Rotorua is an awesome town to spend a few days, and a good base to explore a bit further afield.
For anyone visiting here, this would be my plan (in order of priority Squadrun style). Pick and choose the days that appeal to you!
Priority 1. Morning at Te Puia (Maori cultural show, geysers, carving/weaving schools), afternoon at Skyline Skyrides (gondala/luge/MTBing), dinner up the Gondolas or on Eat Street (Brew Bar is a favourite).
Priority 2. Morning at Waiotapu (catch the Lady Knox geyser being set off, it’s very entertaining, and amazing coloured geothermal pools to walk around), afternoon at Waikite Hot Pools (great for kids).
Priority 3. Morning exploring Whakawerawera forest, either a walk or MTB. You can hire MTB’s at Waipa with kids seats for the 5 year old. Afternoon at Paradise Valley Springs, beautiful trout streams and native animals/birds plus a lion park. Lion feeding is at 2:30pm. Depending on time of year there may even be lion cubs to pat. Another great option is a night time family outing to the Redwoods. If you look in the right places (yellow track & mud pool loop) you should hopefully spot some glow worms!
Priority 4. Day trip to Mount Maunganui (1 hr each way), lovely beach with a gorgeous walk around the mount (suitable for a 5 year old), or head up the Mount for stunning views if someone is happy to carry the 5 year old some of the way, it’s quite a climb for kids. Both the walk around and up take around an hour at a sedate pace Afterwards hang out at the surf beach, or harbour side for littlies if the weathers good, or the Mount salt water hotpools if it’s not.
Priority 5. Walk some of the Tarawera Trail from the Landing to Hot Water Beach (12km one way) book the water taxi for the ride back. If this is too hard for the 5 year old, take a Duck Tour instead (amphibious vehicle that will drive you out and into the lakes).
Priority 6. Day trip to Taupo (1 hr each way), see Huka Falls and maybe do a bungy jump! Good spot for trout fishing.
Priority 7. Day trip to Hobbitton (1hr 15 each way), a must do for Lord of the Rings fans, and great exploring for kids too, they love going into the hobbit houses.
If you have an hour or two to spare some good time fillers are walking around Ohinemutu village (marae, church, geothermal activity), the Lakefront has a good kids playground, walking in Kuirau Park (geothermal activity), Okere Falls, and Rotorua Museum (good display in the basement for kids).
As for accommodation, if you want lakeside head to Okareka, Tarawera or Roititi, they’re all a 15-20 drive from the city. Tarawera in particular has world class trout fishing. If you want to be closer to the city look into the Glenholme or Lynmore suburbs.
As for another place to visit in NZ, my pick would be the Bay of Islands. It’s about a 6 hr drive from Rotorua, but if you are flying in and out of Auckland it’s a good option, as Auckland is about half way. Beautiful beaches, great for kayaking and exploring. Next choice would be the Coromandel area. Again, amazing beaches, great for kayaking and really good sea fishing. This is 2-3 hrs from Rotorua, and 2 hrs from Auckland, so a good option if you want less travel.
Have fun planning your trip, have a great race, and enjoy Rotorua!
Big thanks to Kirsty Peterson, who gave us these amazing tips, we have posted this on her behalf.