Rotorua
Culture & History

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Our most recommended Rotorua Culture & History

Hells Gate Mud Bath and Sulphur Spa Experience

1. Hells Gate Mud Bath and Sulphur Spa Experience

Enjoy a therapeutic mud bath and sulfur spa at Hells Gate Geothermal Reserve, located just a 15-minute drive from central Rotorua. A round-trip shuttle service option from Rotorua is also available. Soak in the thermal mud and acidic, sulfurous waters as the local Maori have done for over 800 years. Apply the natural geothermal mud to your skin while relaxing in the warm sulfurous waters for 20 minutes. Follow the mud spa with a cool shower before relaxing in the hot sulfur mineral spa. The warm geothermal mud opens and cleans the skin’s pores, and the sulfur spa provides a gentle exfoliation and deep cleansing.

Rotorua: Hell's Gate Geothermal Walk

2. Rotorua: Hell's Gate Geothermal Walk

Discover the Hells Gate/Tikitere Geothermal Reserve, one of the most active in New Zealand.  Enjoy a self-guided walk of the spectacular reserve, located approximately 15-minutes drive from central Rotorua. Hells Gate boasts New Zealand's largest active mud volcano, the Southern Hemisphere's largest hot water falls, and even examples of land coral. See boiling hot pools and erupting waters with temperatures in excess of 100 degrees Celsius. Discover steaming fumaroles, hot water lakes, sulphur crystals and deposits. Learn about Hells Gate’s extensive history independently or join an interactive guided tour, available daily at 10:30 AM or 2:30 PM. A complimentary shuttle service picks up from central Rotorua three to four times a day (seasonally) with scheduled drop offs.

Rotorua: Whakarewarewa Village Guided Tour

3. Rotorua: Whakarewarewa Village Guided Tour

Experience the warmth of our Legacy Guided tours through NZ’s iconic living Maori village. Our village guides are direct descendants of early Māori guides, who have shaped tourism in New Zealand for generations. Their insights, knowledge and legendary hospitality (manaakitanga) adds depth and richness to the experience you’ll have at Whakarewarewa – The Living Māori Village. On the Whakarewarewa Guided Tour, you will explore an authentic Māori village, where people use natural geothermal resources to cook, bathe and heat their homes as they have for centuries. Learn what it’s like to live in the challenging geothermal plateau where daily life includes cooking in the bubbling pools and steam vents, and bathing takes place in the refreshing therapeutic waters. You will view the geothermal wonders of Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley, including the world-famous Pōhutu geyser, boiling mud-pools, steam vents and bubbling pools. Take in our various historic landmarks and buildings, including an active Marae (meeting grounds and focal point of Maori communities), our WWII Memorial Archway, historic churches, and tapu (sacred) burial grounds.

Geothermal Mineral Baths Experience: Pavilion Pools for 12+

4. Geothermal Mineral Baths Experience: Pavilion Pools for 12+

Relax and unwind at the Polynesian Spa, a world-leading, natural mineral bathing and luxury spa retreat in Rotorua. Geothermal waters nourish the skin and relieve tired muscles, aches and pains, while decadent therapies rejuvenate through ancient and modern techniques. This ticket provides access to the premium bathing area, the Deluxe Lake Spa, which includes a range of mineral rock pools at various temperatures. Using both alkaline and acidic mineral springs, the Deluxe Lake Spa is the ultimate geothermal bathing experience. The therapeutic waters at this spa come from two different natural springs. The Priest Spring is named after Father Mahoney, a Catholic Priest who was "cured" of his crippling arthritis from bathing in the waters in 1878. The slightly acidic water from the Priest Spring relieves tired muscles and aches and pains. The Rachel Spring is a source of alkaline water, which features the antiseptic action of sodium silicate nourishing the skin. It was historically said that those who bathe in the waters of the Rachel Spring are blessed with ageless beauty. The combination of these two types of mineral waters is only found at the Polynesian Spa. This spa was built on the site of historic bath houses, which originally made the city world-famous in the 1800s. It continues to evolve and focus on health and wellness, introducing passive and active bathing experiences for increased immunity and greater energy levels. In the Pavilion Pools, elements of early buildings and baths have been carefully retained and the site is registered by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

Rotorua: Hell's Gate Geothermal Walk, Mud Bath & Sulphur Spa

5. Rotorua: Hell's Gate Geothermal Walk, Mud Bath & Sulphur Spa

Experience the best of Hells Gate Geothermal Park with a self-guided geothermal walk and historic spa experience. The park is located approximately 15 minutes drive from the town's centre.  Discover the geothermal features using a self-guided map or join a guided tour. Learn about the history, features and uniqueness of the geothermal area. After learning about the unique healing muds of Hells Gate, experience New Zealand’s historic spa experience for yourself! Soak in unique thermal mud and acidic sulfurous waters that have been used by the local Maori for more than 800 years. The warm geothermal mud opens and cleans the skin’s pores, while the sulphur spas give your skin a gentle exfoliation and deep cleansing.  Note that a complimentary shuttle service picks up from central Rotorua three to four times a day (seasonally) with scheduled return services.

Auckland to Rotorua Small Group Tour & Activity Add-Ons

6. Auckland to Rotorua Small Group Tour & Activity Add-Ons

The tour starts with pickup from Auckland city, where the adventure begins as you drive through the stunning Waikato countryside, the most extensive farming area in the world, on a fully guided journey to Rotorua. Along the way, don’t forget to take advantage of the photo opportunities as you admire the stunning natural landscapes all around of beautiful mountains and farmlands. As you drive, pass through the pass through the unique town of Tirau, the corrugated iron sculpture capital of the world, and the stunning Fitzgerald Glade. Upon arrival in Rotorua, enjoy a guided tour of the city’s most famous and historical sites including Lake Rotorua, The Government Gardens, Blue Baths, Thermal Springs and Polynesian Spa. From here enjoy the option to add on up to two of Rotorua's most popular activities and attractions (additional cost). Please add on the activities or attractions you would like to include during the booking process. Maybe head to the famous geothermal park and Maori cultural village of Te Puia, bathe in the geothermal waters of the Polynesian Spa, experience some farm culture at the Agrodome Sheep Show, or ride the gondola at Skyline! Or you can simply choose to explore the city at your own pace before your return to Auckland.

Rotorua: The Buried Village of Te Wairoa

7. Rotorua: The Buried Village of Te Wairoa

Located just a 15-minute drive from Rotorua, the Buried Village of Te Wairoa features an interactive museum, scenic walking trails, and a look at the devastating effects of one of New Zealand’s greatest natural disasters: the Mt. Tarawera volcanic eruption of 1886, which wiped out a natural landmark known as the Pink and White Terraces. The award-winning museum sheds light on the hardships suffered by this once-bustling European and Maori village settlement.  Expect to spend at least 1 and a half hours at the site to get the most out of the experience, which includes audio guides, living history tours, and talks by costumed guides scheduled throughout the day. Gain firsthand insight into the chaos of the night that Mt. Tarawera erupted and destroyed Te Wairoa, a village of Maoris and missionaries excavated under the Kaitiakitanga of the Smith family for nearly 90 years. Refresh at Smith & Co, the onsite cafe offering delicious scones with whipped cream and jam, Kiwi's favorite selection of pastry pies, and Devonshire tea. Take the opportunity to dress up in Victorian style clothing. On the waterfall trail, learn about the native flora and fauna and experience the beauty of a land recovering from violent destruction. Experience the Te Wairoa Falls in a special way as you stand in the mist of the waterfall. At the end of the day, check out the wide range of goods at the gift shop and bring home a special memento.

Rotorua: Tamaki Māori Village Cultural Experience

8. Rotorua: Tamaki Māori Village Cultural Experience

Experience the warmth of the Maori people with an evening of ceremonial rituals, cultural performances, storytelling, and hangi feasting at Tamaki Maori Village. Return transport provided from the Gathering Place in Tamaki. Warriors emerge from the forest by canoe to perform the powhiri, an ancient ceremony of welcome that allows visitors safe passage into the village. As you wander beneath the stunning forest canopy, the pre-European village is alive with sights, sounds & activity of days gone. See haka, poi, tattooing, carving, and arts of warrior training.  Watch as the earth is carefully scraped away to reveal baskets of food cooked beneath the ground. Enter the ancestral meeting house and enjoy a powerful cultural performance before dining on the traditional hangi buffet feast. The evening ends with the Poroporoaki (official closing ceremony) before you are returned to the Gathering Place in Tamaki.

From Auckland: Hobbiton & Rotorua Tour with Lunch at Te Puia

9. From Auckland: Hobbiton & Rotorua Tour with Lunch at Te Puia

Enjoy the magic of Middle Earth at the Hobbiton Movie Set and delight in Maori culture at Te Puia Maori Village in Rotorua on a day tour from Auckland. Travel in comfort with a small group and an experienced local guide in a late-model Mercedes or a similarly configured the vehicle to provide extra leg room and space for your comfort.  After the pick-up from your hotel, journey through gorgeous Waikato scenery to Hobbiton. On arrival, set off on an official 2-hour guided tour through the picturesque twelve-acre site. Learn fascinating details of how a beautiful piece of Waikato farmland was transformed into The Shire from Middle-Earth. At the end of your tour, savor a complimentary drink at the Green Dragon Inn.  Climb back into the vehicle for the 55-minute drive to Rotorua. Arrive at Te Puia Maori Village where you will have a freshly prepared hangi lunch featuring traditional Maori food. With plenty of time to explore, discover the Pohutu geyser, mud pools, hot springs, silica formations, and the iconic Kiwi bird. Visit the national schools of wood carving, weaving, stone and bone carving. Then explore Rotorua, visiting the lakefront and the government gardens, before the return journey to Auckland. You can opt for drop off in Rotorua, just select this option when booking. 

Auckland: Hobbiton, Rotorua and Wai-O-Tapu Day Tour

10. Auckland: Hobbiton, Rotorua and Wai-O-Tapu Day Tour

The tour starts with pickup from Auckland city, where the adventure begins as you drive through the stunning Waikato countryside, the most extensive farming area in the world, on a fully guided journey to Hobbiton. Along the way, don’t forget to take advantage of the photo opportunities as you admire the stunning natural landscapes all around of beautiful mountains and farmlands. After the drive, arrive at Alexander Family Sheep Farm and Shire's Rest, the entrance to Hobbiton, and marvel at the thousands of sheep that live here. While you’re here, grab a bite to eat, a coffee, or enjoy an ice cream to cool off while your guide collects your tickets to the movie set. Next, hop on board one of the big green Hobbiton buses to depart on your two hour fully guided tour of this amazing 12-acre movie set with a professional Hobbiton guide to ensure you get the most out of your visit. During your tour trip into the lush pastures of the Shire, visit 44 hobbit holes, see amazing gardens, hear secrets and stories about the making of the movies and finish your LOTR experience with a cold beverage at the famous Hobbiton pub, The Green Dragon Inn. After your LOTR experience, it’s time to continue southwards towards the active geothermal area of Rotorua. During the drive, pass through the unique town of Tirau, the corrugated iron sculpture capital of the world, and the stunning Fitzgerald Glade. Upon arrival in Rotorua, enjoy a guided tour of the city’s most famous and historical sites including Lake Rotorua, The Government Gardens, the Blue Baths, Thermal Springs and Polynesian Spa. Take some time to rest for lunch and then head to Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Wonderland considered one of the most surreal places on earth. Here, admire the Champagne Lake, Devil’s Bath, local mud-pools, geothermal craters and other geothermal wonders before a fully guided trip back to Auckland and the end of your tour.

Frequently asked questions about Rotorua Culture & History

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What people are saying about Rotorua

Overall rating

4.4 / 5

based on 346 reviews

We had a great time. Our guide was incredibly knowledgeable and a great story teller. We didn't know what to expect, but loved the tour and were surprised to get to try corn cooked right from the hot spring.

Great experience, so many activities to do - worth the price. Please note although they say duration is 3 hours, you are able to spend as long as you want.

I hadn't visited since the 80's and was pleased to see it hadn't changed too much, just improved. We loved the museum.

It was a great day, staff were super, my second time to visit the mud bath. Thank you Linda Stevens

Amazing experience, my first time and hopefully not my last!