Rotorua sits on top of one of the world's most active volcanic regions. Below the surface the earth's crust grinds and moves producing heat and molten rock. Throughout the city and its surrounds the evidence of this is surprisingly common. Steam rising from cracks in the road, bubbling and hissing water in pools along the lakes edge and of course the strong smell of sulphur. The original Maori inhabitants recognised the great potential of this natural resource and applied it to cook their food and a plentiful supply of hot water to relax and bathe in didn't go unnoticed by the early European tourists.
Today Rotorua offers a myriad of activities for all to enjoy. Its compact city centre is ideal to stroll and enjoy the cuisine and hospitality. Government gardens provide a wonderful respite and in the centre the Rotorua Museum is a must see. A walk along the lake edge will deliver you to one of the country's oldest Maori villages at Ohinemutu or a float plane can whisk you over the craters of nearby Mt. Tarawera. Surrounding the city are thermal reserves such as Whakawerawera and Wai-O-Tapu, and here you can walk amongst bubbling mud pools, spouting geysers and sulphur ponds. Just a few minutes from the town centre Mt. Ngongotaha and the Skyline Gondola and luge overlook the lake and a little further on the Agrodome centre is where you head for adventure and an adrenalin rush. Here you can ride the Zorb, travel at up to 100kph on a jet boat, simulate sky diving or take the plunge on a giant swing. An agricultural exhibition and show is also based here. No visit to Rotorua would be complete without experiencing Rotorua's original tourist attraction - a relaxing spa treatment.
Mitai gives an awe-inspiring introduction to the indigenous Maori culture. Learn about the history of this area which was once flourished in villages. See fierce warriors in traditional dress paddle an ancient warrior canoe (waka) down the Wai-o-whiro stream. Be captivated by songs, dances and games in a rich powerful entertaining cultural concert, complete with the fiery “Haka” Maori war dance. View the uplifting of the hangi from the earth cooked oven (Hangi Pit) in the ground and learn the preparation and contents of the traditional hangi. Learn the art of Ta Moko (tattoo), Maori customs, Musical instrument, Poi dance, Carving, Flora and fauna, and the medicinal uses.
Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland is a spectacular showcase of New Zealand’s most colourful and unique geothermal elements sculpted by thousands of years of volcanic activity. You are introduced to a uniquely different natural landscape – the key to what you see lies below the surface – one of the most extensive geothermal systems in New Zealand, extending over 18-sq. km. Enjoy viewing unique volcanic features as you walk at your own pace along well-defined tracks. Relax in the first-class Visitor Centre, home to the Gift Shop and Café facilities. Visit the Mud Pool, the largest in New Zealand, it was originally the site of a large mud volcano which was destroyed through erosion in the 1920s. See the history and beauty of the Lady Knox Geyser at 10:15 am every day. Lady Knox Geyser provides a unique opportunity to see an eruption to heights of 10 to 20 metres.
Only a short hop from the Rotorua township you'll find Te Puia, known as New Zealand's living Māori cultural experience. Sprawling across 60 hectares of volcanic land, it's home to the world-renowned Pohutu Geyser, a live kiwi enclosure and more than 500 geothermal wonders. Shrouded in a continuous haze of steam, Te Puia has a dramatic and ethereal air.
As you're guided along the wooden walkways, thermal springs and boiling mud pools surround you on either side, while native ferns and flax can be seen in the forest ahead. Te Puia takes pride in keeping Māori traditions and craft alive and it is home to the New Zealand National Carving and Weaving Schools. You'll have the chance to watch these unique craftspeople working as they share their skills with the next generation.
At Rainbow Springs you'll have the chance to see some of New Zealand's native flora and fauna within the majestic forests of Rotorua. Wander the beautiful tree-lined park and take in the flourishing bush, ferns, flowers and plants. Come face to face with, and learn more about, New Zealand’s precious wildlife. See the spring-fed pool with rainbow, brown and tiger trout, then visit the on-site aviaries - home to New Zealand species such kea, kaka, tui, kereru and kiwi. The tuatara, known as New Zealand's living dinosaur can also be seen here.
Go behind the scenes with New Zealand's national animal at the purpose built Kiwi Conservation Centre - created solely to try and stop the extinction of this unique species. Here you will gain first hand insight into the conservation efforts being made to increase the numbers of kiwi eggs being hatched and returned to the wild.
Tamaki Maori Village is a wonderful and entertaining insight into the culture both past and present of the Maori people and is enjoyed by all. The evening goes like this:
The Waka (Coach Trip)
En route to Tamaki Maori Village, your guide will instruct you on the rules and protocol for visiting Marae (meeting grounds). It is customary for the welcoming tribe to send out a challenge. Together you will select a chief to represent those on your coach in the Powhiri (welcome ceremony) to come.
Te Wero (The Challenge)
On arrival at the venue, nobody must enter the fortified village until the Powhiri (formal welcome) has been performed. The host tribe will send out a toa (warrior) who will challenge the guests, via their elected chief to ascertain if they come in peace. A Teka (peace offering) is placed and received by one of the visiting chiefs. All visitors must remain behind our chiefs throughout the ceremony.
The Karanga (The Call Of Welcome)
At The Village The Karanga or welcome call will echo across the courtyard, followed by the Powhiri (welcome dance). You will then be able to enter onto the village grounds where the Tangata Whenua (people of the land) will demonstrate different activities such as poi twirling, hand games, weaponry displays, reciting chants and displaying activities of an era gone by.
Wharenui (The Meeting House)
From the village you will enter our meetinghouse. This building represents an ancestor of our past. Customs in our houses are: The men make all the welcome speeches. A speech of welcome is offered (whaikorero). A waiata (song) is offered in support of the speech. Te Whanau AaTamaki Cultural group will share a variety of Waiata, Haka, and Song and Dance in celebration of new friendships forged.
Hangi (Earth Oven)
The traditional hangi meal has been under the earth on hot rocks for three to four hours. This is the age-old traditional cooking method of the Maori. The rocks are heated to a white-hot state with some of our native timber. They are then put into a pit dug in the earth. The baskets of meat are put directly on the hot stones, then the vegetable baskets and then the pudding basket on top of that. A wet cloth is placed over the food followed by wet hessian. Earth is then piled quickly over everything to keep the heat inside the earth oven. The kai (food) cooks slowly over several hours - a combination of smoking and steaming, and the end result is a distinctly flavoured, succulent and mouth watering meal. Vegetarians are also catered for upon request.
Wharekai (The Food House)
Inside the dining room, tables have been numbered to ensure that everyone gets seated with family and friends. Ticket numbers should coincide with table numbers. One of the guides will explain restroom facilities. It is customary for Maori to bless the food with a Karakia (prayer). The meal is a buffet style dinner whatever you desire. To ensure a smooth flow in the buffet, your guide will bring you up one table at a time. It works very efficiently and it will not be long before everyone is enjoying the succulent Hangi feast.
Poroporoaki (Closing Ceremony)
The evening ends with the Poroporoaki, the official closing ceremony. There will be waiata (song) and whaikorero (speeches) before you are safely transferred back to your accommodation.
Set on a 350-acre working sheep and cattle farm with 1200 sheep and 120 beef cattle, the Agrodome gives its visitors a hands-on, live farming experience. The Farm Show stars a cast of talented animals – not just sheep! The remarkable farm dogs will amaze you, as they demonstrate their ability to respond to commands and keep those sheep (and ducks!) in line. Then pop across to the herding area to watch a free live dog trial after the show! Explore the farm and learn the history of New Zealand agriculture on custom designed farm trailers. Along the way, there are fascinating things to learn - and a few laughs too! You’ll get to hand-feed and take photos with all sorts of friendly animals, including Romney sheep, cattle, deer, llamas, ostrich, pigs and alpacas. Explore the fruit orchard and olive grove and have the chance to taste natural kiwifruit juice and delicious sweet honey that comes from the farm.
Discover the real Middle-earth when you take this two hour guided tour of Hobbiton. Beginning with a drive through a picturesque 1,250 acre sheep farm, you'll experience stunning views over the Kaimai Ranges. You'll then be escorted through the 12 acre movie set learning memorable anecdotes about the shooting of the films. Visit Hobbit Holes, the Green Dragon Inn, the Mill and the Party Tree, as well as learning how this piece of Waikato farmland was turned into the Shire.
In 1886, Mount Tarawera in Rotorua erupted, and destroyed the surrounding area. The eruption opened the earth along a 17km rift, splitting Mount Tarawera in two, exploding Lake Rotomahana to 20 times its original size, and forming the seven craters that today make up the Waimangu Volcanic Valley. Within 15 years of the Eruption, the hot springs of the Waimangu Geothermal System were established within the newly formed craters, making this the world's newest geothermal eco-system. Plant life returned to the devastated land 30 years after the 1886 eruption. Today Waimangu Volcanic Valley and Lake Rotomahana are wholly protected as a Scenic Reserve and Wildlife Refuge. Here you can enjoy a range of easy walking to advanced hiking. They also have a boat cruise on Lake Rotomahana which can be added to the experience.
Take the Skyline Scenic Gondola ride up the side of the dormant volcano Mount Ngongotaha (487 metres above sea level) where you can experience spectacular views of the city and lake. At the top, you can choose to Luge, Mountain Bike, Zoom Zipline, Skyswing, check out the nature trails, shop at the INZPIRED Store or the Jelly Belly Store, enjoy Volcanic Hills wine tasting and dine at Market Kitchen or Stratosfare Restaurant.
Embark on a three and a half hour adventure through native New Zealand forest. Journey through the beautiful forest canopy via an incredible network of trails, tree platforms, Ziplines and swing bridges, journey deeper into natural New Zealand than ever before with the Ultimate Canopy Tour. See breathtaking views of the woodland valleys and hills as you fly through tight openings in the trees. In between the thrill of the ziplines and suspended tree bridges, your guides will share their passion and knowledge for the forest and the conservation challenges to preserve it.
Enjoy an evening adventure kayaking out over one of New Zealand’s most stunning water ways, Lake Rotoiti. Enjoy the beautiful scenery, abundant birdlife, and learn the myths and legends linked to the area, before kayaking over to the stunning Manupirua Hot Pools. Adventure out to the magical glow worm cave as the sun goes behind the hills to learn the lifecycle and legends of the glow worms.
On the way back see how the lake is transformed by the moon and the twinkling stars above, with the night sky being the perfect end to the adventure.
Join a tour through a real Living Maori Village. Experience how Maori have traditionally used the natural geothermal energy in daily activities, from cooking in the bubbling waters and steam, to heating their homes and bathing in the therapeutic and refreshing waters. This guided tour is entertaining and informative with a focus on giving everyone an understanding of the Maori history, culture and the and how the villagers live in the challenging Whakarewarewa Geothermal field and the significance of protecting it for future generations.
The ultimate 4WD adventure. Rugged and remote, the trail ahead disappears into thick native NZ forest. Prepare for a journey that is full of unknowns. Buckle in and share the driving in one of Off Road NZ’s 4WDs. Your professional guide, up ahead, gives you instructions while your heart is racing with anticipation. The terrain is like nothing you’ve encountered before and the challenges come thick and fast! As you traverse unbelievably steep climbs and descents; tight, twisting bends; deep, muddy holes; the 4WD rocks and pitches. Foliage brushes past… you come to a bridge of poles over a creek – how can you possibly get across that? And suddenly the luge: a six metre-high controlled slide down a near-vertical 80-degree slope. Adrenaline pumping, you try not to look down. Follow instructions and take a leap of faith!
See it all, the ultimate volcanic and geothermal Rotorua Tour. Learn about the huge colourful hot springs, erupting geysers and active boiling mud pools, spectacular volcanoes and lush native forest. All on a fully guided day tour in Rotorua. Departing daily, you'll travel through forestry and farmland to NZ’s largest boiling mud pool and a series of colourful hot springs at Wai-o-tapu. Then see the Lady Knox geyser erupt. Next a short drive to the Waimangu Volcanic valley where your guide will explain the Mt Tarawera eruption which blew open this spectacular, bush covered, geothermal park. Later in the afternoon, take a journey with a local guide in the footprints of the Maori tribe “Tuhourangi “. Learn more about the the history of the eighth wonder of the world, the pink and white terraces and the great 1886 eruption of Mount Tarawera that destroyed both the tribal village and the terraces. To bring the story alive, you'll visit: The Buried Village, Whakarewarewa Living thermal village and Lake Tarawera, Lake Tikitapu (Blue Lake) and Lake Rotokakahi (Green Lake). You'll also get to enjoy the views of the Mt Tarawera Volcano. The tour also includes a beautiful native bush walk to a waterfall and Lake Tarawera lookouts.
On this tour, you will visit 27 locations that best represents Rotorua's historical, geological and cultural identity. Your local guide will share with you their amazing history, take you to the best photo spots and show you Rotorua from a local point of view. This tour is perfect for people of all ages.
Take the Thermal Land Shuttle to Wai O Tapu thermal wonderland. This thermal area around 30 kilometres south of Rotorua has many walking tracks to take you through this strange landscape. Bubbling mud pools, simmering waters rising from the depths and colourful sulphurous pools make this a fascinating insight into the geothermal activity that goes on below Rotorua's surface. Lady Knox Geyser can be seen erupting at 10:15am daily, shooting water up to 10 metres into the air. There are 3 well signposted walking tracks and an informative brochure tells you about each feature. A gift shop and cafe are also on site.
Enjoy the Rotorua Lakes as the sun sets at the twilight hour on an amazing stand-up paddle board scenic tour as you are guided to an incredible cavern home to a galaxy formation of glow-worms. This paddle-board experience you will never forget. This experience starts with a short drive of approximately 15 minutes leads you past the iconic Redwood and Whakarewarewa forest before you descend to the lake to begin the adventures. Once at the Lake your friendly, professional local guide will unload all the equipment for your group and get you kitted-out for the paddle boarding experience. Sound safety and instruction briefings follow as you learn to paddle board or hone your existing skills. No paddle board experience is required - most tour members have never paddle boarded before but with the quality and skill of the instructors most people are standing up and paddling within 15 minutes; there is always the option to paddle sitting or kneeling on the board if this is more comfortable. An amazing time then ensues stand-up paddle boarding on the lake as you soak in the natural surroundings as the sun goes down. Once the sun goes down you will search for the hidden caves, once in the cave, you will be amazed at the incredible glow worms that number in the thousands and appear like a galaxy above you. If you are lucky with a clear sky, the return paddle will continue your sense of awe and wonder with amazing stars lighting the sky.
Based in the sacred Te Takinga Marae in Rotorua, Kahukiwi Experiences offers a never before seen window into the landscapes, ways of life and heritage of the Ngāti Pikiao tribe. Explore the untouched, sacred land of the Ngāti Pikiao tribe in this intimate 4WD experience. Guided by a local and highly knowledgeable Māori guide, you’ll explore a stunning marae (a communal and social gathering place), landscapes and never-before-seen views that look over Rotorua’s lake district. En route, you’ll learn the myths and legends of local people, rich history and fascinating ways of life.
Feel the rush and the power as the V8 engines push through the water at approximately 85km an hour. Visit iconic landmarks such as Kawaha Point, Mokoia Island and Sulphur Bay and learn the history of the area, the people and the events that have shaped this special place into the cultural capital of New Zealand.
This cruise is perfect to take an evening break, enjoy a delicious meal and drink and see the changing scenery as you cruise Lake Rotorua's unique thermal wonderland. Take in the views of the misty, picturesque peak of Mount Tarawera, the beauty of Kawaha Point and Mokoia Island. See the sparkling lake and Rotorua town from an entirely new angle while enjoying the commentary from the Captain. The elegant Lakeland Queen was built in New Zealand in 1986 specifically for cruising the waters of Lake Rotorua. The Lakeland Queen is a stern wheel paddleboat that is perfect for a scenic cruise in the shallow waters of Rotorua's iconic lake.
Meet the monster. It’s huge. It’s loud. It roars with V6 Power. Hold on tight for the ultimate thrill ride! Your helmet and protective gear are on. Your driver has strapped you in securely. High up on the Monster 4X4’s back you feel your adrenaline begin to pump. With a roar and utilising its massive suspension, it accelerates into the bush and tears up a steep track. The 4X4’s unique 4-wheel steering mechanism helps to power through New Zealand native bush, up and down near-vertical slopes tackling the ‘Widow Maker’ and the ‘Loggers Long Drop’. Your knuckles are white as trees brush past. It twists; it bucks; it swerves; it tilts – every part of your body will be holding on tight.
Nestled on the shores of lake Tarawera, Solitaire Lodge offers guests the ideal blend of indulgence and adventure from a picture perfect setting. Luxurious and elegantly appointed with floor to ceiling windows and stunning panoramic views across the lake, guests can choose to relax in front of an open fire with a book from the library, enjoy the bar facilities or take a stroll in the expansive herb garden. Nearby is the Lodge’s private jetty with complimentary use of the lodge’s kayaks, motorised dinghies and trout fishing gear.
Each of the suites are styled for comfort and feature panoramic views of the lake and volcano. Bringing the outdoors in, you are invited unwind and soak up the peace and quiet of this tranquil setting.
The Tarawera Falls are just a short drive through forest and bush from the small town of Kawerau. The river disappears underground and reappears gushing out of the rock face at the falls. A short walk through bush along the river delivers you to a viewing area.
The Zorb is a home-grown kiwi invention and is another perfect example of adrenaline seeking at its best. Climb into a ZORB globe and slip slide and spin your way down the track. You are sent on your trip down the hill rolling head over heels, heels over head as the ground and sky go whizzing past in a beautiful mosaic of blue and green while your body is subjected to the soft and relaxing feeling of weightlessness and g-force. If you’re an adventurer, a thrill seeker or a challenger, then this ride is for you!