A hub of adventure, adrenaline and culture, Rotorua should be right at the top of any New Zealand bucket list! With so much to do there, the fun doesn’t stop when the sun goes down!
Rotorua is equally suited to a weekend getaway as it is to a longer stay and with a wealth of incredible night-time fun on offer, you’ll have lots of options to help pack that itinerary full.
Situated an easy drive (only 2 hours, 45m minutes from the Auckland CBD) or a 45 minute flight, it’s easily accessible from our largest city and also serves as a must-see town for people travelling through the North Island.
How will you spent your evening hours in this unique city?
The following are our top five suggestions…
Check out the Redwoods by Night
Though the Redwood Nightlights tour only opened in December of 2016, it has fast become an icon of Rotorua and a firm favourite amongst those looking for night-time entertainment.
Guests wander from tree to tree, suspended at up to 20m above the forest floor, all whilst admiring glowing lanterns and enjoying multi-coloured light dancing across the canopy.
23 suspension bridges connect 22 beautiful old redwoods whilst native ferns and trees help make this a uniquely Kiwi experience that suits all travellers. As there’s no need for a harness and there are plenty of platforms to stop for a rest, this really is a stunning way for the whole family to spend an evening.
Get Up Close to our New Zealand Glow Worms
Though Waitomo is best known for its glow worms, it’s not the only place in New Zealand where you’ll find them. In fact, having recently visited Rotorua, I feel like we’ve found one of the most intimate ways to see them and we’re more than happy to let the cat out of the bag!
Starting just before sunset, the team at Paddle Board Rotorua will kit you up with everything you need to enjoy a still evening out on one of Rotorua’s many lakes. Once the sun goes down, the real magic begins though – that’s when they’ll tell you to lay back (quite literally) and enjoy an incredible display of bioluminescence in the cave above you.
With shimmering glow worms at arms reach, I’ve never had such a personal experience with these little beauties (and it’s all with the added benefit of a great night out paddle boarding too). Add in a great rundown on local culture, story telling and true-blue Kiwi chat and you’ve got yourself a night to remember with newfound friends.
Admire Rotorua’s Dark Skies (with Camera in Hand)
Rotorua is blessed with many lakes and, at the right time of year, they make the perfect backdrop to stunning views of the milky way.
If you’d like to try your hand at astrophotography you’ll need a camera that has a manual function on it and will need to set it up as follows:
- Shutter speed: This will vary depending on the lens you have but start with around 20 seconds and if the stars are forming nice little circles, you might be able to push it out further. There is a formula to calculate the maximum shutter speed you should use but we’re keeping things simple here.
- Aperture: The lower your f-stop, the more light your camera will pick up. As a general rule, take it down as low as it will go (eg. f2.8 or f3.5 are fairly common apertures at the lower end of the spectrum). Often lenses don’t perform as well down low so you may like to try going up a touch for interests sake.
- Focus: Flick your camera off of autofocus and, if possible, focus on the brightest star you can find. If your camera won’t allow you to zoom in on your live-view, try setting your manual focus either to infinity or just a touch back from it.
- ISO: The higher your ISO, the less range you’ll have between light and dark, in effect brightening up your image. To start, I’d suggest setting it to ISO 6400 and adjusting as required.
When planning out your shot, Sun Surveyor is a great addition to your phone as it will show you where the milky way appears in the sky and at what time you can expect it (remember to keep an eye out for the moon too as it’ll out-glow the stars in your photos). You can also use an app like Light Pollution Map to check the best area for photo-ready dark skies.
You’ll also need a tripod for your astro photography and may also like to use a manual shutter release to further prevent camera shake.
If all else fails though, pack yourself some late-night desert treats and enjoy a decadent supper under the stars. Camera or not, it’s an amazing way to spend an evening.
Soak in Rotorua’s Geothermal Mineral Water
After a busy day running around the North Island’s adventure capital, there’s nothing better than a soak at Rotorua’s premium hot pools, the Polynesian Spa. Set right on the lake, these pools blend beautifully into their surroundings leaving guests relaxed and ready to take on their next adventure.
With a number of entry passes to choose from, there’s something to cater to all tastes and budgets. Regardless of which one you choose, you’ll enjoy all of the benefits of naturally warmed geothermal mineral water and feel any stress melt away.
Sourced from two natural springs, water is feed into a total of 28 mineral pools. Whether you’re looking to relax sore muscle and relive aches and pains (in which case, you’ll head to the acidic waters of the Priest Spring), or want to relax and revive your skin (through the Rachel Spring), these pools are well worth a visit.
Your skin, muscles and mind will all thank you for making the investment!
Tuck into a Good Meal
The food scene in Aotearoa has really developed over recent years and the addition of Eat Street in Rotorua reflects exactly that – delicious kai in a modern, vibrant environment.
Situated conveniently at the lake end of Tutanekai Street (which is also handy to our favourite accommodation in Rotorua, Aura), Eat Street is warm, covered and offers a wide array of cuisines (and delicious ice cream at Lady Janes!).
If you’re looking for something a bit different, we can also recommend The Thai Restaurant, where they serve up delectable food in portions big enough to share!
With a focus on world-class tourism activities, nature, culture and fun, Rotorua is an incredible part of New Zealand and one the deserves your attention long after the sun goes down!
The only question is how many nights can you commit to spending in this incredible region?
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Thank you to RotoruaNZ for making our recent visit possible. As always, all thoughts are 100% our own.