Although the major thermal areas and Maori culture remain very popular, Mount Tarawera now plays a big part in Rotorua tourism. It has a strong mystical history for the Maori, and I keep hearing rave reports about four-wheel-drive and fly-over crater tours. If your time is short, the top must-see/must-do attractions are the Te Puia; Rotorua Museum; either of the geothermal reserves, Waiotapu or Waimangu; and a scenic flight over Mount Tarawera. This is easy to manage in 2 days. Visit the museum first or last for a comprehensive overview of Mount Tarawera’s role. And pick up the Passport to Rotorua’s Finest Attractions brochure from the visitor center—it details the bus service that frequents 18 leading attractions.
Saving on the Sights -- Check the visitor center or its website (www.rotoruanz.com) for the latest Rotorua Hot Deals (www.rotoruahotdeals.com). New packages and deals are added regularly throughout the year, but typically include Tamaki Tours, Polynesian Spa, Agrodome, Skyline Skyrides, and many other star attractions and activities. Rotorua Adventure Combos (tel. 0800/338-786 in NZ, or 07/357-2236; www.rotoruacombos.com) also combines many of the city's leading attractions in well-priced packages; and Rotorua 5 Star Super Pass (tel. 07/348-5179; www.rotorua5star.co.nz) gives you good deals on access to Polynesian Spa, Skyline Skyrides, and Te Puia.
Sacred Lake -- Of the 16 major lakes in the area, most are ideal for swimming and watersports - except Lake Rotokakahi, the Green Lake. This lake is tapu (sacred) to the Maori and, therefore, off-limits for swimming, boating, and fishing.