Luxury escapes don’t have to be expensive or exclusive.
Rotorua is a great place to be spoiled with specialty and bespoke experiences, incredible personalised service, fine dining and luxe accommodation. Plus, we’ve got some amazing places that are never crowded – that’s when you know you’re in a very special place indeed.
Take to the skiesGain a different perspective of our beautiful forests, 18 lakes, geothermal valleys, and even hot pools by viewing them from above – as well as dropping in for a visit.
Volcanic Air helicopter and floatplane tours range from flyovers (picture a bird’s eye view of five volcanic lakes, each a different colour!) to landings on the summit of Mount Tarawera and at Orakei Korako Cave and Thermal Park. Headphones give you the chance to chat with your pilot and hear their informative commentary along the way; they love sharing our region’s history and stories with guests.
Volcanic Air floatplane tours also enjoy a bit of lake-hopping by flying guests from Lake Rotorua to Lake Rotoiti for a relaxing soak in the secluded Manupirua Springs Hot Pools or a romantic lakeside picnic. If Steve’s your pilot, ask him about his unique Rotorua-famous Christmas trees he designs and builds each year for his young son.
On the water
The same secluded hot pools can also be accessed by jet boat or luxury catamaran.
On Lake Rotorua, Will and his fellow jet boat crew (and possibly Will’s partner Harriet who, rumour has it, is learning to captain the boats too) at Katoa Lake Rotorua love taking guests out for crazy rides, throwing in as many 360-degree spins as possible. While the jets cool, they’ll tell you all about Lake Rotorua and its protected island Mokoia in the centre, weaving in the history of this mystical place that was the setting for a famous Rotorua love story between a guy named Tutanekai and a beautiful wāhine called Hinemoa.
After crossing Lake Rotorua and squeezing through the peacefully gorgeous Ohau Channel, out you’ll pop onto Lake Rotoiti and you’re off again, this time careening toward Manupirua Bay for a soak in one or more of the eight geothermal pools.
For a more leisurely trip to the pools, indulge all your senses by booking a chilled-out, private charter, eco-sailing experience aboard Pure Cruise’s 53-foot luxury catamaran Tiua. On-board facilities include galley, licensed bar and bathrooms. All Pure Cruise tours are customisable to provide bespoke experiences, and captain Matt and his crew never miss an opportunity to spoil their guests, whether it’s barbequing and serving the trout you catch while on board, keeping the mimosas topped up, or showing you some of the many hidden coves, rope swings and historic storage caves used by early Māori inhabitants.
Up a mountain
We mentioned Mount Tarawera briefly above, but we didn’t mention you could catch a ride to the near-top via 4WD with multi award-winning Kaitiaki Adventures. Not only do Kaitiaki guides have all the knowledge and history of this revered maunga, but wait ‘til you see how they handle an all-wheel drive BUS to the top – all we’ll say is you’ll be holding your breath on some of those hairpin turns!
The crew takes you by bus as far up as possible and from there, it’s everyone on foot for a guided walk to the summit just minutes away. Coming over the crest, the panoramic view of the mountain, its enormous crater and the scenery beyond are sights you’ll never forget. From here, Kaitiaki’s amazing guides, perhaps Ben and Jackie, will escort you around the crater’s edge and even into the crater with an adrenalin-inducing scree run (pictured above). This is an incredible customer-centric experience steeped in Māori history and hosted by a business that is proudly 120% climate positive.
Tarawera isn’t Rotorua’s only maunga. Although a much smaller cousin, Mt Ngongotahā is a hive of activity, including the world-famous Luge (which just opened three new tracks!) and other adventure rides, and the amazing buffet at Stratosfare Restaurant and Bar.
But if you’re looking for the most fun and personal wine-tasting session, look no further than Rotorua’s only winery, Volcanic Hills. Here there are no pretences, no airs; just a personable, fun-loving and skilled team who are all about helping you discover which kinds of wines you love in a relaxed, welcoming environment. Whether you arrive as an oenophile or not, if Brent is your host, you can definitely count on having a great time laughing your way through his reds, whites, rosés and perhaps questionable jokes.
Amongst the green and leafy giants
Another multi award-winning adventure company is Rotorua Canopy Tours whose Ultimate Tour provides the ultimate ziplining and nature experience. This tour not only features fantastic ziplines through an ancient forest, but also suspended bridges, spiral staircase, a cliff walk and a controlled descent. When you consider that every board, screw, rope, zipline, tool and more was walked into this forest, you’ll be even more amazed at what’s been achieved here.
Because groups are kept to 10 people or fewer, the personalised service Rotorua Canopy Tours guides provide is second to none. They love what they do and live to share this special place with their guests. Maybe you’ll meet Luke, who’s recently completed his one-thousandth tour! Along the way you’ll learn how this previously untouched native eco-system has gone from dead silence to being filled with the most beautiful birdsong from native tui, North Island robins, kereru and tomtits all due to the highly successful pest tracking and trapping efforts of the team. If you’re lucky, you may even be able to hand-feed one of these feathered friends.
In a geothermal valleyOne trip to Te Puia has never been enough but now there’s even more reason to put this place on repeat and that’s for the Geyser by Night tour. When it’s just you, your small group of fellow visitors, your two guides and the light of the moon, this tour feels about as intimate and personalised as it can get. It’s a completely different experience compared to visiting by day, and there’s nothing else like it anywhere in New Zealand!
As you walk through this historic geothermal park, your hosts (some of them fifth generation guides like one of the Rotorua OGs, 64-year-old Kahu) will share the stories, insights, history and geography of this area, including why Māori settlers were eager to make this valley their home.
Be reassured, your visit will include seeing the Southern Hemisphere’s largest active geyser, Pōhutu, as she rumbles and erupts in the darkness, as well as Waikite Geyser, which hasn’t erupted since 1969 but was once the crown jewel of Te Whakarewarewa Valley.
There are a few yummy treats included, too, so be sure to add this tour to your schedule and book ahead – with just one small tour group taken through each evening it runs, it books up quickly.
In the city centre
Between your adventuring, you’ll need sustenance, so the centre of town is a great place to be for the variety of eateries our city offers.
We could talk about a lot of Rotorua restaurants and cafés that are awesome in many ways, but some of us here feel strongly that food just tastes better when it’s accompanied by a side of excellent service – and that’s what you get at Poco Tapas & Wine.
This gorgeous little spot is new since early this year and they’re knocking it out of the park with not only delicious seasonal dishes to share (but no judgement if you prefer not to!) but attentive and exceptional service you just don’t find very often. The ladies on the floor – Megan, Joy and Natika – help you navigate the menu, suggest wine and cocktail pairing, keep your water glasses full, clear your empty plates and keep the dishes coming steadily, not all at once, so everything is fresh and hot from the kitchen. They do this all with a smile that says “welcome, we’re glad to see you.”
A place to rest
As we mentioned earlier, you’ll need more than a day in Rotorua in order to enjoy all there is to do and see, so you’re going to need a great place to rest, refresh and repeat. And, if the weather isn’t playing ball one day, you’ve got a comfy, cosy retreat to enjoy.
For Rotorua accommodation that’ll impress, look into the lakeside luxury lodge that is Peppers on the Point (pictured above), residing peacefully beside beautiful Lake Rotorua and Mokoia Island. Personal service here is paramount to the Peppers philosophy, so if there’s anything you need, Ann and her team do their best to make it happen.
Regent of Rotorua features boutique rooms, and The Regent Room restaurant will make the foodie in your life happy with their five-course degustation dinner with matching wines.
At Pullman Rotorua, the city’s gorgeous five-star hotel, every room offers views of Rotorua, whether lake, geothermal, mountains or forests. General manager Israel runs a happy ship where guests are looked after with the famous Rotorua manaakitanga (hospitality and care).
Treetops Lodge & Estate is a rustic yet elegant, secluded eco lodge nestled in 2,500 acres of private native forest and pristine wilderness. Catering to their guests is just one of the things they’re renowned for, in addition to the beautiful suites and idyllic surroundings, outdoor activities such as foraging for native ingredients, horse trekking, and wild game spotting add to the lasting memories you’ll create here.
Lastly, for now, if you’re seeking your own private sanctuary to get away from it all, check out the luxe, off-grid glamping option at Kokako Retreat (pictured above), or book a lush and modern new one-, two-, three- or four-bedroom semi-rural villa at Toka Ridge (pictured below and at top).