Rotorua Weather

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.

Spring daffodils at Kuirau Park, Rotorua, NZ.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 uncomfortable.

Rotorua's summer weather is up and down.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

Rotorua weather can be lovely and mild in 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 the air.

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 as well.


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.

Rotorua weather is quite often unpredictable - snow on Mt Tarawera.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 get icy.

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.

Want to find out what the Rotorua weather is doing today? Click this link  go to the Met Service site for more indepth information.

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