Looking to up the wow-factor on your Instagram account? Or find a special place to watch the sun go down? Here are just a few Rotorua spots to create picture-perfect photos or just enjoy the view.
Sitting in the caldera of a dormant volcano, Rotorua is a geothermal wonderland. Add to this 18 sparkling lakes, spectacular forests and majestic mountains and what you get is a region renowned for world-class vistas.
Views from up highWhat’s not to love about a mountaintop vista? Even some of our big hills afford you spectacular sights.
Our famous Rotorua maunga with a view is Mt Tarawera (pictured above) the site of the largest eruption in New Zealand’s living memory. Not only does this historically significant place offer incredible views of the immense craters and domes formed by the 1886 eruption, but you can also see right out to the Pacific Ocean and the smoke rising up from Whakaari White Island, just off the coast of Whakatāne. There are only two ways to get to the summit: either by helicopter tour with Volcanic Air or by 4WD with Kaitiaki Adventures.
The views from atop Mt Ngongotahā are probably some of the most-photographed by locals and visitors alike – it really is that beautiful!
Head to Skyline Rotorua at the base of the mountain and, as your Gondola makes its way up and up nearly to the top, the panoramic view of Lake Rotorua and the city that wraps itself around it will be revealed. Once you disembark, there are multiple activities that take advantage of the unobstructed altitude, including the Skyswing (a must-do for adrenalin junkies), the chairlift up from the Luge track, the Nature Trail, and Stratosfare Restaurant and Bar.
Volcanic Hills Winery is also located here and what better way to enjoy the spectacular 180-degree view than with a wine in hand? Try a taste of three or five of Volcanic Hills’ award-winning wines made right here in Rotorua, or go straight for your favourite varietal. Add in a platter of nibbles for the trifecta.
Mt Kakaramea (Rainbow Mountain)
The views from atop Mt Kakaramea are probably some of the most-photographed by locals and visitors alike as the 2.5km walk to the top of this maunga provides breathtaking 360° views.
After taking in the sights of the two crater lakes, continue uphill through regenerating native bush and past the bare and colourful steaming ridges that give this mountain its name (“kākaramea” means “red clay” in te reo Māori). There are regular opportunities to view the surrounding countryside, but to get the complete 360-degree picture, you need to continue up to the summit for one of the best views in the area. From here you can see Mt Tarawera, Mt Tauhara, and the volcanic peaks of Tongariro National Park; four lakes; Paeroa and Te Urewera ranges; and Kaimanawa Forest.
The summit is about 1.5 hours from the crater lakes.
One view worth setting your alarm for is seen from Pukeroa Hill. Also called Hospital Hill because Rotorua Hospital resides here, the east side of the hill provides a superb spot to watch the sun rise up over the historic and steaming Ohinemutu Village (the birthplace of our city), Mokoia Island and Lake Rotorua.
Head around to the west of the hill for stunning views over Kuirau Park’s gardens and steaming, bubbling thermal activity. Get a close-up of the action by taking a walk through the park.
Views from ground level
Not all great views need to be from the highest point. There’s plenty to see at sea level, too.
The amazing geothermal landscape of Rotorua can be experienced up close and personal in Sulphur Bay, a sulphurous area lying on top of a geothermal field. You’ll be amazed by the constantly changing environment as you follow the walkway past silica flats, rocky terraces, and sulphur ledges that sit alongside active boiling mud pools and steam vents. Even the water is interesting, its milky colour the result of sulphur particles suspended in the water.
Sulphur Bay is also a wildlife refuge, providing a place for bird watchers to spot up to 60 different species, including many natives, who feed and/or nest in this unique environment.
To find this free walkway at the southern end of Lake Rotorua, head to the car park near the lake end of Eruera Street. Be sure to stick to the marked paths to ensure your safety and the protection of this fragile environment.
Sights of the city
Discover the city’s hidden gems and Insta-worthy locations with Happy Ewe Cycle Tours. Your Happy Ewe guide will take you to nearly 30 sites around town, from sulphur flats to beautiful gardens, boardwalks and geothermal landscapes, and share Rotorua history and stories along the way. This three-hour tour is suitable for all ages and includes bike hire. Child seats and tandem trailers for children are available, too.