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Famous for its hot springs and geothermal activity, Rotorua on New Zealand’s North Island is one of the country’s most fascinating and popular destinations for travellers. Here you'll find natural wonders like spouting geysers and boiling mud pools along with traditional Māori cultural offerings. Watch the 30-metre-tall Pōhutu (aka Big Splash) erupt 20 times a day from Te Puia or wander through the Redwoods Whakarewarewa Forest filled with 170 tree species. A visit to a living Māori village – where you can watch a cultural show before tucking into a hangi earth oven feast – is highly recommended.
You can make the most of the natural environment in a Rotorua hostel with its own geothermally heated swimming pool. Stay in an environmentally friendly place with on-site barbecue facilities and a sunny backyard, support local creative youth projects at a hostel running its own charity, or tuck into free soup nights on Sundays in another. Or, you can experience the laid-back Kiwi lifestyle in Rotorua hostels with shared kitchen facilities, outdoor barbecues and large gardens.
Rotorua's compact centre is known for its main strip, Fenton Street, as well as for the Government Gardens and Tamaki Māori Village. On the edge of the city is the living Māori village of Whakarewarewa, which is great for experiencing the culture of the Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao people through storytelling, music and games. Ngongotaha is a northern suburb of Rotorua, but it has a village-like feel and is rumoured to be one of the best places for stargazing on the North Island.
A ride on the Skyline Gondola gives a bird’s-eye-view introduction to the city, while a ride on New Zealand’s only Skyswing, which reaches speeds of 150kph, is perfect for adrenaline lovers. Nearby Kuirau Park is a free public geothermal park filled with hissing hot springs, a crater lake and mud pools. Or, you can book a sightseeing tour out to the Hobbiton Movie Set and Waitomo Glowworm Caves. Foodies should head to Eat Streat, a shopping mall, in the evening for an all-weather al-fresco dining experience.
You can get around town with the Cityride Rotorua bus which has three routes stopping at most of the major visitor hotspots. From Rotorua Airport, you can catch a Supershuttle into town or a public bus that leaves every 30 minutes. The InterCity Bus Terminal is in the centre of town and connects with destinations around the country, including Auckland.