Australia and Oceania New Zealand Travel

Things to do in Rotorua – the geothermal capital of New Zealand

things to do in rotorua

Things to do in Rotorua are both so various and amazing that I’m glad that due to the weather conditions we had to stay here longer. Sincerely, I must admit that our New Zealand trip didn’t start as planned. Due to the huge rainfall, we couldn’t reach our first attraction – the Hot Water Beach, because all the roads were closed. After a quick glance at the map, we decided that we would spend two days (instead of one as planned) in Rotorua – this turned out to be the brilliant idea!

As soon as we parked in front of the hotel and opened the car door, we could smell something very specific… rotten eggs. It couldn’t be otherwise – Rotorua is the geothermal capital of New Zealand. You will find here any possible phenomena proving the Earth is a true living organism – geysers, volcanoes, geothermal lakes, pools with bubbling mud… So what are the best things to do in Rotorua? 

Tip: Find out more how our New Zealand itinerary looked like, how we planned our New Zealand budget and of course, where to see kiwi in New Zealand!

Things to do in Rotorua

Beak to beak with kiwi bird – Rainbow Springs

It seems a bit odd, but we decided to start exploring Rotorua with… a kiwi bird encounter. Definitely one of the most amazing things to do in Rotorua. Here you will find the largest and most successful center for hatching kiwi eggs and restoring chicks into the wild. Visiting Rainbow Springs is something which must be on your list! More about our visit here.

things to do in rotorua - rainbow springs

Rainbow Springs, Rotorua

The Maori and the geysers – Te Puia

Visiting this place is probably one of the most things to do in Rotorua to see the various forms of geothermal activity. Although it is very touristy, it is still worth paying a visit. Here you may see the Pohutu – the highest geyser in the southern hemisphere, reaching 30 meters. It spurts up once or twice an hour. Our guide left us at the geyser, saying I can see it will explode in about 10 minutes. We were waiting 10, 20, 30, 40 minutes… nothing happened. We decided to return, of course, a bit disappointed, and then – kaboom! Exactly in the same second, we turned around, the naughty Pohutu started to spurt up! Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to strategically go far away from the geyser, and as a result, we ended up soaking wet. Well, that’s life!

things to do in rotorua - pohutu geyser

Pohutu geyser, Te Puia, Rotorua

things to do in rotorua - te puia

Rotten eggs scent… source revealed!

If you get bored with waiting for the fussy Pohutu to show off, take a trip around the park – you will find unusual ponds full of bubbling mud, steaming rocks… Also, stop by the hot springs that are used to cook food in special baskets (ingo)! Te Puia is also a big center of Maori culture – 35% of Rotorua’s inhabitants have such roots. You can go for a free guided tour here with Maori people – you will learn many interesting facts, visit the Maori sculpture school and Te Aronui-ā-rua – a meeting place, decorated with unique sculptures made by the students of this school.

You may also see the kiwi bird here, in a special nocturnal pavilion. Kiwi was Maori “hidden bird” of Tānemahuta, the god of the forest and was treated with high esteem. If you have time, go for the Maori cultural show, including haka dance. Did you know that haka is performed now by New Zealand’s rugby team (All Blacks!) before the game? 🙂

things to do in rotorua - maori sculpture

Maori carving school, Te Puia, Rotorua

things to do in rotorua - maori sculpture

Discovering Maori culture, Te Puia, Rotorua

things to do in rotorua - maori house

Maori meeting house, Rotorua

It’s a mud bath time! – Hell’s Gate

Hell’s Gate is another perfect spot to admire the forces of nature. A lake with boiling water. Mud volcano. Kakahi waterfall, with water reaching 40 degrees – the Maori warriors used to wash away the blood of enemies here… Remember, when walking around the park don’t throw anything into the lakes – apparently, even a small stone can plug the vents and cause an eruption in a completely random place… like the middle of the path. Besides, you probably don’t want to disturb Ruamoko, the god of volcanic activity,  who guards the treasures here? 😉

You should come here also for SPA treatments. If you want to feel like a newborn again, go for a mud bath. It’s amazing! Just keep the mud away from your eyes… it’s a bit unpleasant! In the end, jump into the pool with sulfur water.It’s such a cool way to spend the evening – SPA under the stars 🙂

Take a walk – Lake Rotorua

Definitely one of the smelliest things to do in Rotorua. In the end, you really don’t have to go far to experience geothermal activity. Take a stroll through the Government Gardens, located on the shores of Lake Rotorua. The scenic paths filled with pukeko birds will lead you to the Sulfur Point. This is an amazing place where the water changes color to light yellow. There are holes in the surrounding rocks, where you can see small ponds with bubbling water. The forces of nature are really unique  – also when it comes to smell! This specific scent of rotten eggs is particularly intense here (if you were in the Indonesian sulfur mine, Kawah Iljen, you know what I’m talking about). I sincerely admit that we left this place quickly to be able to breathe normally at last…

things to do in rotorua - lake rotorua

Rotorua Lake

things to do in rotorua - sulfur point

Sulfur Point, Rotorua

things to do in rotorua - government garden

Government Garden, Rotorua

things to do in rotorua - government garden

Pukeko in Government Garden, Rotorua

Keep rollin’ that ball – zorbing!

New Zealand is a country for crazy adventures lovers (for us!). One of the strangest sports in the world was born here – zorbing. How? As the inventor admits, he initially wanted to come up with a way to walk on water, but he was afraid that in a so-difficult-to-control plastic ball he would sail away to South America… So he started rolling it down the hill!

Zorbing is one of the funniest things to do in Rotorua. There are a few zorbing spots here – we decided to visit OGO, the largest zorbing park in the world! There are two options – rolling over the hills “dry” or in a ball filled with water… Honestly, I didn’t want to go for the second option (cold!), but eventually, an idea of sitting in a hot tube afterward convinced me.

We decided to take 2 “wet” rides – so much fun! The first route is straight, so the ball goes down quickly, and I was screaming like crazy. The second track is very long and winding, the ball doesn’t speed up so fast, but it makes twists in the least expected moments, so my feet all the time landed on Michael’s head and the opposite. Really, despite the initial skepticism, I can’t recall when we had such a great time filled with pure happiness! Relaxing in the hot pool overlooking the Rotorua Lake was just the cherry on top to make it the perfect afternoon.

things to do in rotorua - zorbing

Keep rollin’ that ball!

things to do in rotorua - zorbing

Hobbiton – not only for fans!

Next to Rotorua, in Matamata, there is a legendary place called Hobbiton. Even if you are not a big fan of the Lord of the Rings trilogy or the Hobbit, I still recommend you to visit this place. It’s so idyllic and picturesque that you feel like you’re just about to see Bilbo Baggins!

things to do in rotorua - hobbiton

Hobbiton Movie Set, Matamata


How much time do you need in Rotorua? 2-3 days to visit all the main attractions.

How to get to Rotorua? Rotorua is about 3 hours drive from Auckland. You can fly there too!

Where to stay in Rotorua? We can recommend you the Ambassador Thermal Motel with the perfect location in an area full of restaurants, next to Rotorua Lake. There are even mineral pools!

Click here to book your perfect accomodation in Rotorua!

Fee: You will find prices in respective links below. Combo tickets are also worth considering – if you are planning to visit the Te Puia Park in Rotorua and Waitomo Caves and Hobbiton Movie Set, you should consider purchasing one entry ticket for all these attractions for NZD 288 (about 200 EUR) instead of NZD 322.

INFO: Rainbow Springs   Te Puia   Hell’s Gate   OGO   Hobbiton

Would you recommend more things to do in Rotorua? For more our adventures in New Zealand, click here!

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Wondering which places to visit in Rotorua? Our guide will help you to choose the best things to do in Rotorua. Geysers are not everything!

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