10 FABULOUS FREE THINGS TO DO IN ROTORUA Enter email for instant access
Layers, Layers, Layers...
Packing for the Rotorua weather is easy if you come prepared for four seasons, and no, I'm not joking. Read on and you'll see why.
Rotorua nestles snugly in the basin of a sunken caldera on the shores of Lake Rotorua - one of the
oldest permanent lakes in New Zealand. We're totally surrounded by hills, but not like the huge ones you find in, say, the likes of
Switzerland. The highest would be Mt Ngongotaha at
757m above sea-level. Rotorua itself sits about 280m above sea level.
Kuirau Park spring daffodils
It doesn't feel claustrophobic though. To give you an idea, the Rotorua Marathon course is around the lake so that's over 40km.
Because we're enclosed, I have to wonder if that's why the Rotorua
weather isn't as extreme as a lot of the other places in New Zealand.
Sure it gets windy and extremely wet at times but we don't get cyclones,
major floods or snowstorms, etc. Touch wood for luck.
In the summer it's usually hot and dry with the odd humid day/s thrown
in. It can get up to around 29℃ (84℉) briefly so it's not too
Rotorua summer weather
One thing I will stress is that you have to be sun smart in New Zealand
because the UV rays are deadly. And that's whether the sun is behind
the clouds or not.
Visitors, especially from the Northern hemisphere,
sometimes wind up in the emergency department because of sunburn. It blisters and turns into weeping, ulcerated sores. Extremely painful and often requiring medication. Talk about
spoiling a trip.
Nowadays, just being in a car with the sun landing
on exposed skin burns like hell. It even burns through denim. Tip: Covering your lap with a sunshade works to block it. When I went to Europe in 2010 I was amazed at how I could
go out without a hat and the sun actually felt gentle on my skin. So not
the case in NZ.
Make sure you have plenty of sunscreen, hats, glasses, long-sleeved
light tops etc. Anywhere that skin is exposed to UV rays pretty much
needs covering. The tops of the feet are a good place for getting
sunburnt as well… ouch.
Spring & Autumn
Autumn colours in Rotorua
In Spring and Autumn we can have really lovely mild/warm days but once
the sun goes down or behind a cloud, brrr, there can be a real nip in
If you're looking at travelling here around this time of year include
warm clothing and I mean warm. It's best to have lots of layers as you
can be stripping on and off at different times. Mind you, that can
happen in summer as well.
I'm a wuss when it comes to the cold anyway but when my four big, burly
brothers are throwing on layers I know that it's cold for everyone else
Winter is freezing full-stop. When the days are fine it can be
invigorating and crisp but when overcast, it's bitter. At the southern end of the city, icy
winds blast up from the Antarctic through the Hemo Gorge into the city basin - I probably exaggerate on the
description but that's me. Told you I'm a wuss.
Often, hard frosts make some of the roads treacherous
with black ice. These are usually the roads climbing out of Rotorua,
like SH5 heading North towards Auckland or SH30 in the easterly
direction of Whakatane.
SH30 heading west towards Tokoroa is another one to watch as well.
A snow-capped Mount Tarawera
A common local newspaper report in winter reads, "23 crashes in 4 days...
crashes were a good example of the hazards of hitting black ice on
frosty mornings and the importance of driving to conditions".
Other roads I would recommend being careful on in winter include
Tarawera Rd going out towards Lakes Tarawera, Tikitapu (Blue Lake) &
Rotokakahi (Green Lake) and Lake Okareka. Also Hamurana Rd around the back of Lake
Rotorua. Both these roads are extremely winding and
We sometimes get hard frosts on roads and footpaths in the central city itself making it slippery for both cars and pedestrians.
Once in while the surrounding hills get a light sprinkle of snow but that's about the extent of it.
Back in the late 60's, early 70's it snowed up on Mt Ngongotaha and practically everyone made their way up there to play because it was
such a novelty.
Rotorua Weather Breaking News 15/08/11
It snowed here today, woo hoo. Big, fat, flakes of snow. People were
running out of buildings to take photos and there was an air of such
excitement in the city. I was amazed at how happy people were.
I know if you come from a country where you get a lot of snow your
question will be, "what's the big deal?" Well, it's huge for us. It's
been five decades since we last had snow in the CBD (central business
district) the local paper said.
It even spread up North to Auckland and further although there were
arguments over whether it was snow or hail. It led the news on national TV, that's
how big a deal it was.
Ok, that's it for the snow, back to the Rotorua weather. I have already touched on NZ weather in general and hopefully this page has given you a good overview on what you can expect from the Rotorua weather itself.
"We are a family of four from Sydney Australia and love nature - bush to beach. We love your website and found your tips on things to do in Rotorua very valuable - exactly what we look for in destinations." Anita —Sydney
"Thank you Karen! I think you site is wonderful. We followed your ideas today for blue lake and green lake, and went to the Landing Cafe first, brilliant we would have missed Lake Tarawera otherwise and it is so beautiful and peaceful." Rosie
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"Awesome website all about Rotorua. Well done Karen Shelford." Amiria Tomoana - Global Traveller
"Yes, really worthwile information for those visiting Rotorua. Take it from someone who used it. Thank you, so much easier." Karen Hubbard - Sydney, Australia
your website is the best resource for planning a trip there that I have
encountered! It answers all of the questions you end up having after
reading other sites, and presents information in such a clear and
concise way. ... wish I'd encountered your site before printing off reams of info that will probably be whittled down to one page. ... hope the local government and tourism people realise what a great asset and ambassador they have in you! :P" Vicky Fairchild - Auckland, New Zealand