12 Hours Rotorua

Birds-eye view of many dishes on a table at Okere Falls Store.

If you haven’t got long in this beautiful geothermal town, then it pays to plan your visit so you know exactly what hot spots to head to first.

From a bakery-style breakfast to a geothermal Polynesian spa experience, local beers on tap followed by a forest walk — 10+ metres above the ground — to end the evening (with some sight-seeing in between of course), Rotorua sure makes it easy to be a very content visitor.


Bakery-style breakfast at Ciabatta Café and Bakery

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38 White Street, Fenton Park, Rotorua

If sweet baked treats are your weakness, don’t say we didn’t warn you... a morning visit to Ciabatta will give you that golden moment where freshly baked (and still warm) doughy goodness is wheeled from the kitchen to the front cabinet. A popular spot for those wanting a brekkie and coffee on the run, expect to see plenty of tradies and early morning professionals stopping in here before work. If it’s a sit-in morning for you, grab a filled pretzel, a crispy cronut or a Swiss-inspired streusel and soak up the easy-going vibes of a family-run space that combines good food with good company.

View from the Okere Falls bush walk through native bush to a waterfall.

Walk the Okere Falls Track

Hop in the car and head up and around Lake Rotorua to the Okere Falls Track trailhead. Running alongside the Kaituna River, this short and easy loop walk is the perfect way to stretch your legs and experience luscious Aotearoa native bush and spectacular waterfalls, right on Rotorua’s doorstep. Whitewater rafters and kayakers are often spotted sweeping down the river and over the magnificent falls — no small feat as the Okere Falls are the highest commercially rated rafted waterfall on the planet! At the northern end of this trail is the Trout Pool Falls, where the famed inhabitants are seen gently swimming against the current instead of gliding with it.

Photo: 100% Pure New Zealand


Lunch at Okere Falls Store

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757A State Highway 33, Okere Falls

A little oasis for those on the road, pull in at Okere Falls Store (less than 1km from Okere Falls Track) and grab a coffee and scrumptious meal from the all-day menu to have in their neat courtyard out the back. Perfect for those with small humans in tow, this café has play space aplenty, some brilliant murals, (a composting loo!) and plenty of yum things to choose from out of the cabinet too. The epic backyard, food, craft beer and general atmosphere make this an essential place to visit on any trip to the region.

New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute

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567 Ranolf Street, Victoria, Rotorua

Stop in and be wowed by the art and craft making that’s going on at the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute, where young students come to learn the technical artistic skills of their ancestors (and we can tell you now, they’re very very good at it). Located within Te Puia.


Shopping at ahu boutique

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3010/1178 Eruera Street, Rotorua

Nothing says having a good time in a new town like partaking in some good old retail therapy, and for those who also wish to support clever local designers, ahu boutique is your go-to spot. Dresses, bright and funky jewellery, and punchy stockings all carry a unique Māori twist and make ahu pieces very much a one-of-a-kind statement.

Browse the bookshelves at McLeods

1105 Pukuatua Street, Rotorua

McLeods Booksellers has been supplying locals and visitors to the area with quality literature since 1896. Nowadays it boasts one of the biggest te reo Māori children’s book sections in the country, alongside tomes on topics from history to horror-thriller, sports to science fiction, romance to recipes, and everything in between. Whether you're an avid reader or looking for a thoughtful gift, you’re sure to find the perfect pages at McLeods.

Unwind at Polynesian Spa

1000 Hinemoa Street, Lakeside, Rotorua

After a busy day of eating and exploring, your body will thank you for stopping by Polynesian Spa for an afternoon soak. Visitors have been drawn to the geothermal wonders of the area since the 1800s; established in 1972, Polynesian Spa was built on the site of historic bath houses in the grand Government Gardens overlooking Lake Rotorua. It’s Aotearoa’s original geothermal hot pools experience, with both acidic and alkaline natural mineral hot springs to respectively relieve aches and pains and nourish skin. From bathing in geothermal waters to mud wraps, Himalayan salt polishes and other therapies, Polynesian Spa is the ultimate spot for rest and relaxation in Rotorua.

Photo: Polynesian Spa


Beer at Brew Bar

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1103 Tutanekai Street, Rotorua

When you’re done with shopping and walking the streets, no doubt you’ll be needing a cold beer in hand. Owned by the folks from Croucher Brewing means there’s the full range of local Croucher beers available at BREW, and sitting back in the open courtyard that looks out onto Eat Streat is a very acceptable way to spend the late afternoon.

Dinner at Ani's

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1161 Amohau Street, Rotorua

Refreshed and rejuvenated, make your way to Ani’s Gin Bar & Tapas for a wholly Aotearoa dinner experience. Native botanicals such as horopito feature in many dishes as well as in the bar’s extensive gin collection. Named after owner Lorisse’s late mother, the menu at this Māori-owned restaurant is modernised Māori kai inspired by her childhood, served family-style and elevated through culinary experience. Build your meal from the vast array of tapas; sections include Smaller Bites, Bigger, Meaty, Sides and Sweet As. From melt-in-your-mouth cabbage, live kaimoana cooked in fennel and white wine to cinnamon bread bites with chocolate fudge sauce, you’ll walk away from Ani’s feeling well-fed and like you’re part of the family.

Walk among giants at Redwoods Nightlights

1 Long Mile Road, Whakarewarewa, Rotorua

End the evening on a high note at the Redwoods Nightlights tree walk, where a fantastical suspended walkway leads you through an illuminated forest of 120-year-old trees, many many metres above the ground. Be mesmerised by the living giants you pass alongside and the magical hanging lanterns designed by Aotearoa’s world-famous David Trubridge. This enchanting experience takes about 30 minutes and is suitable for anyone who can walk unaided, while there are purpose-built baby strollers available free for guests to use if some in your party are still finding their feet.

Photo: Redwoods Treewalk