Kia ora koutou! Hello everyone!
I never take for granted how lucky I am to be asked to share our experiences with other kiwi whānau, ESPECIALLY ones like this! Rotorua is a special place in Aotearoa, best known for its geothermal landscapes, thrilling adventures and rejuvenating experiences, everything a significant roadie needs! In addition, the evident care in protecting and preserving the Māori history and environment here is inspiring and an experience in itself.
I have enjoyed reading travel blogs as a distraction from the current climate. I hope you find this piece as inspiration to help plan a break, whether in the future or if you are in a region that permits you to do so now. Below are some Rotorua whānau approved expeditions guaranteed to make memories that’ll last forever.
Experience – Redwoods Treewalk and Nightlights
Traverse with us 700-metres on 28 eco-suspended bridges and 27 platforms, elevated up to 20-metres high amongst Redwood giants. Located in the beautiful Whakarewarewa Forest, the Redwoods Treewalk has become a world-renowned experience, and after our time spent here, we understand why it’s a must-do Rotorua attraction.
We rose early morning to beat the queues (as always). The morning light filtering through the crisscrossing tree crowns and symphonies of birdsong while exploring the treetops above was bliss. Don’t forget to look down to a stunning birds-eye perspective of the forest floor. Designed for use without harnesses or protective gear makes the Treewalk suitable for kids (supervised). We were completely comfortable with allowing our boys to lead the walk and be ahead of us at times. You have great views of all suspended bridges near and far. My boys were in amazement, not having experienced anything quite like this before. A walk amongst 75-metre-tall redwoods is an activity they’ll remember forever. By night, it becomes very magical, and all lit up like a chapter out of Avatar. The nightlights walk is included in your Treewalk ticket. It’s an entirely different attraction at sundown, down miss it!
Eat & Drink – Third Place Cafē
Locals call this spot, and I quote, “the best coffee in town,” and it has a bunch of awards to prove it. Third Place Café is a homely-feel cafe with delicious cabinet food, including quiche, salads, hearty sandwiches, scones, muffins, slices (of our dreams!) and more. The all-day breakfast and lunch menus offer items created fresh to order, such as French toast (which the boys devoured), grilled salmon, lamb platter and many more options. The sunny outdoor patio has gorgeous views over Ohinemutu Maori Village and Lake Rotorua. The hospitality is warm and bubbly, and the kai was made with heart—a great place for all the whānau.
Stay – Aura Accomadation
From booking confirmation to checking-out, Aura Accommodation took exceptional care of us, and the communication was outstanding. Aura is huge on sustainability and practised impressive and inspiring waste control. Our family studio was cosy and clean. Though we didn’t use the cooking facilities, it’s a bonus for whanau travelling. The room is thermally heated, and it was such a treat to return to our room after dinner or a late evening adventure to a warm space to retire in.
When you stay at Aura Accommodation, you are literally in the heart of where it’s happening! The central location is one of the accommodations hero features. Only several minutes walk to the infamous Eat Street and main township, for example. For the boys, the best thing, hands down, was the pool. It was tough getting them out.
Experience – Secret Spot Hot Tubs
Rotorua has some incredible adrenaline-pumping activities, but it’s also known as an escape for total relaxation. Secret Spot Hot Tubs Rotorua has been on our bucket list since forever. Here you and your whanau (of up to 6) can soak in a magical setting surrounded by native bush next to Waipa Stream and recharge for the rest of your Rotorua adventures. There are complimentary lockers on-site to secure your belongings, and you can also hire fresh towels and robes. We were given a flax kete (basket) with chilled water and additionally ordered a few beverages to enjoy while we soaked. Then, we made our way down to the boardwalk through the ferns to find our private hot tub. Our hot tub was named ‘Moment of Zen’, and it sure was!
The tubs weren’t too hot for our boys (5 & 10). They both enjoyed the feeling and thrill of seemingly being in middle-earth. We ensured they drank plenty of water during their soak, and they simply got out of the tub if they needed to cool off. A highlight for mum and dad was most definitely having your drinks brought to you by the friendly staff at a simple push of a button. Which we never got the joy of pushing ourselves because, kids! Beating us to it and all. Guys, the scenery here is everything!
Eat & Drink – Artisan Cafe
Food and travel go hand-in-hand. A favourite eats-spot we frequent in Rotorua is Artisan Cafe. ‘Handmade with love and care’ is a statement that embodies their approach to food and sustainable business. Produce is sourced locally and regionally, so expect fresh seasonal menus. There are many reasons we love Artisan Cafe, outstanding coffee, the people, the kai, their incredible range of lovely pantry, gift items and souvenirs to take home. Last but not least, their famous ‘Snickers Slice’ will knock your sweet-socks off!
Experience – Te Puia
Te Puia is one of Aotearoa’s most magnificent geothermal wonderlands. It features Pōhutu Geyser, the largest active geyser in the Southern Hemisphere that erupts up to twenty times per day and reaches up to 30 metres (100 feet), quite surreal to see in person. The guided daytime experience, ‘Te Ra‘, is a great way to explore the breathtaking Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley. You can cover as much ground as your whānau feel up for and have a friendly and knowledgeable guide to answer all your questions along the way. Exploring the boiling mud pools and the boiling waters was a highlight for the kids. The boys were amazed that they are used to cook kai (food), even to this day. They have their hearts set on feasting on a mud-boiled meal one day. At the Kiwi Conservation Centre, we got to see three very playful Kiwis. The guide told us they were in a mood like he’d never witnessed before. Perhaps they were happy to see The Carlsons.
We felt incredibly humbled visiting the National Schools of Wood Carving and Weaving, located at te Puia, where we got up-close and personal with the Kaiako (teachers) and Tauira (Students). In addition, we got to see some inspiring Māori work being created and on display. The Te Puia experience is rich in Maori culture and history, a must-do to add to the Rotorua itinerary.
Experience – Rotorua Canopy Tours
While it’s impossible to pick a TOP activity on this recent Rotorua roadie, Rotorua Canopy Tours is UP THERE, pun intended.
The Original Canopy Tour is an unforgettable whānau adventure, and I can’t stop raving about it. We journeyed deep into ancient Aotearoa forest led by Jessie and Nui, our fantastic, kind and caring guides who treated us to some entertaining commentary about this area’s history, ecology, and birdlife. We were soaring birds, free and fearless. My kids were in their element. I can’t even begin to describe what it felt like as a parent seeing our kids brave the heights and conquer new feats. Nor could I imagine the feels from the encouragement they also gave me, standing on a 1000-year-old Rimu tree, about to fly across the valley on an exhilarating 220m zipline, cheering “goooooo mummy!” it was the BEST! So from the Carlson whānau to yours, DO-IT! We are still on a HIGH!—whoops, another pun!
I think it’s pretty remarkable that while you zipline with Rotorua Canopy Tours, you also become part of their forest restoration story. You’ll learn more about their conservation journey during your tour and how adventures like these help the forest flourish.
Experience – Skyline Rotorua
We spent the last day of our roadie at Skyline Rotorua. We knew it would be the cherry on top of an unforgettable getaway. We began with a gondola ride up Mt Ngongotaha overlooking Lake Rotorua looking hauntingly beautiful on a misty and overcast day. Rotorua gets its fair share of wet weather. Not to worry though, a little bit of rain certainly doesn’t stop the Skyline Luge from operating. It’s one of the regions best wet-weather activities to do and only adds to the adventure! Funny story, AG was tall enough to have his very own luge, but he momentarily forgot how to break amid his exciting first launch. As a result, he went speeding down the track, and my heart nearly burst right out of my chest. Luckily, Daddy was right there beside him, throwing me back a thumbs up to put me at ease and safely following him on the descent down. RL, my big boy, was a natural. I heard his laughter and cheers from top to bottom. I think everyone heard him, he was hype! After a bite to eat, the kids got to tick a box off their own Rotorua bucket-list, a visit to the Jelly Belly Gallery.
We’ve barely scratched the surface of all Rotorua has to offer. We’ll be back soon! We hope you enjoyed our post and dream up a Rotorua roadie of your own. Special thanks to our dear friends at Rotorua NZ, Rotorua’s official tourism website.
Mā te wā! – Hope to see you back soon for another adventure.