The original New Zealand tourist destination long before Queenstown and Milford Sound. In particular they came to visit the Pink and White Terraces, before they were destroyed by the eruption of Mt Tarawera in 1886. Even without them Rotorua, or Rotovegas as it is ironically called, remains one of the most popular places in the country to visit. It may not offer the up-market nightlife and snow-capped mountains of the South Island, but the geothermal sights are like little you are likely to have seen before.
Wai-O-Tapu is a highlight, an almost unbelievably varied and surreal geothermal wonderland, including the famous Lady Knox Geyser.
The Redwoods are a favourite spot for walking, running and mountain biking, dwarfed by the huge trees and expansive forest.
Government Gardens are home to the iconic Rotorua Museum, originally built as a bath house.
Te Wairoa Buried Village tells the fascinating story of the Pink and White Terraces, and includes what is left of the village buried by the same eruption that destroyed them.
The Green and Blue lakes are pleasant, but in a land filled with scenic lakes the edges of Lake Rotorua I found far more interesting, a free sampler of geothermal activity.
Apparently Singapore (and their population twice that of New Zealand) could fit in the mighty Lake Taupo. A popular holiday spot though for me lacking anything much to do, other than the average Taupo Museum and Art Gallery, the sizeable Waipunga and Waiarua Falls half way to Napier, and the standout power and fury of Huka Falls.
Randomly there’s also a DC3 by the McDonald’s…
Saved the least for last. There isn’t really anything much in Tokoroa other than some impressive wood carving, befitting New Zealand’s forestry capital. You’re only likely to end up there though if you’re on a long distance bus ride, as a key hub between Auckland and Wellington.