How to Spend 48 hours in Rotorua

Rotorua is one of New Zealand’s most stunningly beautiful and fascinating places in the entire world. Situated on the northeast section of the Taupo Volcanic Plateau, most people are shocked to discover that Rotorua is built inside the crater of a dormant volcano. Last erupting over 280,000 years ago, Rotorua is famous for its bubbling mud pools, exploding geysers and natural hot springs providing visitors with a unique insight into the heart of this geothermal wonderland. But that’s not all. Lake Rotorua, the second largest lake on New Zealand’s North Island, the incredible Whakarewarewa Redwoods Forest, pristine Kaituna River and the rich Māori history, makes Rotorua one of the best places to visit when holidaying in New Zealand. With only 48 hours, you will be hard-pressed to cover it all, but we have done our best to provide you with some of the town’s top places to visit, all within driving distance of the Rotorua countryside.

Day 1

Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Wonderland

Start your day the right way by jumping in your car and heading 30 minutes south to Wai-O-Tapu – one of the most picturesque natural geothermal wonderlands in the world. Well known for its colourful hot springs, fierce geysers, and bubbling mud pools, Wai-O-Tapu is a must-see and one of the highlights of any trip through Rotorua. Lined with 3 walking trails all intertwined, be sure to allow yourself at least 3 hours to work your way around the boardwalk and see this spectacular sculptured geothermal phenomenon. 

Champagne by name, not by nature, be sure not to miss the breath-taking views of Champagne Pool, one of the North island’s most iconic photo opportunities. With its vibrant green and orange hues spanning 65m round and bubbling away at almost 75 degrees. You can be sure this is one pool you won’t want to bathe in. 

At 10.15 am Wai-O-Tapu’s most famous geyser Lady Knox is forced to erupt, extending heights of well over 20 metres high and bubbling away for almost an hour. On your journey along the boardwalk, be sure to also check out the bubbling mud pools, Ngakoro Lake and the Devil’s Bathtub.

Lake Rotorua

Head on back to Rotorua and enjoy a BBQ or picnic lunch at Lake Rotorua. Discovered in the mid-1300s by Māori chief Ihenga, this stunning pristine lake is the 2nd largest lake in New Zealand and a great place to unwind. Formed by volcanic activity many moons ago, this calm, clear lake is perfect for dangling a line, kayaking, or sailing. But not the greatest place for a swim due to its high sulphur content. Lake Rotorua also looks out to Mokoia Island, a sacred place to the local Māori people. This island can only be visited by boat and must be accompanied by one of the limited tours available. With time of the essence, a few snaps from the mainland may have to suffice this time around.

Whakarewarewa Redwoods Forest

Just a short drive out of town, head on over to the Whakarewarewa Forest to discover the soaring redwoods that line the Rotorua border. Run, hike or mountain bike on the purpose-built trails as you weave your way through native ferns beneath towering forest canopies of Radiata, Eucalyptus, Redwood, and Larch trees. Considered one of the best mountain bike trails in the world, the forest offers over 160 kilometres of mountain biking heaven, catering for all skill levels alike. Push through to the top of the canopy to experience stunning panoramic views of Mt Tarawera, Lake Rotorua, and Rotorua’s world-renowned geothermal activity. If you are feeling adventurous, take a walk on the wild side by venturing through the Redwoods Treewalk, taking visitors 20 metres above the forest floor. As the sun starts to set and the evening sky takes over, a magnitude of intricately patterned lanterns ignites, transforming this extraordinary place into an enchanted fairy-tale.

Day 2

Hobbiton

About 45 minutes northwest of town, head on up to Matamata to transcend into the mystical realm of Hobbiton. Take a wander around the lush pastures of Shire’s Rest and explore the world-famous ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Hobbit’ movie set as you fall in love all over again with this mystical masterpiece. Guided tours will escort you past the Hobbit Holes on Bag End, the Mill and through Middle Earth to the Green Dragon Inn, where you can grab some lunch and wet the whistle to cap things off. We strongly advise you to book in advance, as tours can be booked out, days even weeks in advance in peak seasons.

Kaituna River

Thrill seekers rejoice as you work your way back past Rotorua and over to the Kaituna River for an action-packed afternoon of white-water rafting. Hire a raft from one of the many providers in town and journey along the river, tackling over 14 different rapids and three glorious waterfalls. A grade 5 course and not for the faint-hearted, Tutea Falls stacks up at 7 metres high and is currently the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world. For those of us who feel safer on land, there are a few optional walking trails to discover as you explore the rich history of Tutea’s cave, the Okere Falls and the old Okere Falls Power Station.

Tamaki Māori Village

Finish up a whirlwind 48 hours by immersing yourself in the Māori culture with a visit to Tamaki Māori Village. Take part in a range of cultural activities in the form of traditional singing, dancing, cooking, stories, rituals and more in an enthralling 4-hour event. The hosts will provide you with a unique cultural insight into the life of the Māori people, telling tales of the land, spirit, and people, before whisking you away to a traditional lavish 3-course feast.  An experience of a lifetime, and one you should be sure not to miss.

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