Rotorua is a smelly town. The sulphur in the area because of the volcanic activity causes the city to be blanketed by the smell of rotten eggs. Actually, it’s not as bad as I just made it sound. Yes, you get whiffs of the sulphur here and there, but for the most part you don’t notice it.
Rotorua is built on and lives off tourism. You can definitely see that when walking around the town—there’s a large visitor’s information center, endless number of take-out restaurants (“carry away” as they call them there), and souvenir shops. I personally don’t know how I felt about all of this…I didn’t like how touristy the town felt. Tim said that the amount of souvenir shops and take out restaurants lining each block made him think of NYC. We weren’t interested in 99% of those places, so we looked past them, but I couldn’t help but notice as well.
There is this part of town called “Eat Street,” which we walked down every day we were in Rotorua. It’s a long city block that’s lined with restaurants on both sides, and is getting some major upgrades—like how it will be heated and covered for year-round outdoor dining. I’m intrigued to read about the outcome when it’s all done.
Speaking of food, my favorite lunch spot in Rotorua was Lime Caffeteria. It was so good. The cafe was modern looking—not what I would have first thought of (decor-wise) for a cafe, but still had a nice atmosphere. I had an open-faced chicken sandwich and Tim had waffles with bacon and bananas.
There are lots of great stuff outside of the city, though we weren’t really able to visit those because we were without a car. We did, however, take the city bus to the Skyline attraction. We road the gondola to the top of a hill to see 180 degree views of Rotorua and the lake, took a short hike, and what turned out to be our favorite Skyline activity—the luge! We got a pass for three luge rides and rode each of the three courses. The best way to describe it is “Mario Kart in real life.” It was so much fun.
While we were in Rotorua, we also took a helicopter ride to a volcanic island, which will have it’s own post because that’s how awesome it was. It was the most expensive excursion we did while on our trip, but it was seriously worth every penny. We consider this a major highlight of our entire trip.
Since we were in Rotorua during the early week, there wasn’t much for nightlife that we saw. I can’t speak for the weekends or upcoming summer months, but I’m sure it picks up. So the few evenings we were there, we grabbed a bite to eat and a few drinks before heading back to the hotel. There was one evening we made friends with a couple of the locals (one being the bartender) and met some other people spending time traveling, so it was nice to talk with them.
My overall opinion on Rotora: I was pretty unimpressed and bored with the town itself. There were a few gems here and there, but most of the stuff we were interested in doing during our free time was outside of the city. We did have a blast at the Skyline attraction and were wowed with our helicopter/volcanic island tour, but the town itself was pretty dull. Maybe we were there in the wrong season? Perhaps we didn’t venture out far enough to other parts of town? Or that we aren’t the right age of people who visit the area? Either way, we both said we could have left for Queenstown at least a 1/2 days earlier than what we did.
Places we ate:
– Pig & Whistle Pub / We liked this place. Seemed to cater to families, the younger crowd, the locals and tourists alike. My mediterranean style lamb salad was delish.
– BREW / We only came here for drinks, but we liked this little pub—it’s where we talked to a few locals. Nice selection of craft beers.
– Lime Caffeteria / Mentioned above—really enjoyed the food.
– Lone Star / This is actually a chain, which we didn’t know at first. It’s Texas steakhouse themed, and is your typical table-service chain restaurant.