Many of the best attractions in the area lie outside the city itself but shuttles and tours mean that just about every combination of sights can be packed into a day, as well as all manner of adventure activities – from rafting to skydiving.
Travellers can quickly dispatch minor sights along the eastern shore of Lake Rotorua, leaving time for the seldom-crowded Hell’s Gate thermal area and the opportunity to watch terrified rafters plunging over Tutea’s Falls. Rewards are more plentiful to the east and south especially around the shattered 5km-long massif of Mount Tarawera. During one cataclysmic night of eruptions in 1886 this chain split in two, destroying the region’s first tourist attraction (the beautiful Pink and White Terraces), entombing the nearest settlement, Te Wairoa, now known as the Buried Village, and creating the Waimangu Volcanic Valley. It now ranks as one of the finest collections of geothermal features in the region alongside kaleidoscopic Wai-O-Tapu, with its daily triggered Lady Knox Geyser, boiling mud, and brilliantly coloured pools. Other magnificent geothermal areas around Rotorua include Kerosene Creek, which has the best free hot pools hereabouts, and Orakei Korako, which offers a peaceful geothermal experience. Meanwhile, the Whirinaki Forest Park presents great hiking and biking opportunities on the road to Lake Waikaremoana.