Thursday, February 22, 2024

‘These Are a Few of my Favourite Things’: a Local’s Guide to Rotorua

By day, Jenna Ryan is a speech-language therapist for tamariki with disabilities but by night (and weekends), she’s an enthusiastic local for Rotorua and has designed an insider’s guide to our geothermal capital

I don’t know about you, but I am absolutely loving the fact I am now able to go road tripping and adventuring around Aotearoa. Nothing like being in lockdown for a gazillion days, the borders remaining closed for now and being a human that loves some adventure, I am so ready to explore more of this beautiful country we are lucky enough to call home!

I am super duper passionate about Rotorua and all the magic surrounding this city. I have created a bit of an insider’s guide to some of the absolute gems in my own backyard. A few of my favourite things (in no particular order) but jump on board for some of the absolute ‘must-dos’ when you’re planning a weekend retreat to Rotorua.

Rotorua is such an accessible playground. It is literally a hop, skip and a jump from so many major cities around New Zealand. It is super easy to jump in the car and road trip to Rotorua for an after-mahi getaway on a Friday afternoon. Whether you are wanting an action-packed weekend or some recharging of the batteries is more your jam. There really is something for everyone.  

Okere falls (Photos by Jenna Ryan)

Okere Falls
The Kaituna River is home to the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world: Tutea Falls at 7m high. Trust me, it’s quite the drop. There is a fantastic little walking trail that follows the Kaituna River with many great viewing spots. If you’re lucky enough, you might even catch a glimpse of some daredevils kayaking or rafting down this little piece of paradise. 

No adventure to Okere Falls would be complete without a cheeky caffeine and kai pit stop at the Okere Falls Store. This is my absolute favourite place for a cheeky beverage and something to eat. Whether you are after a coffee, vegan nachos, the BEST bacon and egg quiche ever, or a stein of German beer, then this is the place for you. This great little store stocks lots of locally sourced products too.  

Redwoods Forest (Photos by Jenna Ryan)

Whakarewarewa, Redwoods Forest
This most definitely is number one on my favourite things about living in Rotorua! This forest really does offer something for everyone. You only have to ask most locals and you will find that we likely all agree about the magic of the forest. There are many walking trails in the forest but also, Rotorua is a mountain biker’s dream. I am one of the few humans who reside in this city and don’t own a mountain bike (yet), but there are literally hundreds of kilometres of trails in the Whakarewarewa Forest. The great humans at Mountain Bike Rotorua have all the latest and greatest mountain bikes for hire, including e-bikes. I was lucky enough to experience the true MBR mountain biking experience last year. Tak and Tu Mutu (the brothers behind MBR) and some of the MBR whānau provided an incredible mountain biking experience – even for a seriously amateur human like me! All the banter, laughs and lessons. Be sure to have a yarn to the lads/ladies at MBR for all your mountain biking needs.

Rainbow mountain (Photos by Jenna Ryan)

There is no shortage of lakes surrounding Rotorua. Sixteen to be precise. Some absolute must visits are the Blue Lake, Lake Okareka and Lake Tarawera.

The Blue Lake has a great 5.5km walking/running trail around it. The views are spectacular. The Airstream Cafe is also the perfect place to enjoy a Flat White in heaven after you’ve trekked your way around the lake. Lake Okareka and Lake Tarawera are just down the road and it most definitely is worth paying a visit to these stunners.

Coffee and snacks
Rotorua has some magic little coffee shops for all your caffeination and adventure fuelling needs.

Some of my absolute go to’s are:
Zippy’s: this is one place that seriously has stood the test of time. They make a reliably good brew.

Grounded: Relatively new to the cafe scene in Rotorua, but this most definitely is one of my fave places for a cheeky coffee. The lovely couple running Grounded have created a magic space away from the chaos of town. Wholly Chocomole raw treats are available at this wee gem too.

Revolver: this little coffee shop is tucked away in Vetro (The Mediterranean Supermarket). They make a great brew and have plenty of delicious baked goods too.

Guidoughs: these legends have the most delicious baked goods in town (in my humble opinion). Whether it be a pie, doughnut or cinnamon scroll. Be sure to check out these guys’ delish baked goods. Three locations: Springfield Shops, Ranolf Street or you can be sure to pick up some treats of theirs at Secret Spot.

Secret Spot! (Photos by Jenna Ryan)

After a day of exploring and adventuring, the only place you’re going to want to park up and soak those tired and wary legs is at Rotorua’s best kept secret (well, not any more!) Secret Spot. This little haven is tucked away in the Waipa car park. Puarenga Stream flows on by. Views of the magic Redwood Forest. Is there anything better than soaking your tired limbs in a Shinny Dip (note the ‘h’ in shinny) whilst enjoying a cheeky beverage and yarns with your mates? Better still, why not book into one of Secret Spot’s magic cedar hot tubs. You can even enjoy a pint of your favourite Good George beer/cider or a cheeky glass of Mills Reef wine in the hot tub! Believe it or not, there is actually a buzzer you can press when you need a refill of your favourite beverage. Get out of here!

Spring Festival gosh, I do love a good dumpling. These guys seriously offer the best and their service is outstanding!

Yamato if you’re after some Japanese cuisine then look no further than Yamato. You can park up and watch the chef whipping up sushi. Honestly this place does the best Karaage Chicken.

Abracadabra All the greatest foods and there is a really cool wee beer garden out the back too. 

The Night Markets These are held on a Thursday night in the centre of town. There is an amazing selection of food stalls and trucks. It’s so worth rugging up in the middle of winter to be able to enjoy some delish local kai. The Home Grown Kitchen is my new fave for their scallops wrapped in bacon. Words can’t describe that taste explosion!

Intrepid Rotorua explorer Jenna and her sweet dog!

This most definitely is not sponsored. Just a passionate local wanting to make sure other Kiwis have the pleasure of exploring some of the magic on my own back door step in Rotorua. Hope to see you soon!

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