Rotorua and its surroundings have something for everyone, from geothermal wonders and luxurious mud baths to Maori cultural experiences and adrenaline-fueled activities. This remarkable area on New Zealand’s North Island is the place to head for natural beauty, adventure, and relaxation—or all three. Here’s how to maximize one day there.
Begin your 24 hours in Rotorua with a half-day sightseeing tour—a perfect introduction to all the top sights. Visit the Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley and witness the powerful eruption of Pohutu, the largest active geyser in the Southern Hemisphere. Discover sheep shearing at the Agrodome, and top if all off with a ride on the Rotorua Skyline Gondola. If that’s all too much to pack in, choose between an amphibious duck tour on land and lakes, or take a jet-boat ride that zips you at high-speed around Lake Rotorua. All guided tour options include informative narration on points of interest.
Head to Kuirau Park—New Zealand’s only geothermal public park—located in the city center, where a crater lake and steamy (and free) foot baths await. For a different experience, gain admission to the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland and wait for Lady Knox geyser to erupt while you explore the pathways or visitor center. An alternative plan drops you off by jet boat at Orakei Korako to stroll the geyser fields of the geothermal park. For the ultimate adventure, soar over the Waimangu Volcanic Valley aboard a seaplane. The scenic views of Mt. Tarawera and the Blue and Green Lakes will astound you.
Spend the evening at Te Puia cultural center. Here you are immersed in Maori culture during an exhilarating performance in a marae (traditional meeting grounds), and are welcomed to a hangi feast, cooked in a pit oven. Guided excursions usually offer convenient pickup from centrally located Rotorua hotels. If you’d rather go farther afield, check out the glowworm caves located at the edge of Lake Rotoiti: ride a boat or paddle in a kayak to a series of hot spring pools at the lake’s edge. Bring a bathing suit and soak under the stars.