Rotorua, New Zealand is SUCH an amazing town on New Zealand's north island! This is a nature-lover’s paradise, hands down. With almost too many outdoorsy activities to pick from, that it’s hard to narrow it down in a few days. From learning about the Maori culture, to exploring the geo thermal parks and vast mountain views, Rotorua is the perfect adult playground filled with a pretty much untouched natural beauty.
Just a 3 and a half hour drive from Auckland, you can easily get here by car or by flying in directly to Rotorua. If you have the time, I would highly recommend the drive because the scenic countryside and vast and lush rolling hills filled with cows and sheep was one of the best parts in all reality! Outside of experiencing the Maori culture and the outdoors/national parks activities, there’s not a ton to do in Rotorua, aside from a few mom and pop restaurants and bars in the town.
If you choose to drive, I’d highly recommend making the stop at the Glowworm Caves, which breaks up the drive and is a pretty cool experience! I recommend getting tickets at least a day advance to avoid having to wait for a specific tour time when you arrive.
If you make the trek to New Zealand’s north Island, I definitely recommend spending anywhere from 2-3 days in Rotorua. Here’s how I’d recommend you do it:
Rotorua Travel Guide
Waimato Glowworm Caves - directly between Rotorua and Auckland, this cave tour is worth the stop if you're driving to Rotorua. You'll see an overwhelming amount of blue-lit glowworms inside some pretty amazing & deep caves here! Make sure to book a ticket by going online or calling the morning of or day before, as the tours get filled up. I highly recommend the drive since the green, lush, rolling hills are unbelievable!
Skyline Rotorua - from a scenic luge race down the mountain, to mountain biking, zip lines, gondola rides, and more, this place is an adult recess! We did 3 luge rides and it was an absolute blast for all ages! The gondola ride up the mountain is stunning in itself, overlooking Lake Rotorua.
Tamaki Maori Village Cultural Experience - DO NOT MISS THIS! This was my absolute favorite part of New Zealand. You'll get to learn about the Maori culture and interact with their village. They teach you how to play cultural Maori games, how to do that Haka and how they cook food (you get to eat dinner there). You can opt to stay overnight at the village as well. Such an amazing experience!
Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland - this place is AMAZING! There are a lot of walks/hikes you can do that take anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours round trip. The geo thermal pools may smell like sulfur (aka rotten eggs), but the minerals in the water make this the most gorgeous and vibrant colors! This is a must while you're in Rotorua - it was my favorite scenic activity!
Okere Falls - there are a few short walks for various views of the stunning Okere Falls waterfall, and you can go rafting here as well.
Hell's Gate Geothermal Park - skip the walking tour around the park because Wai-O-Tapu (above) is much more beautiful, but come here for the mud baths & thermal spa (and optional massage and other spa add ons!)
Next, check out my Jervis Bay camping guide. If you like outdoors activities, you'll love this beach paradise just outside Sydney!