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Te Rotorua-nui-a-Kahumatamomoe  (Māori)
Sulphur City, Roto-Vegas
Tātau tātau
English: We together or We are one
Rotorua is located in New Zealand
Location in New Zealand
Country  New Zealand
Region Bay of Plenty
Territorial authority Rotorua Lakes Council
Settled by Māori c. 1350
Founded c. 1350
Borough status 1922
City status 1962
City status revoked 1989
Electorate Rotorua
 • Territorial 2,614.9 km2 (1,009.6 sq mi)
 • Urban
48.04 km2 (18.55 sq mi)
 • Metro
89.28 km2 (34.47 sq mi)
280 m (920 ft)
 (June 2023)
 • Territorial 78,200
 • Density 29.906/km2 (77.45/sq mi)
 • Urban
 • Urban density 1,226.1/km2 (3,175.5/sq mi)
 • Metro
 • Metro density 659.7/km2 (1,708.7/sq mi)
Demonym(s) Rotoruan
Time zone UTC+12 (NZST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC+13 (NZDT)
3010, 3015
Area code(s) 07
Local iwi Ngāti Whakaue, Te Arawa

Rotorua (;) is a city in the Bay of Plenty region of New Zealand's North Island. The city lies on the southern shores of Lake Rotorua, from which it takes its name. It is the seat of the Rotorua Lakes District, a territorial authority encompassing Rotorua and several other nearby towns. Rotorua has an estimated resident population of 58,900, making it the country's 12th largest urban area, and the Bay of Plenty's second largest urban area behind Tauranga.

Rotorua is a major destination for both domestic and international tourists; the tourism industry is by far the largest industry in the district. It is known for its geothermal activity, and features geysers – notably the Pohutu Geyser at Whakarewarewa – and hot mud pools. This thermal activity is sourced to the Rotorua Caldera, in which the town lies. Rotorua is home to the Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology.


The name Rotorua comes from Māori, the full name being Te Rotorua-nui-a-Kahumatamomoe; roto means lake and rua two – Rotorua thus meaning 'Second lake'. Kahumatamomoe was the uncle of the Māori chief Ihenga, the ancestral explorer of the Te Arawa. It was the second major lake the chief discovered, and he dedicated it to his uncle. It is the largest of a multitude found to the northeast, all connected with the Rotorua Caldera and nearby Mount Tarawera. The name can also mean the equally appropriate 'crater lake'.

The area was initially settled by Māori of the Te Arawa iwi. The first European in the area was probably Phillip Tapsell who was trading from the Bay of Plenty coast at Maketu from 1828. He later married into Te Arawa and became highly regarded by them. Missionaries Henry Williams and Thomas Chapman visited in 1831 and Chapman and his wife established a mission at Te Koutu in 1835. This was abandoned within a year but Chapman returned in 1838 and established a second mission at Mokoia Island.

The lakeshore was a prominent site of skirmishes during the New Zealand Wars of the 1860s. A "special town district" was created in the 1883, to promote Rotorua's potential as a spa destination. The town was connected to Auckland with the opening of the Rotorua Branch railway and commencement of the Rotorua Express train in 1894, resulting in the rapid growth of the town and tourism from this time forward. Rotorua was established as a borough in 1922, elected its first mayor in 1923, and declared a city in 1962 before becoming a District in 1979.

New Zealand before 1913
Pictured as a bath house in the early 20th century
Hot springs present in much of Rotorua
2001-01 Rotorua
Māori meeting house in Rotorua, January 2001
Skyline of Rotorua
A panoramic view of Rotorua taken at the top of Mt Ngongotaha, December 2015



The area of Rotorua has a relatively high altitude, measuring up to 290m or 950 ft. The Rotorua region enjoys a mild temperate climate. Rotorua is situated inland from the coast and is sheltered by high country to the south and east of the city, resulting in less wind than many other places in New Zealand. During the winter months June – August temperatures can drop well below 0 °C and in recent years Rotorua witnessed snow fall in 2011, the first time in over 50 years.

Climate data for Rotorua (1981–2010)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 22.8
Daily mean °C (°F) 17.7
Average low °C (°F) 12.6
Average precipitation mm (inches) 92.7
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 8.2 7.4 8.5 8.2 9.5 11.2 11.0 11.6 11.3 10.9 9.4 10.0 117.0
Average relative humidity (%) 78.8 81.4 81.5 83.4 87.1 87.5 87.3 85.9 81.6 79.7 77.2 78.9 82.5
Mean monthly sunshine hours 242.9 205.9 199.7 170.5 145.1 119.1 130.7 152.1 155.1 190.8 200.1 215.8 2,127.8
Source: NIWA Climate Data


Fenton Park, Glenholme, Ohinemutu, Owhata, Mangakakahi, Western Heights, Westbrook, Fordlands, Springfield, Tihi-Ōtonga, Lynmore, Victoria, Pukehangi, Kawaha Point, Ngongotaha, Hamurana, Tikitere, Tarawera, Okareka, Koutu, Hillcrest, Utuhina, Whakarewarewa, Ngapuna, Holdens Bay, Hannahs Bay, Horohoro.

Geothermal areas

Tikitere Mud Pool n
Mud pool, Tikitere ("Hell's Gate"), Rotorua.
Rotorua PoW
The Prince of Wales Feathers thermal spring erupting

Thermal activity is at the heart of much of Rotorua's tourist appeal. Geysers and bubbling mud pools, hot thermal springs and the Buried Village (Te Wairoa) — so named after it was buried by the 1886 Mount Tarawera eruption— are within easy reach of Rotorua.

In Kuirau Park, to the west end of Rotorua, hot bubbling mud pools dot the park. Visitors can soak their feet in hot pools.

Rotorua has the nickname Sulphur City, because of the hydrogen sulphide emissions, which gives Rotorua a "rotten eggs" smell, as well as rotten-rua combining its legitimate name and the rotten smell prevalent.

The especially pungent smell in the central-east 'Te Ngae' area is due to the dense sulphur deposits located next to the southern boundary of the Government Gardens, in the area known as 'Sulphur Point'.


The Rotorua region has 17 lakes, known collectively as the Lakes of Rotorua. Fishing, waterskiing, swimming and other water activities are popular in summer. The lakes are also used for event venues; Rotorua hosted the 2007 World Waterski Championships and Lake Rotorua was the venue for the World Blind Sailing Championships in March 2009. Lake Rotorua is also used as a departure and landing point for float planes.

Other activities

Rotorua is also home to botanical gardens and historic architecture. Known as a spa town and major tourist resort since the 1800s, many of its buildings hint at this history. Government Gardens, close to the lakeshore at the eastern edge of the town, are a particular point of pride. The Rotorua Museum of Art and History is housed in the large Tudor-style bath house building while the Art Deco style Blue Baths, noted for their embrace of mixed sex bathing in the 1930s, remain open today.

Another of Rotorua's attractions is mountain biking. Whakarewarewa Forest was listed as one of the Top 8 locations globally by Red Bull Magazine in 2012.

The Rotorua Pistol club is among the largest in the Southern Hemisphere and hosted the 2013 Australasian IPSC Handgun Championship.

The Kaituna River, 15 minutes drive north east of the CBD provides class 5 whitewater kayaking and rafting through a spectacular tree lined gorge.

The region is home to 16 lakes. These are popular for recreation such as boating and fishing. Several of the lakes are stocked for sports fishing with trout from the Fish and Game New Zealand hatchery at Ngongotaha.


The Rotorua urban area, as defined by Statistics New Zealand, covers 48.04 km2 (18.55 sq mi) and incorporates 26 statistical areas. It has an estimated population of 58,900 as of June 2023.

The Rotorua urban area had a usual resident population of 54,204 at the 2018 New Zealand census, an increase of 5,289 people (10.8%) since the 2013 census. There were 26,211 males and 27,993 females, giving a sex ratio of 0.936 males per female. Of the total population, 12,366 people (22.8%) were aged up to 15 years, 11,052 (20.4%) were 15 to 29, 22,980 (42.4%) were 30 to 64, and 7,809 (14.4%) were 65 or older.

In terms of ethnicity, 59.2% were European/Pākehā, 42.3% were Māori, 6.2% were Pacific peoples, 11.5% were Asian, and 1.5% were other ethnicities (totals add to more than 100% since people could identify with multiple ethnicities).



Rotorua is served by state highways 5, 30, and 30A, and the Thermal Explorer Highway touring route, with state highways 33 and 36 terminating on the outskirts of the town.

State Highway 5, running concurrently with the Thermal Explorer Highway, is the main north–south route through Rotorua, bypassing the town centre to the west. North of the town at Ngongotahā, State Highway 36 splits off to provide a route to Tauranga via Pyes Pa, while State Highway 5 turns westward, connecting to State Highway 1 at Tīrau and providing the main route into Rotorua from Hamilton and Auckland. To the south, State Highway 5 provides the main route from Taupō, Hawke's Bay, Manawatu, and Wellington.

State Highway 30 runs southwest to northeast through the town. It enters the town in the southwest (running concurrently with SH 5), before crossing the southern suburbs to the shore of Lake Rotorua east of the town centre. It then runs through the suburb of Te Ngae, before splitting off SH 33 to continue eastwards.

State Highway 30A runs northwest to southeast, connecting State Highways 5 and 30 with each other via the town centre.


Rotorua has a local bus service, with 11 routes under the Baybus brand, serving the urban area, mostly at half hourly intervals, operated by Reesby Buses. Bike racks were introduced in 2017 and Bee cards for fares on 27 July 2020. Trial commuter services between Rotorua and Tauranga are running in each direction until the end of 2021. The city is also served by InterCity and services to local tourist sites.


Edwin Robertson, who died aged 74 in 1931, started with pack horses in 1869 and ran coaches from 1873. In 1902 the Tauranga route was sold and became Robertson & Co, then, about 1903, Rotorua Motor Coaching Co. Ltd. In 1904 Hot Lakes Transport, which ran trips to Taupo, Waiotapu and all the lakes, and Rotorua Motor Coaching added motor cars to their fleets of coaches. In 1905 E. Robertson & Co moved from Ohinemutu to the new town, close to the new railway station, which remained the main stop until InterCity moved to their stop from Hinemoa / Fenton Street to the Tourism Office in 1995. The last coach ran in 1919. When Hot Lakes Transport's assets were sold in 1920, they had 10 coaches and 3 motor cars. In September 1920 Rotorua Motor Transport Co. was formed and took over Hot Lakes Transport Co. and Rotorua Motor Coaching Co, continuing with similar services. In 1926 a consortium of local operators formed Rotorua Bus Co. During 1922 Kusab's transport company became K Motors, which was taken over by the railways in 1938. Rotorua Motor Transport and Rotorua Bus Co followed in 1940 and all became part of New Zealand Railways Road Services.


Rotorua Regional Airport is located 9 km (6 mi) northeast of the city centre, off State Highway 30. Air New Zealand provides daily turbo-prop flights between Rotorua and Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch airports. Previously Qantas also operated Boeing 737 aircraft from Christchurch, but upon their departure from domestic flights in New Zealand this was discontinued.

Scenic and chartered flights in both helicopters and float planes are operated by Volcanic Air who are based on Rotorua's lake front.

From 2009 to 2015 there was also an international link, with direct Sydney to Rotorua flights.


Rotorua is connected to the rail network by the Rotorua Branch line from Putāruru. Up until 2001, passenger trains ran from Auckland to Rotorua via Hamilton daily using Silver Fern railcars, terminating north of the town centre at Koutu (the original station on Amohau Street was closed and relocated to Koutu in 1989). However, owing to poor advertising of the service and the location of the station being a 15-minute walk from the town centre in an industrial area, passenger services stopped in October 2001. Freight services on the line declined over the decades up until the nightly freight service stopped in 2000, largely due to a continual move of freight and passengers onto road transport using ever-improving highways in the region. The line is currently disused.

Sister cities

Rotorua has four sister cities:



Rotorua is home to the central campus of Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology, which provides a range of Certificate, Diploma and a limited number of degree-level programmes. The largest programmes on offer are Te Reo Māori (Māori language), nursing, forestry, business, computing, tourism and hospitality. Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology is the 3rd largest tertiary education institution in New Zealand with campuses throughout the Bay of Plenty region.


Rotorua has five secondary schools:

  • John Paul College, a co-educational, state-integrated Catholic school for Years 7–13 with about 1200 students
  • Rotorua Boys' High School, a state boys school for Years 9–13 with about 1000 students
  • Rotorua Girls' High School, a state girls school for Years 9–13 with about 600 students
  • Rotorua Lakes High School serving the eastern suburbs. A co-educational state school for Years 9–13 with about 700 students
  • Western Heights High School serving the western suburbs. A co-educational state school for Years 9–13 with about 1200 students

Students can also attend Te Rangihakahaka Centre for Science and Techbnology, a Māori- and English-medium special character school from Years 1-10. It currently has around 100 students. Students here need to attend a mainstream secondary school or Kura Kaupapa Māori for their senior secondary schooling.

Kura Kaupapa Māori (Māori language immersion schools)

Rotorua has four Kura Kaupapa Māori:

  • Te Wharekura o Ngāti Rongomai years 0-13 with about 115 students in eastern Rotorua
  • Te Kura Kaupapa Māori O Te Koutu years 0–13 with about 240 students in western Rotorua
  • Te Kura Kaupapa Māori O Ruamata years 0–13 with about 240 students in semi-rural eastern Rotorua
  • Te Kura Kaupapa Māori O Hurungaterangi years 0–8 with about 80 students in central Rotorua

Notable people

See also Category:People from Rotorua

  • Valerie Adams, Olympic shot putter
  • Steven Adams, basketball player
  • Israel Adesanya, UFC mixed martial artist
  • Michael Barker, drummer
  • Jean Batten, aviator
  • Sam Bewley, Olympic cyclist
  • Manu Bennett, actor
  • Trent Boult, New Zealand cricketer
  • Scott Curry, All Blacks 7s, Bay of Plenty 7s
  • Cliff Curtis, actor
  • Julian Dean, road racing cyclist
  • Mike Delany, rugby union player, All Black
  • Dame Susan Devoy, squash player
  • Tom Donnelly, All Black, rugby union player
  • Alan Duff, writer
  • Gary Jeshel Forrester, musician, writer, academic
  • Jack Foster, Olympic marathon runner
  • Tony Gordon, rugby league player and coach
  • Bevan Hari, hockey player
  • Dylan Hartley, rugby union player (For the English National Team.)
  • Tame Iti, maori activist
  • David Kosoof, Olympic hockey player
  • Danny Lee, professional golfer
  • Dennis List, poet and writer
  • Angus Hikairo Macfarlane, educator
  • Steve McDowall, All Black
  • Hinematau McNeill (also writing as Naomi Te Hiini) academic and treaty negotiator
  • Jon Mark, Musician. solo artist and co-founder of Mark-Almond
  • Tony Marsh, rugby union player (for French national team)
  • Elizabeth Marvelly, soprano
  • Liam Messam, rugby union player (for Waikato and NZ)
  • Sir Howard Morrison, entertainer
  • Temuera Morrison, actor.
  • Craig Newby, All Black
  • Caleb Ralph, All Black
  • William Ripia, rugby union player (Wellington Hurricanes, Western Force, Bay of Plenty, Otago Highlanders, Maori All Black)
  • Joe Royal, rugby union player (Bay of Plenty Steamers and Māori All Blacks)
  • Ben Sandford, Olympic men's skeleton racer
  • Wayne "Buck" Shelford, former All Black
  • Miriama Smith, actress
  • Sir Peter Tapsell, politician
  • Ngahuia Te Awekotuku, academic, scholar activist, Emeritus Professor
  • Sir Gordon Tietjens, New Zealand and Samoan Sevens rugby coach
  • Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, rugby league player (Sydney Roosters and New Zealand Kiwis)
  • Dean Whare, rugby league player (Penrith Panthers and New Zealand Kiwis)

See also

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