Rotorua Day Tours : Top 10 Things to Do
It’s impossible not to be impressed the first time you arrive in Rotorua. Apart from the ever present smell of sulphur (which some call distinctive while others just describe as stinky) there are very obvious signs, sometimes in the most unexpected of places that this is an area of very real geothermal activity which is going on right underneath your feet. Clouds of steam drift randomly across the city and rise in noisy hisses from roadside vents and verges.
Dramatic geysers, bubbling mud pools, natural spas, stunning lakes, Maori culture and a host of adventure activities all await you here in Rotorua where your only problem is going to be deciding which of the hundreds of tours and attractions to fit into your holiday itinerary.
1) Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland
There are many geothermal attractions to choose from but the natural bush setting of Wai-O-Tapu gives this particular one extra points from my point of view. Additionally it has the largest bubbling mud pool in New Zealand as well as the Lady Knox geyser which erupts daily and a range of spectacularly but naturally coloured pools and terraces.
2) Skyline Rotorua
Many adults seem to get dragged reluctantly here by their kids and end up raving about it, having had the most fun of all. Ostensibly, Skyline Rotorua is a gondola ride (think cable car not Venetian waterways) uphill and a luge ride (think half go-cart, half toboggan) downhill although there is quite a lot more here than just that.
Your 900m long cable car ride offers 360° views of Rotorua which is pretty special viewed from above with lakes, geothermal areas and nature all being taken in at once. Luge tracks down through the forest offer varying skill levels from total novice to rather more white knuckle offerings.
There are several beautiful nature walks too and plenty of picnic places.
3) Te Wairoa Buried Village
In 1886 Mt Tarawera erupted and in the volcanic chaos which ensued the village of Te Wairoa, along with several others, was buried in rock, ash and mud taking the lives of more than 150 people. In the 1930s excavation began and today visitors can see the results of more than 70 years of sensitive redevelopment and archaeological exploration to uncover buildings buried long ago.
Paths join up a number of spots within the 12 acre park-like setting with interpretation panels at each site detailing what you are seeing. There is also an award winning museum which is home to many of the previously excavated finds. Guides, donned in period costume, add somewhat to the evocative and atmospheric air which pervades the whole place.
4) Grumpy’s Transfers and Tours
Who wouldn’t want to take a tour with such a great name although actually it’s a complete misnomer; grumpiness is certainly NOT a feature here. Grumpy’s offers private sightseeing tours to suit just about everyone, no matter what interests you – where you will be regaled with tales of legends and history and a seemingly bottomless mine of Rotorua knowledge.
In scouting around several travel review sites I was only able to find 100% positive feedback from hundreds of reviews and that says it all because at times us holidaying folk can be hard to please!
5) Kayaking the lakes
Fancy a twilight paddle across a hushed lake and then a soak in some natural hot pools only accessible by boat? Perhaps a meandering paddle through caves or a guided tour full of history, wildlife and legend? All of these are possible and getting out on one of Rotorua’s stunning lakes with just your own paddle power is an unforgettable experience.
6) Polynesian Spa
When sightseeing weariness kicks in take yourself off to these ultra-special award winning mineral pools, noted for their therapeutic qualities, to relax and unwind and soothe your aching feet. The complex has a range of options which include:
Private pools overlooking Lake Rotorua where you can strip to your birthday suit if the mood takes you in complete privacy;
Adults only pools and bathing area;
Family spa where your kids can splash about in the freshwater swimming pool while you take a well earned dip in the neighbouring mineral pool;
A lake spa with a range of pools surrounded by natural rocks and flora, the backdrop sound of waterfalls and a lake view.
There are also a range of spa treatments/massage available and an environment both tranquil and beautiful which would simply scream ‘chill out’ if screaming was appropriate here.
7) Te Puia
There are 2 main reasons why visitors come to Rotorua – to explore the geothermal phenomena and to experience Maori culture. 33% of Rotorua’s population are Maori and cultural performances are plentiful. Te Puia has an incredibly diverse programme of such activities, tours and attractions which are far too numerous to list here, with the added bonus of the Whakarewarewa thermal valley complete with geyser, mud pools and silica terraces.
Draws include day and night cultural performances, traditional feasts, carving and weaving exhibitions, a Maori village and a traditional formal welcome at the ‘marae’ – the traditional tribal meeting place of great spiritual significance. You will be entertained, quite possibly dazzled, learn heaps and even moved to tears by the amazing spectacles you’ll be part of, all seeped in history, legend and tradition.
8) Extreme adventure
Adrenalin junkies and thrill seekers may just think they have died and gone to heaven. White water rafting, white water sledging, 4×4 driving, skydive, bungy jump, jet boating, zorbing (think giant hamster ball for humans)….and this list isn’t even exhaustive. There are a vast amount of extreme adventure experiences which cater for just about every budget. Details of all that is on offer can be found at Rotorua’s i-SITE (tourist information centre).
9) Mount Tarawera
A hike up this volcano (either going it alone or with a guided tour) is well rewarded by the oh-so-beautiful panoramic views which greet you on arrival at the top – hills, mountains, volcanoes, lakes, ocean. Once there, if the mood takes you, you can do a 100m scree slide into the crater itself. If you want all the benefits without making too much effort then 4×4 trips and scenic flights are also possible.
The area around Rotorua is packed with options here. Trails are everywhere and cater for everyone from the not-so-fit who want a gentle hour’s amble to hardcore trekkers who want a serious challenge.
The wonderful i-SITE network stocks maps, walking trail leaflets and information to fill you with ideas if you’re not sure where to start. Guided walks of every description are available too if you prefer to be led by a knowledgeable expert – many offer special interest themes such as legends, history or local flora and fauna.
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