A campervan holiday in Rotorua
February 6, 2013
If you’re travelling around the North Island of New Zealand in a motorhome, you’ll probably be planning to visit one of New Zealand’s most popular tourist destinations: Rotorua.
Rotorua is a tourist town. If you’ve never been there before, there are some things that I really recommend you do. Many of the top tourist activities command an entry fee, but there is also plenty to do in Rotorua that won’t cost you anything at all. Here are my top tips for things you should do and see during your campervan rental holiday in Rotorua.
Top things to do in Rotorua on your campervan rental holiday
Geothermal activity – make sure you visit at least one thermal attraction such as Whakarewarewa, Waimangu Valley, Waiotapu (my personal favourite) or Orakei Korako, to view geysers, boiling mud, steam escaping from natural holes in the ground and amazing mineral formations. For a free alternative, visit Kuirau Park where you can see lots of steam and boiling mud, and even soak your feet in thermal hot water, for no cost at all.
Maori culture – Rotorua is a major centre for Maori culture in New Zealand and a maori cultural activity such as a hangi and concert show and/or a visit to Te Puia Maori arts and crafts centre is a must. A cheaper option is Ohinemutu, the original settlement of the Ngati Whakaue tribe, where you can visit the Marae and experience Maori culture for a gold coin donation.
Agriculture – learn about one of New Zealand’s major industries at one of the many farm-related attractions such as the Agrodome. Entry does cost, but if you’ve never seen a sheepdog at work, fed a lamb, milked a cow or touched wool straight off the back of a sheep, it’s worth including in your itinerary.
Thermal pools – Rotorua has for many years been renowned for its therapeutic thermal water, and you absolutely must have a soak in a thermal pool while you’re in town. Many camping grounds (and hotels and motels) have their own thermal pools, and you’ll also find several public thermal pool complexes varying quality and price. My favourite is the Polynesian Spa in the heart of town. I recommend you pay the extra for the Deluxe Lake Spa and enjoy a luxurious soak looking out over the lake. If you’d like to try a more natural (and free) option, head to Kerosene Creek or Waiotapu Stream, where hot and cold streams meet.
Parks and playgrounds – Those travelling with kids will have lots of fun at the volcanic playground on the lakefront. It’s a huge playground with activities for kids of all ages, a cafe nearby with coffee for the grownups, and plenty of parking space for your rental campervan. It’s also fun to spend time relaxing on the lakefront and watching all the activity (warning: feed the swans at your peril, they are not friendly!).
Go walkabout – A walk in Rotorua’s lovely Redwood Forest is a not-to-be-missed free activity. The walk through this beautiful forest is easy and enjoyable for all ages. If you’re more adventurous, you can hike further up the hill or try a mountain bike ride. The Blue and Green Lakes are also lovely for a short or long walk, and there are some beautiful little beaches if you feel like a swim.
Get on the water – Rotorua might not be on the coast but there are plenty of lakes for watery adventures. Try a relaxing dinner cruise on Lake Rotorua, or some rafting or kayaking on the Kaituna River. For those less adventurous, you can walk along the banks of the Kautuna river to view waterfalls, a cave and a trout pool as well as watch the daredevils on the water!
Go shopping – there are loads of souvenir shops in Rotorua, it’s a great place to pick up a few things to take home. For something a little less touristy, try the Rotorua Night Market which is held every Thursday in the centre of town.