It still sounds incredible to write this very first article about and from New Zealand. We arrived in land of the long white cloud (that’s the meaning of the Maori name for the island: Aotearoa) mid February 2022 and, as soon as we could, we started visiting the country. We are based in Auckland, so we started exploring the North Island going around by car (a must-have here), picking some wonderful destinations on the map.
That’s how we ended up in Rotorua at the beginning of April. We knew it’s one of the top sites, but we wanted to live it fully, visiting the main attractions and exploring some less-known spots. That’s how we love to travel, actually.
Why is Rotorua so famous?
Rotorua is one of the top destinations in the North Island because you can easily see geysers there. And they are pretty cool to be honest! The town itself is not that great and the air smells a bit funny due to the geothermic activity over there, but the way nature is respected and preserved, it’s absolutely amazing.
You can enjoy visiting one or more geothermic attractions, walking in the middle of a native forest or relaxing at the spa on the lake. There are many things to do and if you want to have the full picture, we recommend you have a look at the official tourism website for the area.
Here we want to tell you our experience, which things we picked, where we stayed for the night, and where we had dinner. At the end of the article, you’ll have a clear idea of what you can do in Rotorua in 4 days, with no hurry, in full respect of nature and your time.
What to visit in Rotorua in 4 days
We had a bit less than 4 days to enjoy the area of Rotorua and our starting point was Auckland.
Day 1 – The way there
The first day was spent driving, but we also decided to stop on the way and go to see Wairere Falls, the 153-m tall cascade that happened to be in the middle of a very native and beautiful forest. We expected to be a short walk, but in the end we decided to reach the top of the waterfall and enjoy the view of the valley from the top. Consider 45-minute hike to the first view point and then other 45 minutes to the top, plus return, of course.
After this unexpected but rewarding hike, we head to our location for the night: the TECT Park Freedom Camping, where we spent 2 nights. This campsite is part of Kiwi Camp network, you can camp and use the toilets for free and hot showers are just $2 NZD – to be paid through the Kiwi Cash system. It’s important you plan your visit in advance and check the Kiwi Camp website to know how to use their campsites.
Day 2 – Nature in Rotorua
The second day was all about Rotorua. The TECT Park is about 30-min driving from Rotorua and on the way there you can have a glimpse of Lake Rotorua, formed after a massive eruption around 200,000 years ago.
It wasn’t easy to select what things to do as we think every geothermal attractions is worth it. We decided to visit Te Puia as first thing and enjoy the stunning geysers that characterize the site. The all site is an immersive experience: you’ll have the chance to walk and see mud volcanoes and other geothermal activities. You actually forget to be in town!
After the visit we wanted to find a green and quiet place to have lunch, so we drove shortly till the Waipa Whakarewarewa Forset Carpark. We had our sandwiches (Pack ‘n Save is the place to go for your lunch box) and then we had a very good coffee at Trail Kitchen. That area is actually pretty cool as you can enter the forest and go for a walk or a bike ride. We’ll keep it in mind for another time.
Our plan for the afternoon was to go to the Redwoods Treewalk. It was great (despite Giulia’s vertigo from time to time)! And the day ticket gives you access to the attraction at night, too. We recommend you both experiences as they are quite different, but if you have to choose one, you’d better go during the day.
Day 3 – Relax at the spa and the city
Rotorua for a lot of people means enjoying some hours at the Polynesian Spa. We did it too, and it was a very relaxing and experience. The private bathing/pools are very quiet and the lake view is lovely. You may want to book in advanced when it’s high season.
Right next to the Polynesian Spa, there is a beautiful park and the Rotorua Museum. It was close when we were there, but we enjoyed a stroll in the park.
Where to sleep in Rotorua
That day we also had to leave the TECT park and we booked a place in town of the night. We stayed for one night at Six on Union Motel. Nothing exceptional, but the price was reasonable, the room come with the kitchen, and it’s near the city center.
Where to eat in Rotorua
Since we were in town, we decided to enjoy a nice dinner out and we went to Mekong Buffalo. Well, food was just delicious! It’s hard to describe the dish we had, the Mekong Lok Lak Beef, but we can say that all ingredients were incredibly balanced, the noodles were very tasty, and the diced beef steak was soft and perfectly cooked. So we highly recommend that!
Day 4 – Reconnecting with nature
We decided to spend our half day in the area immersing in nature.
Firstly, we went to Waimangu Volcanic Valley and we loved it! We walked all the way to the lake and it took us about 2 hours and a half. But you don’t even think about the time because you find yourself in a real paradise. You walk following the path and you can experience stunning landscapes, beautiful geothermal features, great ferns and other native plants. Really, the vapor coming out of volcanic lakes and rocks is just magical!
We stopped for lunch at the pick-nick area in the valley and enjoyed the silence of nature. When we got to the lake, the boat for the lake trip was leaving. We decided to skipped that experience because we wanted to do something else later, but we heard it’s worth it!
A real natural spa!
We were in two minds about it but we finally decided to go to the Kerosene Creek. Not the most appealing name, but such a great experience! This is a natural hot water stream and it’s so so good. Just make sure you go there on weekdays, otherwise it’s supposed to be very crowded. We went there on a Monday and just three other people were there.
After the hot bath, it was time to head home. So we enjoy a quiet drive to Auckland, happy and restored.
Rotorua is a famous site for a reason. Its nature is stunning and you get to see incredible geothermal features! We’ll definitely go back there to see more attractions and dive into nature once more.