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Your guide to Rotorua
All About Rotorua
On the southern shores of magnificent Lake Rotorua on New Zealand’s North Island, the city of Rotorua is a lively urban hub in the midst of a wild natural landscape. Mokoia Island in the center of the lake is the setting of one of New Zealand’s most well-loved stories from Māori mythology, in which the beautiful Hinemoa swims out to the island to join her lover Tutanekai.
There are a number of carefully-recreated Māori villages nearby, such as Tamaki and Te Puia, where you can watch performances and listen to ancient stories of the Māori people. You won’t forget the hāngi, where food is buried underground with hot stones and shared out.
Rotorua is a key place to witness New Zealand’s famous geothermal activity, with a variety of parks featuring spectacular geysers, steaming pools, and bubbling mud. The area has also become an internationally-recognized mountain biking destination thanks to a string of MTB parks, from Redwood Forest and Whakarewarewa to the gondola-assisted Skyline Gravity Park.
When is the best time to stay in a vacation rental in Rotorua?
Rotorua is in the Bay of Plenty region, where the climate is mild and temperate. Sheltered and inland, the city is rarely windy and has warm summers from late November through March. It can get quite frosty in the winter months of June to August, so pack warm clothing if you’re planning to rent a house in Rotorua at this colder time of year.
In March, the city comes alive with the tunes and community spirit of the Rotorua Lakeside Concert. This outdoor event showcases New Zealand artists, including Māori performers, classical artists, and contemporary bands. The evening always ends with a spectacular fireworks show. Another popular event is the Rotorua Festival of Gardens, which is held over three days every second year (odd-numbered) and features nearly 50 gardens across the region open for self-guided tours.
What are the top things to do in Rotorua?
The naturally therapeutic geothermal power of the Rotorua region has been harnessed by people for centuries, dating back to the Te Arawa Māori tribe in the 12th century. The Polynesian Spa sits right beside the lake in central Rotorua, offering 28 different hot mineral pools, some fed by the Priest Spring, which is slightly acidic, and some from the alkaline Rachel Spring.
Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve
It will take a whole day to explore the extensive Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve on the edge of sprawling Whakarewarewa Forest Park. You can take a guided walk through the recreated Māori village, follow the e-bike trail through the forest, or travel on foot through a landscape that demonstrates the raw power of nature with colorful, steaming lakes and spouting geysers surrounded by lush ferns and manuka. The Pohutu Geyser is often the star of the show, erupting up to 20 times every day up to nearly 100 feet in the air. Watch food being cooked in hot pools and learn more about how the Māori people have lived in harmony with this land for centuries.
New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute
Created as a place to preserve and promote traditional Māori culture, art, and practices, the Māori Arts and Crafts Institute holds an impressive collection of pieces from all over New Zealand that have ties to the Māori peoples. Learn the history of these crafts as well as the skills needed to create art in the traditional style, including carving and weaving.