Three days in geothermal Rotorua is plenty of time to venture around town and beyond, including day trips. A choice of extreme adventures lies at your fingertips, while a selection of thermal spas to soak weary muscles is available day or night. Here are some options to ensure you get the most out of New Zealand’s so-called Sulphur City.
Day 1: Rotorua Must-Sees and Maori Culture
Immerse yourself in the scenic beauty, long history, and rich culture of Rotorua today. Start with a city sightseeing tour to get oriented to historical landmarks such as the Government Gardens and popular natural attractions including Lake Rotorua. An amphibious duck tour gets you out on the water for a shift in perspective, while the Skyline Rotorua Gondola provides magnificent panoramic views from above. After lunch, experience one of Rotorua’s top draws: Maori culture. Traditional performances most often include a greeting ceremony, singing, and haka war dances combined with a hangi feast (cooked in a pit oven). You’ll be immersed in the lives and history of New Zealand’s indigenous people at a local marae, or Maori village meeting grounds.
Day 2: Geothermal Lakes and Bubbling Pools
Rotorua is best known for its thermal activity. Drive through farmland and native forests to the boiling mud pool and colorful hot springs at Wai-O-Tapu, and combine your adventure with a day trip to the Lord of the Rings Hobbiton set. Alternatively, take a guided tour of geysers and hot pools at Te Puia and Te Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve, plus experience traditional culture at the Maori Arts and Crafts Institute. The buried village of Te Wairoa also takes you deep into the region’s geothermal past. If an evening soak is your preference, join a kayaking expedition on Lake Rotoiti and paddle to the hot pools located at the edge of the bay. Glowworm caves illuminate the scene day or night at this spectacular location just outside Rotorua.
Day 3: Extreme Rotorua: Adventure and Adrenaline
Those who fancy a more intense thrill don’t have to travel far. Helicopter tours and seaplane flights take you soaring over the Lakes District, forests, and the volcanic fault line—some even fly over an active volcano. Land on White Island, the most continuously active of New Zealand's volcanoes, and take a guided trek up to the steaming crater. Or do the Zorb, a large inflatable plastic bubble that you ride in down a hill—totally addictive and unmissable. If you’re ready for more aquatic adventures, try white-water rafting on the Kaituna River or the easier Rangitaiki River. Attempt black-water rafting into the Black Abyss on a day trip to the Waitomo Caves, or simply relax during a boat ride under the glowworms. River sledging and jet-boat rides get you spinning on the water too. Of course, family-friendly venues such as Rainbow Springs Nature Park and the unique Agrodome farm experience offer more mellow options.