New Zealand Road Trip Part 4: Rotorua

About an hour’s drive from Taupo is the stinky town of Rotorua.  The smell is courtesy of its geothermal activity hence why Rotorua is also known as ‘sulphur city’.  Although there’s lots to do in Rotorua, as a town it’s not as charming as neighbouring Taupo.  You could choose to base yourself out of Taupo and do the activities from there but with young kids, I was pleased to be close by in central Rotorua.

Where did we stay?

We stayed at the Princes Gate Hotel, a boutique hotel built in 1897 with a grand lobby and attractive exterior. Sadly our room (2 bed suite) was in the new wing and felt a bit shabby.  Whilst it was nice to have the space of two bedrooms and a lounge, I didn’t feel the suite reflected its 5* rating although I did get a decent price on Expedia.

What did we do?

  • A highlight of our entire North Island trip, was a visit to the Tamaki Maori Village.  I had booked the trip in advance and you can either choose to be picked up from your hotel or drive there yourself. I would recommend getting picked up as the fun starts the moment you get on the bus. The 3 hour experience is a great way to learn more about Maori culture from weaponry displays to traditional song and dance performances.  The evening concludes with a traditional hangi dinner.

    Daniel learns the Haka!

    Daniel learns the Haka!

  • Kids will enjoy Rainbow Springs – part zoo, theme park and playground. The Bird Show is lots of fun and my 4 year old loved riding on the Big Splash.  Other than that, lots of free talks (not so fun for the kids) and wandering around to see various indigenous kiwi animals e.g. the kiwi! If you’re intending to head to the Agrodome too, make sure you buy a combo ticket.

    Riding the Big Splash (her dad was petrified)

    Riding the Big Splash (her dad was petrified)

  • Saw a show filled with sheep.  Sounds rubbish – was brilliant!  Takes place in the Agrodome where you can also pay extra for a Farm Tour.  The Farm Show lasted an hour and included lots of audience participation including my 4 year old milking a cow.  It may be lost on younger kids (my 2 year old spent most of the hour on the floor playing with some headphones) but good news is, they’re free anyway.  Even better – after the show you can go to the nursery and pet the baby animals.
    Me and a lamb
  • We had wanted to drive out to the thermal pools of Waikite Valley. However, the kids were having tantrums in the car so we decided to stick closer to our hotel and went to the Polynesian Spa.  The Lake Spa looked beautiful but with the kids in tow, we decided to stick to the Family Spa.  This has a large chlorinated freshwater pool, water slide and and then two smaller hot mineral pools.
  • The Lakefront Volcanic Playground is the perfect free activity – a great kids playground with lots of grass for them to run around on and in a beautiful setting by the water.
    Volcanic Lake

Where did we eat?

  • Picnic cafe for breakfast.  Delicious food in big portions and fantastic colouring sets for the kids.

    Always good to have chips before 10am

    Always good to have chips before 10am

  • The kids will love Fat Dog Cafe with its colourful interiors and fantastic food.  We had such a delicious dinner in there we bowled up the next morning for breakfast.

    Phenomenal steak sandwich

    Phenomenal steak sandwich


New Zealand Road Trip Part 1 – Wellington

New Zealand Road Trip Part 2 – Havelock North, Hawkes Bay

New Zealand Road Trip Part 3 – Napier & Taupo

Our route

New Zealand North Island Road Trip

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