One of the things that makes New Zealand so special is its connection to Māori culture, woven into various aspects of the country. Dotted just above the midway point of New Zealand’s North Island is Rotorua. Not only is it the geothermal city of New Zealand, but it’s also a hub for delving into Māori history, making it a must-visit! Here’s some hot tips on how to spend a weekend in Rotorua.
Take it easy upon arriving in Rotorua and head straight to Eat Streat, located at the ‘lake end’ of Tutanekai Street. The pedestrian-only area is fully covered so you can dine al fresco, no matter the weather. Eat Streat is a hub of bustling restaurants and bars so take your pick to suit your budget and tastes. We like to book ahead for dinner at Atticus Finch, a restaurant that describes their vibe as ‘speak easy meets metropolitan bistro’. Afterwards, treat yourself to an ice cream or pop into one of the bars for a night cap.
Rotorua is a touristy city so we’re up early today to beat the crowds! Grab a bite to eat at Capers Café + Store before heading to Wingspan Bird of Prey Centre, found just on the outskirts of Rotorua. Established in 2002, Wingspan is recognised as the leading conservation, education and research organisation for birds of prey. Enjoy their Flight of the Falcon show to see a selection of birds of prey in action whilst learning about them – a fun, interactive show where you’ll come away with a greater knowledge of these special birds.
Next, you’ll be heading to the other side of the city. Along the way we would recommend stopping in at Patrick’s Pies for one of their award-winning pies. This humble bakery has won the Bakers New Zealand Supreme Pie Award seven times!
Make your way to The Redwoods, or Whakarewarewa Forest, for the Redwoods Treewalk. With 28 suspension bridges and 27 platforms built up to 20 metres in the trees, it’s an epic way to see the forest up close and from the air. The Redwoods has over 5,600 hectares of forest so is a popular place for mountain bikers and walkers to explore – especially its impressive grove of Californian Coast Redwoods.
With strong ties to Māori culture, Rotorua offers a great chance for you to go to Whakarewarewa Living Village. Here you can experience an intimate look into day-to-day life with your Local Guide who will entertain you with stories of the village. Cross boardwalks to see boiling mud pools and learn how the residents use the natural geothermal energy for everyday use, something the city is famous for.
This evening, we would recommend taking part in a traditional Māori hangi feast for dinner. There are several places dotted around Rotorua that offer this, combined with a cultural performance which rounds off your day.
For breakfast, the central city offers several cafes to choose from to fuel up for the day ahead. Depending on your mood, Rotorua has something for everyone…
If you prefer to take it slower, the Government Gardens are a lovely place to explore. This will also take you to the Museum of Rotorua, a former bathhouse in a heritage building that is over 100 years old! It is currently closed for earthquake strengthening but you can walk round the outside to admire the architecture.
For the thrill-seekers, head to the hills to Skyline Rotorua. Delight in a gondola ride to the top of the hill for panoramic views across the city, then speed down on a luge.
For a slower-paced day, head to the iconic Polynesian Spa for a well-deserved soak in their geothermal-heated pools and/or a relaxing treatment – a perfect way to finish your weekend in Rotorua!
Alternatively, we would recommend a bit of a road trip to one of two different spots. First is to Okere Falls where you can chase adventure on a white water raft or take it easy with a lush bush walk to the waterfalls.
Our second suggestion is for film aficionados – in particular, The Lord of the Rings fans. The Hobbiton movie set is only an hour’s drive from Rotorua, in the heart of the Waikato region. Explore the Shire on a guided tour, sharing fascinating stories about how the set was built and used during the filming of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies.