What to do in Rotorua

by Noted / 16 June, 2017
The volcanic heart of the Bay of Plenty, Rotorua has been a tourist town for over 150 years and boy, does it do ‘tourist town’ well. There is so much to see and do in Rotorua, you’d be best to fetch up well before the Lions arrive in the city. You’ll need a week to experience all it has to offer.


Rotorua International Stadium, Devon Street, Rotorua. Capacity: 34 000

If you’re heading to the stadium from central Rotorua, it’s around nine minutes by car, or slightly less if you’re staying at one of the many accommodation providers on Fenton Street. On game day, you’ll be best to book a taxi ahead of time.


In a word: mountain biking! Okay, that’s two words. But Rotorua has fast established itself as a mountain biking mecca. Whether you want to head for one of the region’s many hill trails, or keep things on the flat and sealed, Rotorua is an incredibly bike-friendly place.

You’ll find bike hire retailers throughout the city and a trail to suit you and your bike buddies. All are well signposted and maintained, so you’ll never cycle straight out of your comfort zone... unless you intend to.

Zorb! Ogo!Shweeb!

Rotorua is also home to a curious number of extreme activities worth experiencing, like the Luge, Zorb, something called OGO and the Shweeb. And no, we didn’t make any of those up.


Get a shot of Lake Rotorua at dawn on a cool, clear and crisp winter’s morning. Go on, shake off the activities of the night before, put on your trainers and head out for some fresh (albeit sulphuric) air with your camera. There is so much to do in this town, you may as well start the day on a reflective note. And chin up, there’ll probably be a good quality coffee on offer somewhere nearby too.


Head up in the world to the top of a mountain at the Stratosfare Restaurant and Bar at the top of the Rotorua Skyline Gondola. However, we wouldn’t recommend descending via the luge track after your meal.

Good quality pub food with several beer chasers? Ah, you’ll be after Rotorua’s famous Pig & Whistle Historic Pub on Tutanekai Street in that case.

If award-winning New Zealand lamb and beef dishes are on your menu wish-list, you need to pay a visit to Mokoia Restaurant on Robinson Road, Holdens Bay. They’ll even shuttle you to and from your hotel; how nice is that?!


Croucher Brewing is owned by a couple of Rotorua boys done good and they’ve won proper awards for their beers and everything. Head to their BREW gastropub on Tutanekai Street to sample the Volcanic New Zealand APA, multi-medal nabbing ANZUS IPA and their New Zealand Pilsner, which has won no less than six gongs.


It’ll become pretty obvious within about 10 minutes of arriving in Rotorua why this place is such a drawcard for international visitors. Point in any direction and there’ll be something to see, do and explore. Along with Queenstown in the South Island, Rotorua caters for out-of-towners like no other town can. Well, aside from Queenstown like we just mentioned...

There’s the ever-present geothermal activity to be amazed by, engaging Maori cultural tours, extreme sport theatrics involving skydiving, the high-speed luge track, restful kayaking, hunting, fishing, eco-touring through ancient forests and even zorbing (look it up if you’re unsure).

Outside the city itself, the Rotorua Lakes are a tranquil drawcard for boaties and bush-bashers. Nearby Mount Tarawera offers up dramatic lunar landscapes framed in lush bush and is the site of modern New Zealand’s most destructive volcanic eruption (but a lovely spot for a dip in a natural hot pool these days).


At Te Puia’s Whakarewarewa Valley you’ll find the Pohutu Geyser which erupts several times a day. It’s the largest geyser in the Southern Hemisphere and can send geothermally-heated steam shooting up to 30m (100 feet) high.


If someone responds to the news that you’re heading to Rotorua with “Ah, Vegas!” or “Rotovegas! Sweet!”, that’s local slang for your destination metropolis. But don’t worry, Rotorua might have its bright lights, but there aren’t any Vegas-style casinos looking to empty your pockets when you’re sufficiently distracted by dancing girls and a shrimp buffet.


This was originally published in The Tour, a souvenir magazine for the British and Irish Lions 2017. On sale now.

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