Follow the locals, at times getting off-the-beaten-path, to these treasured places to see in Rotorua. Here at Tamaki Māori Village, we call them our favourite ‘local secrets’.
Kuirau Park Thermal Discovery
A free-to-enter public park next to Rotorua’s city centre, Kuirau features plenty of geothermal activity, mud pools, foot baths and tranquil gardens that are perfect for picnics. It is among the best places to see in Rotorua, whatever the reason. Spend time discovering the fascinating Māori legend surrounding the park and its bubbling waters, involving a beautiful young woman called Kuiarau and a taniwha (legendary creature).
Saturday mornings here are rather special with a weekend market, a great place to indulge in Māori food like Rewena bread.
Our pristine Lakes are high up on the places to see in Rotorua
Having 16 lakes within our district leaves plenty of options to take a dip on a hot day, or set up for a picnic. We would recommend you take a few hours to visit these favourites of ours. The Blue Lake, or as Māori call it Lake Tikitapu, is one of the most popular places to see in Rotorua with its beautiful blue waters and walking track around it. Visit Lake Tarawera, located under the lofty volcano that erupted in 1886 dramatically changing our landscape. Spend the evening, or even night at Lake Okareka which is popular for it’s publicly available barbeques, a short walk to jumping rocks, and their lakeside campsites.
Hot Water Beach
Not quite as popular as its namesake in The Coromandel, Hot Water Beach in Rotorua is where the locals and their boats are found on most weekends. Accessible only by boat, it is great for camping (in summer) or relaxing in the hot springs. You can book a water taxi so you don’t miss out on visiting this magical spot or find a friendly local to give you a ride.
The reward for getting to the top of Rainbow Mountain (Maungakakaramea, which means mountains of coloured earth) is amazing 360 views of crater lakes and farmland. The hike up to the top from the crater lakes is about an hour and a half, but totally worth the effort. If you’re keen mountain biker, this will top your list of the places to see in Rotorua as you’ll love this track and ride downhill.
We love our markets; a great place to socialise, enjoy local kai (food) and grab some bargains.
In addition to the Saturday morning market in Kuirau Park, the Soundshell Market a.k.a. The Craft Market is a must-see. You’ll find a huge range of hand-crafted items for sale. It is held every Sunday from 9am to 3pm at Tuatnekai St. Rotorua Night Market, held every Thursday from 5pm to 9.30pm at Tutanekai St, is a foodie haven. You’ll find all kinds of local produce and artisan fare. Keep your belly empty for the treats on offer.
Not quite the secret we’d like it to be, but there is something addictive about crystal clear blue waters that keep us coming back to this paradisaical place – a humbling reminder of the beautiful country we live in. While there is a popular short loop track that takes you to the source of the spring, we suggest hiring a paddle board and heading on the Hamurana Stream to experience the magic of this place.
Grab a bite or more
We’re not biased. There really are more delicious places in Rotorua to try than your stomach can cope with. It’s a good thing we’ve so many amazing hikes to burn off the calories.
Places that deserve a special mention are Picnic Café – a quaint café with the best coffee in town. Or head down the road to Ali Baba’s, the little Tunisian takeaways that packs a big punch. For the best wood-fired pizzas head to Imperfetto, an authentic pizzeria run by a couple who’ve brought the best of Italy to town . And if you’re a fan of South American flavours, don’t give Sabroso a miss – truly outstanding cuisine and margaritas. Wash it all down with beer at Sobar the newest bar on Eat Street,a local favourite for their delish burgers and beers, especially on Thursday nights.