Getaway Compass

A Magical 3-Day Rotorua Itinerary

Frying Pan Lake

Spend three days exploring this geothermal wonderland in the north island of New Zealand. Rotorua is known for its geothermal features, adventure activities, and Maori cultural experiences. Continue reading for the best way to spend 3 days in Rotorua for a mix of adventure, relaxation, and educational opportunities. This geothermal wonderland needs to be at the top of your list

How to Get to Rotorua

Rotorua is located 3 hours southeast of Auckland. The best way to get to and around Rotorua is to rent a car in Auckland and drive there, then use the car to explore Rotorua and surrounding areas. Book your car on Discover Cars which searches across rental car companies to help you find the best price. If you don’t plan on renting a car you can get to Rotorua from Auckland by bus, with InterCity bus trip taking about 3 hours and 30 minutes.

Where to Stay in Rotorua

Lake Rotorua

You can find unique Airbnbs around Rotorua with amazing views that will make for an extraordinary 3 days in Rotorua. We stayed in this exceptional Airbnb with panoramic views of Lake Rotorua. It was so nice to be able to relax and enjoy wine with a view after a day of exploring. 

If you do not plan on renting a car, consider staying in the center of Rotorua so you can easily get to restaurants. You can find accommodations in Rotorua on including hotels and guesthouses.

Rotorua 3-Day Itinerary

Rotorua Itinerary: Day 1

Blue Spring: Te Waihou Walkway

Blue Spring

On your drive from Auckland to Rotorua, make sure to stop at Te Waihou Walkway for a scenic walk to the Blue Spring. The Blue Spring supplies about 70% of New Zealand’s bottled water. The fastest way to get to the Blue Spring is from the parking lot on Leslie Road. If you start the walk on Leslie Road the best part of the trail is the first 20 minutes, so there is no need to continue walking further along the Waihou River.

Spending more time in New Zealand? Check out this guide: Abel Tasman National Park Day Trip

Whakarewarewa: Living Maori Village

Living Maori Village
Rotorua Itinerary Maori Village

At Whakarewarewa Village you can learn about Maori culture on a guided tour of this authentic Maori village. You will learn about ways that the village utilizes the geothermal heat and get a chance to taste a corn on the cob which was cooked in the hot pool. This tour offers a unique opportunity to learn about the Maori history and culture in Rotorua from a local guide.

If you have time, make sure to add the self-guided tour of the geothermal wonders of Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley. This walkway leads you to boiling mud pools, bubbling pools, steam vents, as well as a viewpoint of Pohutu Geyser. You can purchase a combo ticket of both the geothermal trail and the guided village tour below.

Dinner on Eat Street

Finish your first day in Rotorua with dinner at one of the restaurants on Eat Street. Eat Street has a range of restaurants that you can choose from, including Italian food, Indian food, a brewery, and a grill. 

Rotorua Itinerary: Day 2

White Water Rafting

Rotorua White Water Rafting Experience
Rotorua Rafting North Island

One of the most exhilarating experiences you will have during your 3 days in Rotorua is white water rafting down the Kaituna River. Float down a canyon in the Kaituna River surrounded by a subtropical rainforest. You will float down three waterfalls, including the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world called Tutea Falls (7 meters high). Make sure to book your rafting experience ahead of time so that you don’t miss out!

Rotorua Rafting will provide a wet suit, booties, helmet, life vest, and paddle. All you will need is to bring a bathing suit to wear under the wet suit and a towel to dry off after. A photographer will be taking pictures of you throughout the white water rafting session, with a focus on pictures as you go down Tutea Falls, the highest waterfall. We are so glad we purchased the pictures after as it was a great way to remember our adventure and fun to see our reactions.

Tip: Get a light breakfast before white water rafting at the Okere Falls Store next door.

Polynesian Spa

Polynesian Spa

After your adrenaline-filled morning, relax at the geothermal hot pools at Polynesian Spa. The geothermal mineral water in the pools here is sourced through two natural springs. There are several hot mineral pools and different packages that you can choose from. There is also a day spa where you can book a range of treatments. We booked a Lake View Private Pool where we spent 30 minutes relaxing and enjoying the wonderful views. It was the perfect peaceful activity to do after white water rafting, especially since we were already in our bathing suits.

FREE New Zealand Google Maps List with 140+ Destinations

Get access to our FREE New Zealand google maps list with over 140 destinations across both North and South Island. Many destinations include detailed notes to help you adjust your day on-the-go. You will find hidden gems, hiking trails, viewpoints, activities you can’t miss, picturesque wineries, delicious restaurants, and more for the perfect New Zealand adventure. Make sure to download the offline version of our google maps so you can navigate to these destinations even when you don’t have service in remote areas.

Sulphur Point

Rotorua Sulphur Point

If you have time check out this quick stop which is located right near Polynesian Spa. The walkway starts at the lake and leads you to sulphur vents and mud pools.

Another must-see destination in New Zealand is Milford Sound. Plan your trip with The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Milford Sound

Redwoods Tree Walk

Redwoods Tree Walk

During your three days in Rotorua, you need to check out Redwoods Tree Walk where you will get to see 120 year-old redwood trees. Here you will walk on suspended bridges surrounded by 75-meters tall redwood trees. The walk is 700 meters long across 28 swing bridges that are located up to 20 meters high.

You can choose to do the walk during the day or night, both offering a unique experience. The Redwoods Nightlights option features 34 unique lanterns. As it does get busier at night, try to avoid peak time 8-9 pm and arrive closer to closing time around 10 pm. This magical experience is the best way to end your second day in Rotorua.

Rotorua Itinerary: Day 3

Waimangu Volcanic Valley

Hot Spring Rotorua
Inferno Crater Lake

Waimangu is the world’s youngest geothermal system and where you can see the aftermath of the 1886 volcanic eruption of Mount Tarawera . The highlights are Frying Pan Lake, one of the largest hot springs in the world, and inferno crater, a bright blue-colored hot spring. There are a number of different trails you can choose from to explore Waimangu Valley, ranging from 1.5 to 4 km, which can take 1-2 hours.

Book your self-guided walk of Waimangu Volcanic Valley to explore this unique destination at your own pace. Make sure to see Frying Pan Lake and Inferno Crater, but there is no need to continue further as the highlights are towards the beginning. If you do decide to walk the whole trail, there are shuttles that will take you from where the trail ends at the lake back to the entrance, but they only come once an hour. There is a free Waimangu App you can download for more information about the geothermal activity here.

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

Geothermal Park Rotorua
Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland
Geothermal Features Near Rotorua

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland is a colorful and diverse geothermal area located near Rotorua. There are a range of trail options you can choose from depending on how much time you have which can take 45-90 minutes. As you follow the trails you will see mesmerizing geothermal features including the largest mud pool in New Zealand, a bright green-colored lake, and the famous Champagne Pool.

One of the top things to see at Wai-O-Tapu is Lady Knox Geyser which erupts once a day at 10:15 am and can reach 10-20 meters. If you want to see the geyser erupt make sure to plan your day around this, but be aware that the park will be the busiest at this time.

More Top Rated Experiences in Rotorua

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links for products and services I recommend. At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Reut and Zack Elopement-5

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