori village. Today, the lakes are peaceful and pristine and there are several hiking tracks nearby. It’s an ideal place to stretch your legs and learn about the area’s fascinating history. When you’ve had your fix, simply rejoin State Highway 5 and continue on your way towards Taupo.
Another great place to stop on your journey south is at Huka Falls. Located mere moments from Taupo, this incredible natural attraction is guaranteed to impress. The waterfalls occur in an area where the Waikato River dramatically reduces in width - the river is usually 100 metres wide, but at Huka Falls it’s only 15 metres wide. The result? An immense cascade of water which is truly a sight to behold. About 220,000 litres of water flows down the 11-metre drop every second! There are several walking and mountain biking tracks nearby which offer the chance to see the falls from many different angles. Alternatively, you could take a Huka Falls River Cruise to see this phenomenon from the water.
Once you’ve taken many photos and enjoyed this top New Zealand attraction, Taupo is less than a ten minute drive away.