Rotorua
History & Heritage

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Our most recommended Rotorua History & Heritage

Rotorua: The Buried Village of Te Wairoa

1. Rotorua: The Buried Village of Te Wairoa

Located just a 15-minute drive from Rotorua, the Buried Village of Te Wairoa features an interactive museum, scenic walking trails, and a look at the devastating effects of one of New Zealand’s greatest natural disasters: the Mt. Tarawera volcanic eruption of 1886, which wiped out a natural landmark known as the Pink and White Terraces. The award-winning museum sheds light on the hardships suffered by this once-bustling European and Maori village settlement.  Expect to spend at least 1 and a half hours at the site to get the most out of the experience, which includes audio guides, living history tours, and talks by costumed guides scheduled throughout the day. Gain firsthand insight into the chaos of the night that Mt. Tarawera erupted and destroyed Te Wairoa, a village of Maoris and missionaries excavated under the Kaitiakitanga of the Smith family for nearly 90 years. Refresh at Smith & Co, the onsite cafe offering delicious scones with whipped cream and jam, Kiwi's favorite selection of pastry pies, and Devonshire tea. Take the opportunity to dress up in Victorian style clothing. On the waterfall trail, learn about the native flora and fauna and experience the beauty of a land recovering from violent destruction. Experience the Te Wairoa Falls in a special way as you stand in the mist of the waterfall. At the end of the day, check out the wide range of goods at the gift shop and bring home a special memento.

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Lake Rotorua: Jet Boat, Speed, Spins and Adrenaline

2. Lake Rotorua: Jet Boat, Speed, Spins and Adrenaline

Book a 30min Jet Tour on Lake Rotorua and experience the excitement and exhilaration of one of the area's most popular adventure activities. Feel the rush of the high-powered engines pushing you through the water at approximately 85 km/hr, while professional drivers thrill you with speed, spins, and adrenaline.  Visit iconic landmarks such as Kawaha Point, Mokoia Island, and Sulphur Bay and learn the history of the area, the people, and the events that have shaped this special place into the cultural and event capital of New Zealand.  You will be provided with spray jackets to keep you dry and warm and fit you with a life jacket to ensure you are safe on your blast around the lake. Suitable for almost all ages from the very young through to the most experienced. The service operates every day in all weather so you don't have to worry about availability. This is the very best way to experience the thrill of jet boating whilst learning all about this world-famous tourist destination.

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From Auckland: Hobbiton & Rotorua Tour with Lunch at Te Puia

3. From Auckland: Hobbiton & Rotorua Tour with Lunch at Te Puia

Enjoy the magic of Middle Earth at the Hobbiton Movie Set and delight in Maori culture at Te Puia Maori Village in Rotorua on a day tour from Auckland. Travel in comfort with a small group and an experienced local guide in a late-model Mercedes or a similarly configured the vehicle to provide extra leg room and space for your comfort.  After the pick-up from your hotel, journey through gorgeous Waikato scenery to Hobbiton. On arrival, set off on an official 2-hour guided tour through the picturesque twelve-acre site. Learn fascinating details of how a beautiful piece of Waikato farmland was transformed into The Shire from Middle-Earth. At the end of your tour, savor a complimentary drink at the Green Dragon Inn.  Climb back into the vehicle for the 55-minute drive to Rotorua. Arrive at Te Puia Maori Village where you will have a freshly prepared hangi lunch featuring traditional Maori food. With plenty of time to explore, discover the Pohutu geyser, mud pools, hot springs, silica formations, and the iconic Kiwi bird. Visit the national schools of wood carving, weaving, stone and bone carving. Then explore Rotorua, visiting the lakefront and the government gardens, before the return journey to Auckland. You can opt for drop off in Rotorua, just select this option when booking. 

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Rotorua: Tamaki Māori Village Cultural Experience

4. Rotorua: Tamaki Māori Village Cultural Experience

Experience the warmth of the Maori people with an evening of ceremonial rituals, cultural performances, storytelling, and hangi feasting at Tamaki Maori Village. Return transport provided from the Gathering Place in Tamaki. Warriors emerge from the forest by canoe to perform the powhiri, an ancient ceremony of welcome that allows visitors safe passage into the village. As you wander beneath the stunning forest canopy, the pre-European village is alive with sights, sounds & activity of days gone. See haka, poi, tattooing, carving, and arts of warrior training.  Watch as the earth is carefully scraped away to reveal baskets of food cooked beneath the ground. Enter the ancestral meeting house and enjoy a powerful cultural performance before dining on the traditional hangi buffet feast. The evening ends with the Poroporoaki (official closing ceremony) before you are returned to the Gathering Place in Tamaki.

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Rotorua: Geothermal Valley Shore Excursion with Lunch

5. Rotorua: Geothermal Valley Shore Excursion with Lunch

Benefit from pickup at Tauranga port, and take a scenic drive around Mount Maunganui to take in the sights. Enjoy beautiful views of the lakes and forests, along with the first hints of geothermal activity. Arrive at a Maori village in Rotorua, and get a warm welcome from a local guide. Experience the Maori way of life and learn how they use the natural resources to cook, bathe, and heat their homes. View the geothermal wonders of the Whakarewarewa valley, and watch an amazing cultural performance. Savor a 2-course lunch at one of Rotorua's acclaimed restaurants, with unlimited tea and coffee. Take a leisurely drive along the lakefront, and stop to admire the giant redwood trees in the forest. Learn about the silver fern and its relevance as a symbol of New Zealand. Next, visit a working kiwi fruit orchard to learn how it became established in New Zealand. Taste different varieties and discover numerous products made from the fruit.

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Auckland: Hobbiton and Rotorua with Te Puia Tour

6. Auckland: Hobbiton and Rotorua with Te Puia Tour

Your tour begins as you are collected from your hotel in a comfortable modern mini-bus. From there, travel through the beautiful Waikato countryside - New Zealand's most extensively farmed area, on a fully guided tour to Hobbiton. During the trip south, encounter stunning scenery, great photo opportunities, and beautiful mountains, as well as several different farm animals along the way. Following your drive, arrive to the Alexander Family Sheep Farm and Shire's Rest, the entrance to Hobbiton. There you can see thousands of sheep, grab something to eat, get a coffee fix, or enjoy an ice cream as your guides arrange your tickets to the movie set. Next, board one of the green Hobbiton buses to depart on a fully guided 2-hour tour of this amazing 12-acre movie set with an expert Hobbiton Movie set guide who ensures you get the most out of your visit. During your tour, step into the lush pastures of the Shire, visit 44 different hobbit holes, see amazing gardens, hear the charming secrets and stories about the making of the movies, and finish your Lord of the Rings experience with a cold beverage at the famous Hobbiton Pub, the Green Dragon Inn. After your Lord of the rings experience, travel back through the Alexander Family Sheep Farm before heading south to the active geothermal area of Rotorua. Throughout your trip, pass through the unique town of Tirau - the corrugated iron sculpture capital of the world, and the stunning Fitzgerald Glade, seeing many more stunning landscapes as you head over the Kaimai ranges. Once in Rotorua, travel with your guides as they show you around the historical sites including Lake Rotorua, the Government Gardens, the Blue Baths, the Thermal Springs, and the Polynesian Spa. From there, head to one of the most famous attractions in New Zealand, the Te Puia Geothermal Park. Once inside the park, stop for lunch, where your guides highly recommend the traditional Maori Hangi buffet meal. Following lunch, set off for a fully guided tour around the surreal park to see it's geothermal and cultural wonders. Observe the Pōhutu Geyser (the biggest geyser in the southern hemisphere), Māori Architecture, the National Māori Arts School, geothermal craters, and geothermal events. There's even the chance to view a kiwi bird in the kiwi viewing house, before you travel back to Auckland with your guide.

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Rotorua: Kaituna Rafting & Mt. Tarawera Hiking Combo

7. Rotorua: Kaituna Rafting & Mt. Tarawera Hiking Combo

Take on a thrilling rafting adventure with experienced and local Kiwi guides. Navigate a wildly beautiful landscape while learning about Kaitiakitanga (guardianship) and protection of the land. Snake through steep New Zealand bush-clad canyons. Be thrilled by fourteen rapids and tree waterfalls, including the world-renowned 7-meter Tutea Falls. Relive the rafting action through photos snapped by a professional adventure photographer along the way. Throughout the day, your guide will share the history of Mount Tarawera's eruption as well as local myths and legends. On arrival at the mountain base, begin the ascent to the crater's edge in an off-road 4x4 vehicle up through native bushland. After a quick stop at the solar-powered mountain base, continue up to the beginning of the track.  Admire stunning scenic vistas and 360-degree panoramic views as you enjoy the hike up. At the summit, you can leap down into the heart of the volcanic crater for a fun and short run.

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Rotorua: Whakarewarewa Village Guided Tour

8. Rotorua: Whakarewarewa Village Guided Tour

Experience the warmth of our Legacy Guided tours through NZ’s iconic living Maori village. Our village guides are direct descendants of early Māori guides, who have shaped tourism in New Zealand for generations. Their insights, knowledge and legendary hospitality (manaakitanga) adds depth and richness to the experience you’ll have at Whakarewarewa – The Living Māori Village. On the Whakarewarewa Guided Tour, you will explore an authentic Māori village, where people use natural geothermal resources to cook, bathe and heat their homes as they have for centuries. Learn what it’s like to live in the challenging geothermal plateau where daily life includes cooking in the bubbling pools and steam vents, and bathing takes place in the refreshing therapeutic waters. You will view the geothermal wonders of Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley, including the world-famous Pōhutu geyser, boiling mud-pools, steam vents and bubbling pools. Take in our various historic landmarks and buildings, including an active Marae (meeting grounds and focal point of Maori communities), our WWII Memorial Archway, historic churches, and tapu (sacred) burial grounds.

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Rotorua: Full-Day Hiking Tour in Whirinaki Forest

9. Rotorua: Full-Day Hiking Tour in Whirinaki Forest

Explore the majestic Whirinaki Forest on a guided 4-hour hike amongst the awe-inspiring trees for which the lush rainforest is best known. This impressive forest is unlike any other and if you are lucky you might spot some of New Zealand's rarest birds which have made the dense woods their habitat.  On your hike around this unspoiled, old rainforest surrounded by towering five-hundred-year-old trees and rushing rivers you will discover what a biodiversity hotspot these woods are. Hear rare birds calling overhead as you make your way to a beautiful waterfall, by which you will eat your lunch. Learn about the conservation efforts being made in the park from your knowledgeable guide as well as the flora and fauna you see as you move around the forest. Expect to see trees such as rimu, kahikatea, miro, and matai. Additionally, if you are lucky you may spot some rare birds as well such as kaka (North Island parrot), yellow-crowned kakariki (parakeet), and toutouwai (North Island robin).

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Other Sightseeing Options in Rotorua

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What people are saying about Rotorua

Overall rating

4.4 / 5

based on 330 reviews

Absolutely loved learning about the history of the land we stood on and the stories shaped our future today. Honestly such an amazing place with interesting displays to accompany the stories as they are being told! Worth the price for sure!!!

Was an awesome experience. Our Tour guide was funny and made the experience more enjoyable.

Awesome tour for both. Drivers were amazing made the whole tour a seamless experience.

Very funny and experienced tour guide. Had so much fun! Defineately worth every penny.

It was awesome. Wish it was longer but it was still good