NZ holidays: Why Rotorua should be your first stop these school holidays

New Zealand Herald Article by Anna Sarjeant
2 July 2023


Destination of the week: Rotorua

Herald1.jpgRotorua is the geothermal mothership of Aotearoa with famed attractions such as Te Puia geyser. Photo / Te Puia

Why you should go

Winter Solstice, a.k.a. the shortest day of the year, has passed but winter days remain long, noticeably so when all those trapped indoors – kids, pets and otherwise – are yearning to go out. With school holidays upon us, a trip to Rotorua is just the ticket. There’s plenty to do by day, and when darkness descends there are guided night tours of Te Puia geyser and Redwoods’ Treewalk Nightlights; an illuminated (and elevated) forest walkway. Spend longer in nature, rather than retreating indoors at 5pm.

Venture along Redwoods’ Treewalk Nightlights; an illuminated and elevated forest walkway. Photo / Redwoods Treewalk

Top spots

Let’s start with the obvious. Rotorua is the geothermal mothership of Aotearoa. The thermal tourist attractions come thick and fast with the likes of Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Park and Te Puia spitting out geysers and gargling mud pools.

Herald-3.jpgLather yourself in skin-soothing mud at Hell’s Gate. Photo / Hell's Gate Geothermal Reserve and Mud Spa

For something extra, book a steaming cliffs kayak tour on Lake Rotomahana with Paddle Board Rotorua or lather yourself in skin-soothing mud at Hell’s Gate, then head to Polynesian Spa or the Secret Spot Hot Tubs in Whakarewarewa Forest for more thermal rejuvenation.


Secret Spot Hot Tubs are nestled in Whakarewarewa Forest. Photo / Graeme Murray

You’ll want to stay overnight, so check out little-known Totally Tarawera Glamping. Secluded on the shores of Lake Tarawera, access is via walking track only, or failing that, you can cheat and ‘hail’ a water taxi. When entertainment is required, head to Mini Golf Rotorua. Kids go gaga for the free-range bunny rabbits that bound unperturbed across the course. There are also Agrodome farm tours, now with Shaun the Sheep-themed entertainment.

A water taxi skips across Lake Tarawera. Photo / BareKiwi

Best eats

Join Mitai Māori Village for an evening of cultural performance and traditional hāngī. Enjoy a welcome ceremony and watch warriors paddle a canoe down Wai-o-Whiro stream before tucking into kai that’s been cooking underground for three to four hours. Tamariki are invited too and highchairs are available for the first-time hāngī munchers. For the clan who can’t decide, Eat Streat has everything from casual eateries to fine dining, with a handful of bars thrown in to keep palates cleansed (and parents sane).

Watch warriors paddle a canoe down Wai-o-Whiro stream at Mitai Māori Village. Photo / Mitai Māori Village

For more things to do, see

You might also be interested in...