If you ask me, Rotorua is the ultimate New Zealand experience on the North Island. You can go hiking in the nearby mountains, enjoy the lakes, visit the geothermal and hot springs, and learn about the Maori culture. It's a spot that ticks off a lot of boxes all at once.

I love road-tripping New Zealand and I've done various parts over the years. If you happen to plan a road trip around New Zealand's North Island, Rotorua should be on your list!

I really loved it because there's so much to do. That's why I put together a guide on everything there is to know about where to stay in Rotorua, so you can book and plan your next trip as easily as possible.

Best areas to stay in Rotorua

Even though there's so much to explore in its surroundings, the city of Rotorua itself isn't that big. So, it's pretty straightforward where I suggest you stay.

If you're visiting for the first time, Downtown Rotorua is the place to be. You'll have the best spot to explore the city and its surroundings, and there are some awesome hotels and restaurants nearby.

If you prefer a quieter location near Lake Rotorua, Koutu and Kawaha Point are the perfect choice. It's a bit further away from downtown, but you'll love the tranquility.

For those who want a bit of shopping and nightlife, Victoria and Glenholme are the place to stay. It's right next to downtown and a great option, especially for first-timers as well.

Lastly, if you're eager to experience the Maori villages, Fenton Park is the spot for you. It's a little further south but perfect for culture lovers.

1. Where to stay in Rotorua for the first time: Downtown Rotorua

downtown rotorua

If you're visiting Rotorua for the first time, I highly recommend staying in Downtown Rotorua. It's honestly such a great spot with a little bit of everything.

You'll find amazing hotels, restaurants, and markets, and it's conveniently located near other popular areas in Rotorua too.

In Rotorua, you certainly won't miss the unmistakable smell that fills the air – it's the sulfur from the geothermal wonders below. The city has this unique mix of earthy and mineral scents, giving it a memorable whiff of its volcanic character.

Yes, some people say Rotorua smells like rotten eggs, and you may also find it unpleasant, others appreciate it as part of the unique character of the region.

Around the downtown area, you'll find bubbling mud pools, hot pools, the Government Gardens, museums, and many other exciting things to do. Especially if you're only here for a short period, Downtown Rotorua has more than enough cool stuff to keep you entertained.

Best area for:

  • First-time visitors

  • Convenience

  • City life

Things to do in Downtown Rotorua 

If you choose to stay in Downtown Rotorua, you definitely don't want to miss taking a stroll at the lakefront. It's such a beautiful area with stunning views of Lake Rotorua, and it's perfect for enjoying some fresh air and relaxation.

Another place that is an absolute must-visit is Kuirau Park. Trust me, you'll love it! It's got everything from mud pools and hot pools to super relaxing foot baths. It's the perfect spot to unwind after a busy day exploring the city.

And for those of you who are interested in immersing yourselves in Maori culture, you simply have to visit the Te Pa Tu gathering place. It's an incredible opportunity to learn about traditional Maori customs and take part in some amazing cultural activities.

Best hotels to stay in Downtown Rotorua

($$$) Pullman Rotorua

One of my favorite hotels in Downtown Rotorua is the Pullman. It's a 5-star hotel with luxurious rooms and amenities, plus it's situated right at the lakefront. The staff is incredibly friendly and helpful, and they have a fantastic restaurant on-site as well.

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($$) Regent of Rotorua Boutique Hotel

If you're looking for a mid-range option, I highly recommend the Regent of Rotorua Boutique Hotel. It's a gorgeous hotel with spacious rooms and an excellent location in downtown Rotorua.

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($) Lake Lodge Motel Rotorua

For budget travelers, the Lake Lodge Motel Rotorua is a fantastic choice. It's a cozy little motel with clean and comfortable rooms, and it also offers an outdoor swimming pool.

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2. Where to stay in Rotorua for families: Koutu & Kawaha Point

koutu Rotorua

If you're traveling with your family or if you're super into extreme activities, Koutu is the perfect area for you!

It's situated on the outskirts of Rotorua, right by the lake, which makes it much quieter and more peaceful than downtown. But don't worry, it's still close to all the fun activities you can do here!

Ziplining, hiking, and zorbing are just a few of the adventures you'll find in Koutu. And if you're traveling with kids, there's also an awesome adventure park that they'll absolutely love.

Best area for:

  • Families

  • Adventure seekers

  • Nature lovers

Things to do in Koutu & Kawaha Point

If you're staying in Koutu, there's no doubt that you'll want to try zorbing at Zorb Rotorua. It's a super fun and unique experience where you roll down a hill in an inflatable ball – definitely something the whole family will enjoy!

Another must-do activity is hopping on the extreme swing at Skyswing. It's New Zealand's highest and fastest adrenaline swing, and it's guaranteed to give you an unforgettable rush.

If you're into climbing and ziplining, then you have to check out Rotorua Canopy Tours. They offer a variety of exciting activities that are suitable for all ages.

I personally loved riding the gondola at Skyline Rotorua and I loved zooming down the luge with my friend who traveled with me

And if you happen to be in Rotorua during March, make sure to catch Crankworx, one of the coolest mountain bike contests in the world. It's a must-see for all adventure and extreme sports enthusiasts.

Best hotels to stay in Koutu

($$$) Newina Rotorua

Newina Rotorua is a fantastic hotel for families. This luxurious lodge offers spacious and comfortable rooms, and they also have an outdoor swimming pool and a sauna to enjoy.

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($$) Asure Rotorua

A fantastic mid-range option here is Asure Rotorua. It has modern and cozy rooms, and it's located within walking distance of the lakefront.

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($) Bella Vista Motel

For a budget-friendly choice, I recommend Bella Vista Motel. It's a clean and comfortable motel with lovely staff and a convenient location.

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3. Where to stay in Rotorua for couples & shopping: Victoria & Glenholme

victoria and glenholme rotorua

Victoria and Glenhome are next door to each other and basically part of the city centre, making it a great base with its central location. It's a good spot for first-timers, but couples and everyone who wants to be close to the city center (but not right in it) will also have a fantastic time here.

I love the area, mainly because of its incredible shopping opportunities. You have the Rotorua Central Shopping Mall right here.

Plus, there are some amazing spas, restaurants, and bars to explore. And of course, you're never too far away from the natural landmarks and attractions either.

Best area for:

  • Couples

  • Shopping

  • City life

Things to do in Victoria & Glenholme

If you're staying in Victoria, you'll definitely have more than enough things to do. Make sure to check out the Rotorua Night Market for some delicious street food and live entertainment. It's the perfect date night activity for couples and also for foodies.

For a little retail therapy, head to the Rotorua Central Shopping Mall. You'll find everything from local souvenirs to high-end brands. Especially if you're staying in one of the many apartments and doing some self-catering, having a mall close by is just great!

Now, let's talk about relaxation and maybe the best spa I've been to in New Zealand. A visit to the Polynesian Spa is an absolute must. You can soak in natural hot springs and indulge in a couples massage. The hot springs and pool located right by the lake are simply fantastic with stunning views over the surroundings.

And last but not least, when it comes to food, you cannot miss out on Oppies Fish & Chips. Trust me, they serve some of the best fish and chips in town!

Best hotels to stay in Victoria

($$$) JetPark Hotel Rotorua

JetPark Hotel Rotorua is a perfect choice for couples. It's a brand-new hotel with modern and stylish rooms, and it even has a heated outdoor swimming pool as well.

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($$) Executive On Fenton

If you're looking for an affordable Rotorua accommodation, Executive On Fenton is an excellent choice. It's a charming little hotel with spacious and comfortable rooms.

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($) BK's Rotorua Motor Lodge

For budget travelers, BK's Rotorua Motor Lodge is a great option. They offer clean and cozy rooms at an affordable price, and they also have a hot tub to relax in after a long day of exploring the city.

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4. Where to stay in Rotorua for nature & culture: Fenton Park

fenton park rotorua

I've got one more pick for you: Fenton Park. It's perfect if you want to soak in the natural beauty and immerse yourself in the culture of Rotorua.

Although it's a bit further from downtown, don't worry, it's still easy to get to. Plus, it's a fantastic spot for families with plenty of Airbnb options and self-catering apartments available.

Let me tell you about the highlight of this area: Whakarewarewa Forest Park, also known as The Redwoods. It's a stunning forest with majestic redwood trees and awesome hiking and mountain biking trails.

And guess what? You can even walk among the treetops on suspended bridges with the famous Redwoods Treewalk.

While you're there, you will also have to visit the Whakarewarewa Village. It's a fantastic place to learn about Maori culture and witness traditional crafts being made. It's a living Maori village which means Maoris actually live here. I'm just mentioning this as some other villages are mainly for show purposes, without Maoris living there.

Best area for: 

  • Nature lovers

  • Cultural experiences

Things to do in Fenton Park

In Fenton Park, you're honestly in for a cultural and natural treat. The Whakarewarewa Village, a living Maori village, offers a fascinating glimpse into traditional Maori life and crafts. Unlike other places, this village isn't just for show – real Maori families live here, adding authenticity to your cultural immersion.

After delving into the local culture, head to the majestic Whakarewarewa Forest, known as The Redwoods. Here, you can hop on a journey high above the ground with the Redwoods Treewalk, a thrilling experience that allows you to explore the treetops via perched suspension bridges.

For a caffeine break and a hearty brunch, Eastwood is the spot. With its delicious offerings, it's the perfect place to recharge before your next adventure.

If you're up for a little day trip or road trip, head to the secret hot tubs, which are hidden in the forest. They are wooden hot tubs, super cool and relaxing.

Lastly, you gotta visit the Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland with its surreal, multi-hued geothermal wonders.

Best hotels to stay in Fenton Park

($$$) Regal Palms Resort

For an amazing stay in Fenton Park, I recommend the Regal Palms Resort. It's a fantastic hotel with a huge outdoor pool and awesome amenities too.

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($$) Sport Of Kings Motel

A little more affordable, but still fantastic, is the Sport Of Kings Motel. The rooms are spacious and cozy, and it's just a short distance away from the Redwoods Treewalk.

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($) Silver Fern Rotorua Suites & Spa

Great value for money, the Silver Fern Rotorua Suites & Spa is my go-to budget option in Fenton Park. It offers comfortable rooms and a relaxing spa for a great price.

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Where to stay in Rotorua – Frequently Asked Questions

🧐 Is Rotorua worth visiting?

Absolutely! Rotorua is a must-visit destination for anyone visiting New Zealand, especially if you're interested in nature, adventure, and culture. With its stunning landscapes, geothermal wonders, plenty of great accommodation options, and rich Maori heritage, it's honestly one of my favorite spots on the North Island.

🚣‍♂️ What are the best things to do in Rotorua?

There are so many amazing things to do in Rotorua that it's almost impossible to list them all! Some of my favorite activities include visiting the Wai-O-Tapu geothermal wonderland, trout fishing, experiencing Maori culture, visiting the hot springs and mud pools, and exploring the nearby lakes and mountains.

🚗 How do I get to Rotorua?

You can easily reach Rotorua by car, bus, or plane. If you're driving, it takes about 3.5 hours from Auckland and 6.5 hours from Wellington. There are also a few bus companies that offer direct routes from major cities. For those who prefer flying, the Rotorua Regional Airport (ROT) is the closest option, with flights available from Auckland and Wellington. But if you have the time, I highly recommend making it part of a road trip because driving around New Zealand is absolutely amazing.

🗓️ How long should I spend in Rotorua?

That really depends on what you want to do and how much time you have. You could easily spend a week in Rotorua and still not run out of things to do, but I would say at least 2 to 4 days is a good amount of time to fully experience the city and its surroundings. If you're just passing through or have limited time, even a day trip from Auckland or Tauranga is worth it.

Where to stay in Rotorua – Final Words

Rotorua is certainly an amazing place to visit and explore. Whether you're a nature lover, adventure seeker, or culture enthusiast, there's so much to do! It's definitely a must-visit when you're on New Zealand's North Island.

I hope this guide has helped find the perfect place to stay in Rotorua so you'll get the most out of your trip to Rotorua.

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