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Aptly nicknamed "Sulphur City," the thermal hotspot of Rotorua bubbles away just shy of the lovely Bay of Plenty. Like Queenstown, it has a lakefront setting and a dizzying array of adventure sports that exploit its many natural attractions. But unlike its South Island cousin, Rotorua also immerses visitors in Maori culture, from traditional concerts to hangi feasts. Popular activities include whitewater rafting, kayaking and skydiving. A somewhat tamer activity is zorbing, a New Zealand specialty that involves rolling downhill in a large plastic bubble. If you prefer a little less motion, tour scenic Lake Rotorua on the stately ...

Aptly nicknamed "Sulphur City," the thermal hotspot of Rotorua bubbles away just shy of the lovely Bay of Plenty. Like Queenstown, it has a lakefront setting and a dizzying array of adventure sports that exploit its many natural attractions. But unlike its South Island cousin, Rotorua also immerses visitors in Maori culture, from traditional concerts to hangi feasts. Popular activities include whitewater rafting, kayaking and skydiving. A somewhat tamer activity is zorbing, a New Zealand specialty that involves rolling downhill in a large plastic bubble. If you prefer a little less motion, tour scenic Lake Rotorua on the stately paddle steamer Lakeland Queen, or soak in a thermal pool. The prettiest thermal area is Wai-O-Tapu, 17 miles south of town, which is garnished with colorful mineral terraces. The standout, however, is Te Puia, where visitors are funneled through a cultural center into a spectacular geothermal valley – attend a Maori concert and then watch the Pohutu Geyser shoot 100 feet skywards. More Maori culture is on display in Rotorua’s wonderful Museum of Art & History, where you can also learn about the devastating 1886 eruption of nearby Mt. Tarawera.

Paul Smitz
About the Expert

Paul Smitz has coauthored a dozen guidebooks for Lonely Planet on places such as Australia, New Zealand, Malaysian Borneo, Brunei, various Pacific Islands, Prague, and Brussels.

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Paul Smitz for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Located in the Bay of Plenty region of the North Island of New Zealand
  • Language: English and Maori
  • Currency: New Zealand Dollar
  • Research: Wikitravel | Wikipedia
  • Weather: Rainfall | Daylight

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    The shoulders of the high season: October-November and April-May