Planning a Trip
By Plane -- Air New Zealand National and Link (tel. 0800/767-767 in NZ; www.airnewzealand.com) provide daily service to all other major centers. Super Shuttle (tel. 07/349-3444) provides daily transport to and from the airport, 15 minutes out of town, for around NZ$20 (US$14/£7.20).
By Coach (Bus) -- InterCity, Newmans, Magic Travellers, and Kiwi Experience all provide service to Rotorua. Contact The Bus Stop, 67 Fenton St. (tel. 07/348-179; fax 07/348-6044), for coach and ferry bookings throughout New Zealand.
By Car -- Centrally located Rotorua is only a 1-hour drive from the cities of Taupo, Hamilton, and Tauranga; a 3-hour drive from Auckland; and a 5-hour drive from Wellington. Roads in the area are excellent, but Rotorua is in the heart of the forestry industry, which means a heavy volume of large, fast-traveling logging trucks. Take care at all times.
Rotorua sits in the curve of Lake Rotorua's southwestern shore, spreading inland in a neat pattern. Fenton Street is the main drag and the main area for souvenir shops. It runs from the lake for 3.5km (2 miles) south to Whakarewarewa Village (just call it "Whaka," as the locals do), the area's most accessible thermal reserve. The center of town is not large. Tutanekai Street is the main shopping street; City Focus, under the sail-like structure, is in the middle of it all.
Note: Don't wander in Kuirau Park after dark. Make sure to remove all valuables from cars, and lock those cars, too.
City and suburban buses run approximately every hour on weekdays, less frequently on weekends. You'll find taxis at the visitor center and on Fenton Street, or you can call tel. 07/348-5079. If you need a car, call The Rental Car Centre, 14 Ti St. (tel. 07/349-3993).
Rotorua i-SITE Visitor Centre & Travel Office, 1167 Fenton St. (tel. 0800/768-678 in NZ, or 07/348-5179; fax 07/348-6044; www.rotoruanz.com), is open daily from 8am to 6pm in summer, 8am to 5:30pm in winter. It provides travel and sightseeing reservations, currency exchange, luggage storage, a cafe and restaurant, an excellent souvenir shop, and showers and toilets. The visitor center's guide booklets are an excellent value.
Travel information is also available at AA Travel Centre, 1121 Eruera St. (tel. 07/348-3069; fax 07/346-2034). The Redwoods Visitor Centre, Whakarewarewa Forest, Long Mile Road (tel. 07/350-0110; fax 07/350-0111; www.rdc.govt.nz), provides information on the extensive walking tracks in Whakarewarewa Forest and Redwood Grove. It's open weekdays 8:30am to 5:30pm (until 5pm in winter), and weekends 10am to 4pm. For more information on the area, check www.rotoruanz.com and www.rdc.govt.nz.
Pick up a free copy of Thermal Air, an excellent little publication listing activities, attractions, eateries, and events. The local newspaper, the Daily Post, also has event listings.
Sore Feet? -- A sheltered seat and a free, hot, thermal footbath are right outside the main entrance to the visitor center and bus stop. Go ahead and take your shoes off and soak your weary feet for a few minutes.
The post office, Hinemoa Street (tel. 07/347-7851), is open Monday through Friday from 7:30am to 5pm, Saturday 8am to 4pm, and Sunday 10am to 3pm. Thomas Cook, Fenton and Hinemoa streets (tel] 07/348-0640), is open Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm, Saturday 9:30am to 12:30pm. For Internet access, try The Cyber World, 1174 Haupapa St. (tel. 07/348-0088), or Cybershed, 1176 Pukuatua St. (tel. 07/349-4965). Nomads Cyber Café, 1195 Fenton St., near the visitor center (tel. 07/348-3288), also offers breakfast, lunch, and snacks.
The route of the Rotorua Marathon (tel./fax 07/348-8448; www.rotoruamarathon.co.nz) goes around Lake Rotorua. This very serious competition takes place in late April or early May. In early November, more than NZ$25,000 (US$17,750/£9,000) in prizes is up for grabs in the International Trout Fishing Tournament (tel. 07/332-3617). In late January, Opera in the Pa (tel. 07/348-9047) presents New Zealand's best young Maori, European, and Polynesian opera voices in Ohinemutu on the Lakefront. It's held every second year; the next show is in 2009.