If you visit Rotorua with the expectation of there being not much other than that slight smell of rotten eggs, you are in for a nice surprise. A beautifully mystical lake and bush surroundings, fascinating geothermal activity and rich Māori culture and history will both enthrall and delight. It’s time to see this undervalued town in a new light. This itinerary will help you do so.
Accommodation | Wai Ora Lakeside Spa Resort
Once judged New Zealand’s best relaxation and spa hotel resort by TripAdvisor for three years in a row, this accommodation will leave you feeling pampered and at peace. Your morning view will be the mist rising off Lake Rotorua and through the trees which surround it, while your room will be as regal and luxurious as it should be on a trip away. Indulge and relax; you deserve it.
8:30am | Picnic
Picnic café is one of Rotorua’s coolest joints for breakfast. With warm and friendly staff and a buzzing breakfast atmosphere, you will be able to ease into your day without a qualm. Their menu has a fantastic array of good quality and well-priced meals, as well as a couple of alluring smoothies which will give you the boost you need for the day.
9:30am | Te Wairoa Buried Village
In 1886, one New Zealand’s most catastrophic natural disasters occurred with the eruption of Mt Tarawera, killing 150 people in the nearby Te Wairoa village and destroying the Pink and White Terraces, at the time considered to be the eighth wonder of the world. As a result of careful and precise archeological redevelopment, you can now visit the recovered village to experience what life was like before the tragic disaster. Just a 20-minute drive from Rotorua, this is well worth the trip to learn about Aotearoa’s early modern history. buriedvillage.co.nz
11:30am | Shopping
Didn’t think there was anything in Rotorua apart from lakes and geysers? Have your mind changed with the very best of the diverse and fabulous art and fashion opportunities.
Grace and Glory — A beautiful homewares and art store with a delightfully rustic vintage feel. graceandglory.co.nz
Helium Gallery — This gallery has the perfect blend of stunning New Zealand artwork and locally handcrafted gifts. heliumgallery.myshopify.com
Fox & Thread — A quirky shop of knick knacks for ‘Hunters and Collectors’, Fox & Thread is well worth a visit. facebook.com/foxandthread
iNZpired: The Store – Taking inspiration from Rotorua’s Redwood Forest and combining it with art from his international exhibition, internationally acclaimed designer David Trubridge’s collaboration with Skyline Rotorua, delicately, intelligently redifnes retail, boasting many of New Zealand’s top design brands.
1:00pm | Abracadabra
Local favourite Abracadabra has one of the best menus in Rotorua, and a very special atmosphere to go with it. Step back in time in this charming 1940s house which has been revamped to create this unique café/bar/restaurant, complete with three private rooms for functions. With a great outdoor vibe in their sunny garden bar, you can enjoy the daylight whilst sharing some of their fantastic tapas. abracadabracafe.com
2:30pm | Redwoods Treewalk
For a bush walk like no other, traverse the treetops of Rotorua’s Redwood Forest by walking along the 21 suspended bridges that connect the 110-year-old trees. The bridges range between 6m and a breathtaking 12m in height, and while it is probably not for those who tremble at large heights, it is perfectly safe to walk without the use of safety equipment. With stunning views and an element of exhilaration, this definitely adds a fun spin to the ordinary bush walk that we have all done too many times. treewalk.co.nz
3:30pm | Polynesian Spa
It wouldn’t be a trip to Rotorua without unwinding along the shores of Lake Rotorua at Polynesian Spa. Established almost 150 ago, Polynesian Spa has come a long way since its humble bathhouse beginnings, offering guests an amazing assortment of wellness activities and spa treatments in a modern pristine environment, that complements long soaks in the hot pools perfectly. If you are after an experience that is truly unique to the area you have got to take the chance to relax and rejuvenate in a calming deluxe private pool while enjoying the panoramic views across Lake Rotorua. Follow your indulgent soak with the divine Polynesian Spa Signature Mud Wrap, combined with a 30-minute relaxation massage. You will leave feeling like a new person — ready to take on the world again. polynesianspa.co.nz
5:30pm | Skyline Rotorua
For a spectacular panorama of Rotorua, the lake, and surrounding scenery, a trip up the gondolas to Skyline Rotorua is a must. After a 900m glide along the gentle and safe cableway, amuse yourself at the top with a zoom around the luging track, a rush of adrenaline at the Skyswing, a visit to the iNZpired store or an indulgence at the Jelly Belly store and gallery.
7:30pm | Stratosfare Restaurant & Bar
Everyone wants to have dinner in front of the best view in town, and at Stratosfare Restaurant & Bar, this is guaranteed. Situated at the top of the gondolas overlooking the incredible Rotorua vista, the only thing better than what you can see out of the vast windows will be the meal in front of you. With a diverse and locally-sourced menu, as well as a freshly prepared buffet, Stratosfare will help you end your day on a fantastic note.
9:30pm | Dessert
Back on ground level, find yourself a corner dairy and order a large creamy ice-cream. Step two: find a spot on the lake front where you can devour said ice cream. As the sun goes down behind the surrounding mountains, you will be able to sense the rich history which belongs to the area, and the cultural and geographical experiences which have shaped the land and town into what it is today.