If you’re looking for a little taste of everything New Zealand has to offer, Rotorua is the place to be. From traditional Maori Culture, stunning, nature and Lord of the Rings filming sets, this city is the perfect sampler platter, letting you experience it all.
The city is centrally located in the North Island making it easy to get to from Auckland or Wellington. They even have day trips to and from Auckland if you want to get there and back in a jiffy!
I came from Wellington and stayed for 2 days, but could have easily spent more time there. Here are some of the fun activities I would recommend!
Things to do:
Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Wonderland
Experience the wonder of this volcanic reservation full of mud pools and hot springs. The park with take your breath away with picture worthy moments every couple feet.
Neon green sulfur pools, geysers, and bright orange rocks make this one of the most surreal places I think I’ve ever seen.
If you’re a Hobbit or Lord of the Rings fan, this is a MUST. Even if you’re not, it’s so cool to see the set of such a popular movie series.
The Shire is situated on a family’s sheep farm and their guided tours let you walk around and take pictures on the set.
The whole time I envisioned myself in the movie as I walked through The Dell past brightly painted hobbit holes adorned with delightful little flowers. It was truly magical.
At the end of the tour you end up in the Green Dragon Inn where they offer you a warm beer, or apple cider and snack.
Warm up by the fire place and look for pickles the cat! He’s always roaming around in there.
I booked a 2-in-1 tour leaving from Rotorua that picked me up at my backpacker and took me to both Wai-O-Tapu and Hobbiton. There are tons of different combo packs you can buy to save money and hit all the popular attractions. I highly recommend this especially if you don’t have a way of getting around!
Waitomo Glow Worm Caves
There are many tours you can take to the glowworm caves leaving Rotorua, but this is a full day!! It’s about a 4 hour drive and then once you get there the tour lasts about an hour and then it’s another 4 hours back to Rotorua. Walking through the caves was really cool, but depending on the weather, you might not actually get to go into the part where the glowworms are. It rained all night the night before I went so the river flooded and we weren’t allowed to do the boat part of the tour, so all I got to do was stick my head around the bend to see the glow worms, but it was still a cool experience!
Maori Cultural Ceremony
Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to do this, but it was next on my list! The Maori are the native people of New Zealand and have the most interesting history and culture. Much of it is here in Rotorua as it is the Maori Capital of New Zealand!
Whether or not you go to one of these ceremonies, I recommend doing at least something to educate yourself about the indigenous people and their way of life. That’s the joy of traveling right?
You can take a historical tour of a living Maori village and fully immerse yourself in a cultural performance. If you’re feeling extra adventurous you can pull a traditional hangi straight out of the steaming ground!
Another thing on my list that I didn’t get to do, but running around in a giant hamster ball sounds like my kind of party.
Where to eat:
A street with so many eclectic restaurants, bright lights and all the night vibes. I couldn’t’ decide where to go! I’m sure you’ll find something you love here.
Where to stay:
Base is an amazing backpacker company that has safe, clean and affordable backpackers throughout New Zealand. I tried to stay at a BaseX whenever I traveled. If you’re on a budget, this is your place!
If you’re looking for more luxury accommodation, try Sudima Lake Rotorua or Treetops Lodge and Estate!
How to get there:
Naked Bus is a great option if you’re trying to get to Rotorua from another city in New Zealand. They give you snacks and coffee on the ride.
There are so many more wonderful things to do in Rotorua (Hiking, white water rafting, spas etc.) that you will have more than enough options of things to do to keep yourself busy for a weekend.
Check out some of my other articles on New Zealand for more guides and tips!
- The Ultimate Guide to Wellington in a Weekend
- 10 Things You Should Know Before Going to New Zealand
- 20 Things People in New Zealand Say
- A Weekend in Coromandel
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Thanks for reading today!
Xx Nicole #DoStuff