With options as diverse as top walking spots, some of the tastiest places to eat, night markets, kiwi sanctuary and more, our team have you covered. Check out the best of Rotorua and Tauranga as loved by us, the locals.
A good excuse to get out of town (Rotorua) for the day is to plan a walk up or around Mount Maunganui followed by an ocean swim and lunch on the beachfront, or head to Bayfair or Tauranga Crossing for some retail therapy.
On the way home to Rotorua, stop in at Okere Falls Café and store for coffee or beer, depending on the mood, and if you’re lucky, enjoy the live music outside. This spot is dearly loved by locals all year round.
You can’t beat doing part of the Tarawera trail (or the full thing if you have a boat to meet you at Hot Water Beach, or grab the water taxi) followed by coffee and a slice from the Buried Village’s Smith & Co café (no relation to me). It’s worth the small koha to wander down to the falls at the Buried Village as well – they are mesmerising – and to explore the museum and excavations. It really brings home how unique this part of the world is.
Another must do is the Lake Okareka horse trek, for impressive views from the trig station of the farm to Lake Okareka, Tarawera and over to Rotorua.
My favourite place to eat with kids in tow is Terrace Kitchen while the kids play on the balance bikes or in the play house – it has great coffee, cocktails and food.
Check out the new walking trails in Ngongotahā and Hamurana. They are particularly excellent for running, walking, riding, kids in buggies or on scooters, dogs on leads and everyone else in between – and on a nice day, the view just can’t be beaten! Stand Up Paddle boarding at, or from either of these locations, is also amazing.
Get in front of Pōhutu Geyser at Te Puia – it’s always a breath-taking moment seeing it erupt and can even be viewed when dining in the Pātaka Kai restaurant. Overlooking Pōhutu is truly an “only in New Zealand” experience.
And of course the Redwoods Treewalk at night is one of my most favourite spots to take out-of-towners – suitable for all ages and a completely different experience whether you go during the day or at night.
The Rainbow Mountain walk never bores me and guarantees to wow visitors with its panoramic views of the lakes and over to Mount Tarawera. The trail is the perfect length, and is convenient to Kerosene Creek for a hot soak afterwards.
One of my favourite dining experiences here (before I became a local) was foraging with Chef Charles Royal near Rotoiti, and you can also do that at the Wild Food Cooking School at Treetops in Rotoiti.
Tauranga in the summer is much more than just heading to the Mount or Pāpāmoa beaches.
Instead, pack your walking shoes and head to one of the amazing bush tracks around Tauranga. My go-to’s are:
- Otanewainuku Forest – you can head up to the trig (1hr 30min return) or pack your togs and head to Whataroa Falls (two hours return). Be warned – the water is COLD! This is a Kiwi sanctuary, so no dogs allowed.
- Puketoki Reserve is an easy walk for families and it’s also fantastic on a drizzly day as the canopy keeps you dry (dogs on leads welcome).
- Te Puna Quarry Park is also a great place with things to see and do all year round. With panoramic views, beautiful gardens and mature trees, ponds, butterflies and interactive musical instruments, it’s a playground for all ages (dogs on leads welcome).
An easy going stroll around Lake Tikitapu (Blue Lake) will reward you with stunning views of the lake and tracks. It’s free, suitable for all fitness levels and you can even grab a coffee from the Airsteam Café before your hikoi (there is a bin half way, or better yet, take your keep cup). Treat yourself to an icecream from the Top 10 Holiday Park after or pack your togs and have a post-walk dip!
My go-to visitor experience is the Rotorua Night Market. Although only running on a Thursday and weather dependant, it’s a real treat in the heart of the city that I make sure visitors know about. The local musicians provide a relaxing soundtrack to eat to, while the bustling streets laden with food and craft stalls ensures there is literally something for everyone.
Keep an eye on the Rotorua Nui Facebook page – there are always events happening, whether it’s a poetry slam, art gallery exhibition opening, outdoor music or show that showcases the talent of the city.
A trip over to Waihi Beach is always a treat – beautiful golden sand beach stretching for miles. If the surf’s a bit high, head down to Bowentown to visit the more sheltered ANZAC Bay. On the way home, stop in for a real fruit ice cream in Katikati at the Big Avocado (main road).
A highlight for our family is always strawberry picking and it doesn’t get much better than at Somerfields Berry Farm in Oropi (Tauranga). Delicious, huge berries and they often have their ice cream van there too. Or, if you’re heading to Whakatāne, then stop in at Julian’s Berry Farm and Café.
Something for the grownups (although children are catered for) is the Cider Factorie in Te Puna. Open Wednesday to Sunday’s with a selection of delicious meals or simply pop in for a tasting (their Lemony Pickett is fantastic).