Travel Guide Oceania Polynesia New Zealand North Island Bay of Plenty Region Rotorua





© jen_jo

Rotorua is also nicknamed Roto Vegas by Kiwis for the mass of tourist attractions. Rotorua is a small city of about 64,000 people on the southern shore of Lake Rotorua in the Bay of Plenty Region, on the North Island of New Zealand. The main attractions in Rotorua are Maori culture and amazing geothermal activity. The most popular geysers are located in the town and the surrounding country side. And the famous mud pools are located in the city centre itself. Some local Maoris used to, and still do, cook their meal in the hot geysers behind their homes.

The tourist appeal of Rotorua started in the 1860s and only grew mainly due to large thermal waterfalls made of lime located on Mount Tarawera. These falls were very high and bubbling with hot energy and attracted tourists from around the world. Local Maori tribes started to appeal to the tourists and began to exploit lots of money from tourists. Some tribal members claimed that they were offending the gods by doing things like replacing the shell eyes traditional statues with silver and gold coins. Either by random volcanic event, or the anger of gods, Mount Tarawera erupted in 1886 destroying the falls, locals and tourists. The only people that were spare were the few that hid out with a Maori chief that refused to offend the gods.




Neighbourhoods and suburbs include Fenton Park, Glenholme, Ohinemutu, Owhata, Mangakakahi, Western Heights, Westbrook, Fordlands, Springfield, Tihi-Ōtonga, Lynmore, Victoria, Pukehangi, Kawaha Point, Ngongotaha, Hamurana, Tikitere, Tarawera, Okareka, Koutu, Hillcrest, Utuhina, Whakarewarewa, Ngapuna, Holdens Bay, Hannahs Bay and Horohoro.



Sights and Activities

  • Kuirau Park - West of the city centre and has several hot bubbling mud pools that visitors can soak their feet in.
  • Whakarewarewa (Thermal Village) - This town incorporated thermal energy into its system long before Iceland had even thought about it. For over 200 years the Ngati Wahiao tribe has lived in this location and incorporated the thermal springs into their daily lives for bathing, cooking, heating and spiritual needs. Opened as a tourist sight in 1998 travellers can see how a unique people have adapted an environment to fit their needs. Open 7 days a week, 8:30am to 5:00pm and is 5 minutes south of Rotorua.
  • Rotorua Museum was the original bath house and is not a great museum on the history of Rotorua featuring some great videos and exhibits.
  • Shopping - This is a great town to shop for traditional Maori art and crafts.
  • Buried Village (Te Wairoa) was a village that was buried in the 1886 Mt Tarawera eruption which destroyed some amazing natural formations.
  • Lakes - There are several lakes around the area that can offer great boating and swimming. Some lakes are considered holy and therefore off limits to non-Maoris.
  • Mountain Biking - Some of the best mountain biking is to be found amongst the redwoods of Whakarewarewa forest. Rental bikes are offerend by Planet Bike at the Waipa State Mill Road park entrance. And also by The Outdoorsman on Tarawera Road just before the turn onto Long Mile Road to the visitors center. There are also many bike shops intown that rent bike too.
  • Blue Lake on Tarawera road is a great place to hike and take a swim in the crystal clear waters.
  • Skyline Sky Rides skylineskyrides - A day of fun with a gondola and great view over Rotorua and then take the luge down, Zorb Zorbing was invented here in Rotorua too.
  • Skydiving - Not the great views like Taupo and Queenstown, and for that reason the best deals on skydiving can be had at Rotorua. If you just want the thrill and save yourself a bundle.
  • Agrodome - Your chance to see a New Zealand farm in action. Lots to do an see and with the star of the show being the sheep sheering demonstrations.




The area of Rotorua has a relatively high altitude, measuring up to 290 metres. The Rotorua region enjoys a mild temperate climate. Rotorua is situated inland from the coast and is sheltered by high country to the south and east of the city, resulting in less wind than many other places in New Zealand. During the winter months June - August temperatures can drop well below zero and in recent years Rotorua witnessed snow fall in 2011, the first time in over 50 years.

Avg Max22.9 °C23 °C20.9 °C18.2 °C15.1 °C12.6 °C12 °C12.8 °C14.6 °C16.6 °C18.7 °C20.9 °C
Avg Min12.6 °C12.8 °C11.3 °C8.7 °C6 °C4.2 °C3.4 °C4.1 °C5.8 °C7.7 °C9.4 °C11.3 °C
Rainfall90 mm93.9 mm111.1 mm115.8 mm109.3 mm137.6 mm143.9 mm142.6 mm114.6 mm113.6 mm102.5 mm114.4 mm
Rain Days8.



Getting There

By Plane

Rotorua Regional Airport (ROT) provides daily flights to Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown by turbo-prop planes and daily jet services. There are plans to extend the runway making it possible for larger planes to land therefore providing direct flights to Australia. Some water planes still land on Rotorua lake.

By Car

Rotorua is served by state highways 5, 30, and 30A, and the Thermal Explorer Highway touring route, with state highways 33 and 36 terminating on the outskirts of the town.

State Highway 5, running concurrently with the Thermal Explorer Highway, is the main north-south route through Rotorua, bypassing the town centre to the west. North of the town at Ngongotaha, State Highway 36 splits off to provide a route to Tauranga via Pyes Pa, while State Highway 5 turns westward, connecting to State Highway 1 at Tirau and providing the main route into Rotorua from Hamilton and Auckland. To the south, State Highway 5 provides the main route from Taupo, Hawke's Bay, Manawatu, and Wellington.

State Highway 30 runs southwest to northeast through the town. It enters the town in the southwest (running concurrently with SH 5), before crossing the southern suburbs to the shore of Lake Rotorua east of the town centre. It then runs through the suburb of Te Ngae, before splitting off SH 33 to continue eastwards.

State Highway 30A runs northwest to southeast, connecting State Highways 5 and 30 with each other via the town centre.

By Bus

Buses connect Roturua with most major towns and cities on the North Island, including Wellington and Auckland. Bus services are provided by Intercity Coach and Naked Bus. All services arrive and depart from the main tourist information centre, i-SITE, on 1167 Fenton Street. Services can also be booked there.



Getting Around

By Car

A car is not particularly necessary, but could come in handy if you plan to venture outside the city.

By Public Transport

Cityride, operated by Baybus. Phone number: 0800 4 229 28. There is a limited bus service. The buses are lime green in colour and branded "CityRide". The main terminus is on Pukuatua Street (opposite side to the ASB bank building at Pukuatua Street And Tutanekai Street). These buses operate several routes from one side of the city to the other, including Ngongotaha (handy for accessing the Skyline, Rainbow Springs and Agrodome attractions), the Institute of Technology or 'Polytech' as the bus will say (Te Puia is across the main SH5 road), and the airport. The standard fare is $2.30 regardless of how far you travel. Books of tickets can be bought at discounted rates. Most bus services seem to stop operating at about 6:00pm (Monday - Friday.

By Foot

Rotorua is small enough to walk to the main areas.

By Bike

Rotorua is a cyclists paradise; as well as boasting some of the best off-road mountain bike tracks in the world, it has no less than seven quality cycle stores, with six in the CBD and the Outdoorsman Headquarters on Tarawera Rd. In addition several shops provide cycle hire, notably Lady Jane's ice cream parlour near the lakefront. Cycling is generally safe, as many roads have wide verges; cyclists are possibly at most risk from the many camper vans driven by tourists.




There are numerous places to try the traditional Maori feast, the hangi. This "earthen oven" technique is similar to the Hawaiian umu and results in a very distinctive smoky earthy flavour - well worth trying.

In the last decade Rotorua has acquired some nice cafes - good options include: Ciccio Italian cafe, Relish, Capers, Zippy's or the Fat Dog. The usual chains for pizzas and burgers can be found: they're generally on Amohau Street (SH 30A in the central city) and on Fairy Springs Road (SH 5 heading north out of the city).

Restaurants are slightly more scarce but several of the major hotels have good eating establishments (Novotel or Ridges on the raceway). The main centre for eating is lower end of Tutanekai Street (known locally as Eat Street), but beware, even after 9PM you may find little left on the menu. Popular restaurants on Tutanekai Street include: Triple 1 Five, Indian Star and Wild Rice.

  • Whakarewarewa (Thermal Village) - it is possible here to eat in the traditional style of this village while visiting. This means eating all your food boiled or steamed with the power of the hot springs and thermal energy from underground. It is best to make reservation is advance.




Rotorua is sometimes referred to as Roto-Vegas because of the many neon-lit hotels along the main street, the numerous venues for gambling and the few brothels. Strangely though, there isn't much nightlife to speak of. The bar at the Hot Rocks Backpackers - the Lava Bar - is a good bet, alternatively try the Pig & Whistle, Fuse or the Fat Dog Cafe. Heaven & Hell is the only nightclub in Rotorua and is popular with local adults.




There are many hotels, rental homes, backpackers, motor homes, camp grounds, motels and bed and breakfasts around Rotorua.



You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)



Keep Connected


Internet cafés are widely available throughout New Zealand at rates of around NZ$2-4, though sometimes more in smaller places. Besides internet and e-mail services, most big internet cafés also offer some way for travellers to connect their digital camera and burn cds. Many public libraries have public Internet access, and most of them offer short free internet sessions. Wi-Fi access is getting more and more common in for example coffee places or fast food chains. It is becoming more common for Wi-Fi to be provided at hotels and motels, though sometimes at a fee. Wireless Hotspots are located in many cities and towns all over New Zealand from dedicated Wireless providers from whom you can buy connect time. Many camping holiday parks also have such services available.


See also International Telephone Calls

Dial 111 for emergency police, fire or ambulance services. The worldwide emergency number for GSM mobile phones, 112, can also be used.
The country code is 64.

Most payphones in New Zealand require the use of phone cards for payment and it is getting harder to find payphones that accept coins. As phone cards are available at a lot of outlets, they are easy to purchase and very handy as a backup in case of emergencies. Many of them also accept creditcards. Local calls are free from residential phones and charges for calling outside that area can be found at the front of the regional phone books, amongst many other services.

Mobile telephone coverage is effectively national in near urban areas although the mountainous terrain means that outside the urban areas, and especially away from the main highway system, coverage does have huge dead patches. Do not rely on mobile phones in hilly or mountainous terrain. Mobile telephone users can call 555 only to report Non-emergency traffic safety incidents, such as a breakdown, road hazard or non-injury car crash, to the Police. There are currently three major mobile carriers in New Zealand.

  • Telecom operates a UMTS (3G) network, named XT Network, nationwide on 850MHz with supplementary 2100MHz in metropolitan areas. (the same frequencies as Telstra in Australia and AT&T in the U.S.)
  • Vodafone operates a GSM network on 900MHz/2100 MHz and a UTMS (3G) network operates nationwide 900MHz with supplementary 2100MHz coverage.
  • 2degrees operates a UMTS (3G) network (2100MHz) in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch, with supplementary GSM coverage provided elsewhere by Vodafone.

A prepaid sim-card connection pack with $10 credit from Telecom or Vodafone costs around $30, and prepaid sim-cards from 2degrees cost $10. Telecom has broader coverage in remote areas away from major cities compared to Vodafone and 2degrees.


Most areas have dedicated PostShops, however stamps can also be bought at grocery shops, supermarkets and book stores. There are two main formats for domestic mail, namely Standard Post and Fast Post. Fast Post is used next day delivery between major towns and cities (two days from rural areas), whereas Standard Post will take a few working days to deliver nationwide. Standard costs NZ$0.50 for letters/postcards (NZ$0.80 for larger envelopes), Fast Post costs NZ$0.80 (NZ$1.20 for larger envelopes). International mail takes about 3-6 days to Australia (NZ$1.50), and 6-12 days to Europe, Asia and the United States (NZ$2). Post boxes are white, red and black and can be found in many areas throughout towns and cities, including information about when their contents are collected. Most post offices and smaller post shops have opening hours from 9:00am to 5:00pm Monday to Friday, and 9:00am to 12:30pm on Saturday. You can buy stamps here, or at newsagents and general stores. For parcels, you can use the NZ Post or otherwise courier companies like TNT, DHL, UPS or FedEx.


Quick Facts


  • Latitude: -38.139832
  • Longitude: 176.24707

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