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Sea plane in Rotorua, New Zealand

Getting your ducks in a row is more than a phrase here. You’ll find them walking parallel to you by the lake at sunset. While Rotorua is an Aucklander’s dearly beloved weekend getaway, if you’re looking for a small-town experience that gives you a true glimpse of the slow-paced life of the Kiwis, look no further.

Why Go:

Hot springs and geysers, volcanic activity, vast lake, family-friendly adventure sports, spa treatments to write about, and a beautiful city which showcases true Maori (local) culture.

Aerial View of Rotorua

Getting There:

One of the things that works to it’s advantage, is it’s accessibility. Given that it’s located in the middle of North Island, and very close to Lake Taupo, it often serves as a quick vacation spot for families looking to spend some time over fun activities on the weekend, or for international visitors looking to experience true blue Kiwi culture without wandering too far off.

While most of you might fly into New Zealand through Auckland (if you choose to begin with the North Island), you can simply go for a self-drive to get you there. A stone’s throw at a 3 hour driving distance on a smooth as silk highway, surrounded by mountains and hills, cattle and waterfalls, trees of different colours, and lakes and streams as you drive past: the journey is almost as good as the destination.

You can drive in New Zealand on your Indian driver’s license for 1 year, so your vacation should be covered. Should you wish to avoid the hassle of moving a limb during vacation time, the train is another convenient option.

Where to Stay:

Rotorua is a tiny, no-fuss city, with plenty options for different pocket sizes. It’s best recommended you stay at a spa resort or a boutique spa hotel if your budget allows, since Rotorua is famous for it’s various spa treatments and therapies. Peppers on the Point is a hotel at Lake Rotorua, with beautiful rooms and view well worth the money.

Things to Do:

1. Lake Rotorua:

Lake Rotorua at sunset, New Zealand

Lake Rotorua is an incredible, massive lake with ducks swimming along its shores and a few sea jets making an appearance once a while. The sun sets in a gleaming golden hue across the sky on one side, and on the other are tiny hills adding character to an already perfect sunset. It’s quiet and peaceful by the lake, with few people and even fewer tourists to break the harmony of the show that Rotorua puts on every evening. There are some things that instantly heal the soul, tiny moments that take away the stress and replace it with gratitude and a feeling of weightlessness. This sunset is just that. 

2. Front row seats to breathtaking Geo-thermal activity:

Hot geysers in Rotorua

The Orakei Karako and Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Reserve Parks are home to the most famous geyser in the region: The Lady Knox. So famous is this geyser in fact, that one of the reasons you should visit Rotorua is to watch this geyser put on a performance. There are plenty tracks around the place, and geysers make for most of the landscape. It’s quite interesting to watch the hot water springs burst out of the ground in different places around the parks. You could stand around and watch them while the experts on site explain the phenomenon, or wander around the area to check out the rest of the geothermal activity in the area.

3. Luge ride down a hilltop:

Gandola (cable car) in Rotorua

Take a gondola (rope way) up to the hilltop, all the way to the Skyline lodge and café. The luge is a cart you get to drive all the way down the hill. It works just as well for families (as long as the kids only sit through it) as it does for us thrill seeking youngsters. You could opt for a bunch of other adventure activities up there as well, or just get a bite to eat at the café while you admire the city through an aerial view of Rotorua.

4. Visit the Maori Villages:

They don’t call Rotorua a cultural hub for nothing! Beside the touch of authentic Maori taste visible in the paints and graffiti around town, you can also visit living-breathing Maori villages around Rotorua.

Nikita Butalia is a solo 20-something traveler who documents her experiences around India and the rest of the world in witty narratives and travel tales that are best read curling up on the couch with a cup of hot chocolate on a winter evening.

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