On my way from the Auckland airport, I asked my taxi driver what I should do while I'm here. I haven't done any research about the area (besides getting a flight and an AirBNB) up to that point. One of the places he said was a must-visit is Rotorua. I made a note of it. 

After my new New Zealand friend @saggis told me even more about Rotorua, and what I should do there, I made the trip last weekend! Here is what @saggis suggested for me as a first time visitor: 

Firstly its worth knowing a bit about the history of Rotorua. I grew up with these stories and they add a lot of context.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Tarawera

Stuff Ive done

Geothermal stuff is the main attraction to Rotovegas and you have two main options I only recommend doing one:

  • Waimangu - Which is this amazing valley with longer walks through bush, fewer people typically and a more serene setting. Theres also a boat ride which I thought was pretty neat and it you have the budget its worth doing. Take the whole afternoon for this one.  Crazy to think this area was created by the eruption in 1886.
  • Wai-O-Tapu - More straight to the point, the features are super close together but the environment is more touristy and not as lush. Its a bit more muddy and active. Only need a couple of hours. www.waiotapu.co.nz

Alternatively theres Kuirau Park in central Rotorua which has a lot of muddy features and its free! My pick would be Waimangu + Kuirau Park so you get the pretty / historical and the muddy.

I kinda think its compulsory to see a kiwi while in this country and the easiest / best way Ive done it is the kiwi encounter, its a pretty neat experience. However, not worth going to Rainbow Springs (the other part of the park) in my opinion. http://www.rainbowsprings.co.nz/247/kiwi/kiwi-encounter

Definitely have a scout out for vouchers online and at a tourist info spot. Theres heaps of brochures that shave down the cost of some of the attractions.

If you can get down to Taupo and loop back to Auckland its worth stopping by the Huka Falls and the Wairakei Terraces are worth a visit as theyre pretty much the best swimmable pools in the area. Alternatively theres some options in Rotorua (like this one) and a lot of the places to stay have their own hot pools.

Stuff I havent done

Apparently the number one thing to check out down there these days is http://canopytours.co.nz/ its really new but apparently a real must do. My parents did it a month or so ago and said it was one of the best things theyve done.

Theres also the luge, I cant vouch for it but apparently its fun if youre into that sorta thing and theres Hobbiton on the way at Matamata (not really my cup of tea but heaps of people love it).

I didn't get to do everything, but I'll write about what I actually got to do in the next few blog posts! Thanks @saggis for the amazing advice!