Rotorua is predominantly known for its unique geothermal activities, with spurting geysers, bubbling hot pools and multi-coloured springs. But there’s more to it than meets the eye, it’s a town with vast Maori heritage, and one of the best places in New Zealand to learn about culture and history.
Spend an afternoon wandering through Te Puia on the outskirts of town, spot the nocturnal Kiwi close up in their sanctuary, before discovering the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute. Here students from around the country vie for placements to learn about carving, weaving and other traditional arts. There’s also the magnificent Pohutu geyser to watch as it shoots up to 30 metres into the sky.
You can really appreciate this diverse landscape from the air, with hidden lakes and distant volcanoes on the horizon, see how the lands have been buckled and bent by millions of years of geothermal activity. Take a floatplane from Lake Rotorua and head north out to the coastline, where you’ll reach New Zealand’s only permanently active volcano at White Island, found 30 miles offshore.
Before leaving Rotorua make sure you travel back in time with the team at Tamaki Maori Village, wander through the village learning about art forms, ancient rituals and Maori traditions. Watch a Haka Maori war dance and learn the art of the poi dance before eating a Hangi feast cooked deep in the hot earth.
Optional add-ons / upgrades: Hobbiton Movie Set tour
Travel Designers recommendation: Be sure to visit the Volcanic Hills winery, with stunning views over the lake and delicious wines on offer.