A geothermal wonderland of bubbling mud pools, natural hot springs, crystal-clear lakes and explosive geysers awaits in Rotorua — a nature lover’s paradise nestled in the central North Island.
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The Sulphur City
Rotorua offers unique and unforgettable experiences for motorhome travellers. Located on the lakefront, Rotorua is renowned for its vibrant geothermal activity.
You’ll immediately notice the unique smell of the city — the air has a distinct aroma due to the sulphur escaping from underground. While some people may find it overwhelming, others appreciate it as a part of Rotorua's character.
Often described as smelling like rotten eggs, don’t let that put you off. It's worth experiencing it to test your senses and create an unusual memory of this interesting region in New Zealand.
Rotorua is also home to 18 beautiful lakes — each with its own charm and character. Whether you like to camp, fish, kayak or just enjoy the view, many of the lakes are easily accessible and have relaxing picnic spots.
For thrill-seeking activities, the road north out of the city offers luging, zorbing, mountain biking and white-water rafting. Cultural experiences including traditional Māori performances are also worth experiencing.
Avoid keeping to the main roads and instead explore some side streets — the hidden gems are waiting for you in Sulphur City.
Getting around Rotorua
Rotorua is easily accessible by motorhome with plenty of parking available for large vehicles. The city has well-maintained roads leading in and out — and if you plan on seeing the sights on your bike, you’ll find it exceedingly bike-friendly.
Walking around the town's restaurants, cafes and shops is a great option. The lakefront is also within walking distance and acts as a central hub. Adjacent is the Village Green where markets, music and sporting events often take place.
Numerous hiking trails wind through the surrounding hills and forests. Mountain biking is an uber-popular outdoor activity in and around Rotorua — with dedicated tracks for all skill levels.
The city's central area showcases local Māori culture — and there’s a mix of old and new architecture, such as the historic Bath House Building. You’ll find it easy and convenient to get around Rotorua.
Essential scenery — Mount Ngongotahā
Experience breathtaking views of Rotorua atop Mount Ngongotahā.
Take the gondola up with Skyline Rotorua for panoramic vistas of Lake Rotorua and the city below. Enjoy thrilling activities like the Skyswing, explore the nature loop track or indulge in award-winning wines at Volcanic Hills Winery.
Things to see and do in Rotorua
Shaped by its lake and sulphur surroundings, Rotorua is a beautiful small city with plenty to keep you interested.
Visit the geothermal parks
Rotorua is famous for its geothermal activity and has several parks to explore, including:
- Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland — featuring geysers, hot springs and bubbling mud pools
- Te Puia — with its impressive Pōhutu geyser and traditional Māori cultural performances
- Orakei Korako — showcasing some of the largest and most amazing silica terraces in the world.
Experience Māori culture
Rotorua is a heartland of Māoridom with cultural performances, traditional hangi dinners and guided tours on offer.
At Te Pā Tū you can enjoy an authentic dining experience. While at Te Puia the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute offers guided experiences — including watching carvers and weavers demonstrate their skills.
Explore The Redwoods
The Redwoods Treewalk is also worth your time and energy. It’s a suspended walkway through the forest canopy that can be enjoyed peacefully during the day, or all lit up at night.
Before heading on your next tramp, familiarise yourself with New Zealand's local hiking etiquette.
Relax in hot pools
If you’re planning to stay in Rotorua for the hot pools, you’ve made the right choice. Relax and soak at the:
- Polynesian Spa — which has several pools overlooking Lake Rotorua
- Waikite Valley Hot Pools — ideal for unwinding in pools ranging from 30 degrees up to 41
- Secret Spot Hot Tubs — with a private bath amongst native bush.
These geothermal pools are the perfect way to heal your tired muscles after testing the bike trails on two wheels or exploring the city on two feet.
Walk by Lake Rotorua
Lake Rotorua is a strikingly serene lake that offers a range of activities for you to indulge in. Whether it's fishing, boating or swimming, this popular spot has something for everyone.
Take a leisurely stroll along the lakefront or chill out on the grassy banks — where it's the best place for a picnic. The flat lakeside boardwalk boasts an epic playground that's sure to captivate the imagination of any little ones you’re travelling with.
Tour the Buried Village
Unearth the mysteries of the Buried Village by stepping back in time to the 1886 volcanic eruption that preserved the Māori village of Te Wairoa in ash.
Check out the remarkably preserved artifacts and buildings — including a schoolhouse, chapel and blacksmith's workshop. Discover the fascinating history of this catastrophic event at the museum
while surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty.
With lush gardens and a stunning waterfall, the Buried Village is a must-visit if you’re a history buff, nature lover or simply curious about Māori heritage.
Shop at local markets
Rotorua has a few local markets to get lost in, like the Rotorua Night Market with its range of local produce, artisan crafts and delicious food. Experience the local culture and have fun at the same time.
Check out the best farmers’ markets to visit in New Zealand.
Encounter animals at the wildlife parks
Rotorua is home to several wildlife parks where you can observe animals up close. Consider visiting:
- Paradise Valley Springs — to see trout, deer and other farm animals
- Wingspan — the national bird of prey centre which is committed to protecting birds like the threatened kārearea (New Zealand falcon)
- Agrodome — where you can take a farm tour and hand-feed Romney sheep, llamas, pigs and alpaca.
Seek a thrill
An ultimate destination for adventure sports enthusiasts, Rotorua will help you create unforgettable memories by giving you the opportunity to:
- Zorb — which involves rolling down a hill in a giant inflatable ball
- Whitewater raft — with Rotorua Rafting who have a highly rated experience splashing through the nearby Kaituna River
- Ride the luge — the most fun way to get back down Mount Ngongotaha
- Fly high — above Lake Tarawera up to Mount Tarawera in a helicopter where New Zealand’s largest volcanic eruption took place.
Essential activity — Rotorua Canopy Tours
For an eco-tourism adventure in New Zealand’s lush native forest, sign up with Rotorua Canopy Tours which has won multiple awards including the world’s best nature experience.
You’ll get a buzz out of ziplining between ancient trees, crossing suspended bridges and marvelling at panoramic views — all while learning about the area's unique flora, fauna and cultural heritage.
It's not just an adventure — it’s a conservation effort to preserve Rotorua's precious environment.
What to eat in Rotorua
Rotorua offers a special culinary experience showcasing traditional ingredients and techniques. For a top spot to grab a bite in this vibrant city visit one of the following.
In the heart of Rotorua's CBD is Eat Streat — a bustling pedestrian street that’s lined with a variety of restaurants and cafes.
From seafood to sushi and burgers to barbecues, there's something for all taste buds. People watch in the outdoor seating area while enjoying a meal, then search out the iconic Lady Janes Ice Cream Parlour.
Experience the rich flavors of Māori cuisine at Pātaka Kai for an authentic taste of Rotorua.
Indulge in a wonderful dining experience that celebrates the region's cultural heritage with locally-sourced ingredients and traditional Māori cooking techniques. You’ll be able to:
- Immerse yourself in warm hospitality
- Enjoy Māori art and artifacts
- Savour succulent seafood and tender meats in a stunning setting
- Take in the geothermal valley — including the spectacularly active geyser, Pōhutu.
Taking inspiration from the Mekong Delta and its most iconic animal, the water buffalo, Mekong Buffalo is designed to be Rotorua's first Asian fusion restaurant.
Taking all the best flavours from different Asian cuisines, the good folk at Mekong blend their creativity into their own mouth-watering dishes and exceptional range of cocktails.
Grab some small plates and share — and don’t forget the highly recommended buns and dumplings.
Looking for a casual dining experience that’s family friendly? Head to the Rotorua Night Market, held every Thursday if the weather’s good.
The market features a range of food stalls selling everything from Korean fried chicken to churros. It's a fun way to sample a variety of cuisines while enjoying live music and entertainment.
It’s located within the two blocks of Tutanekai Street between Hinemoa and Haupapa streets. Follow the Rotorua Night Market on Facebook for updates on each weekly event.
Take some produce away to cook in your motorhome following our top tips for cooking on the road.
Essential eatery — Okere Falls Store
On the edge of Lake Rotoiti is the famous Okere Falls Store. A mix of general store, deli, cafe and beer garden, it’s known for its delicious food, beverages and sustainability efforts.
See live bands on weekends and experience bonfires in the garden over the cooler months.
Okere Falls Store has been crowned with creating the best toastie in New Zealand — dubbed the Get Smoked, Pickled and Toasted. Don’t leave without trying it.
Where to stay in Rotorua
Enhance your campervan adventure when passing through Rotorua by choosing a top spot for a restful night's sleep.
Rotorua Thermal Holiday Park
Rotorua Thermal Holiday Park has natural geothermal features right at its doorstep. With thermal pools, hot tubs and spa treatments available, this campsite is excellent if you’re looking for relaxation and rejuvenation.
Blue Lake Top 10 Holiday Park
On the shores of tranquil Lake Tikitapu (Blue Lake) not far from Rotorua is Blue Lake Top 10 Holiday Park. If you want a serene and picturesque getaway, this is your place.
The park's convenient location provides easy access to Rotorua's geothermal attractions and mountain bike trails — making it a great choice for you and your motorhome.
Cosy Cottage Thermal Kiwi Holiday Park
For a quieter, more intimate camping experience, Cosy Cottage Thermal Holiday Park is where you’ll want to park up. With only 15 sites available, this camping ground is a peaceful retreat where you can enjoy natural hot springs and thermal pools in a secluded setting.
Freedom camping zones
If you’re looking for a more adventurous camping experience, Rotorua Lakes Council offers several freedom camping zones where you can park your motorhome hire for free.
A few favourite spots include:
Check which areas allow freedom camping and ensure you have a certified self-contained (CSC) vehicle before setting up camp.
Facilities and availability at DOC campsites can vary so for the latest information, visit the Department of Conservation website.