A Travel Price Comparison for New Zealand Wellington vs. Rotorua for Families, Couples, Backpackers, and Attractions

Should you visit Wellington or Rotorua?

Which is cheaper to visit? Which is more expensive for vacation?

Should I visit Wellington or Rotorua? This is a common question asked by many travelers. By figuring out which city has activities that align with your interests along with knowing which is more affordable, you'll understand where you can get more bang for your buck. So, let's dive into the details and the data, which all comes from actual travelers.

Wellington

Wellington is a laid-back, funky, and compact city. It's also popular because of the museums, nightlife, and food.

Rotorua

Rotorua is a cultural, natural, and world-renowned town. The beauty of this spot is also one of the main reasons why visitors come. Visitors also love the hiking, shopping, and museums.

Wellington and Rotorua: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Active nightlife
  • Popular beach
  • Good for hiking
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Good for students
Things to Consider
  • Less popular with couples
Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Active nightlife
  • Good for hiking
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Impressive beauty


Is there more to do in Wellington or Rotorua?

Travelers will usually find more to do in Wellington than Rotorua, as it is bigger with more sights, attractions, and activities for visitors. Wellington is more popular for its nightlife, beaches, and shopping, while Rotorua is known for its museums, hiking, and impressive beauty. Wellington is popular for its waterfront promenade, quirky cafe culture, and relaxing beaches. It is also home to Zealandia Ecosanctuary. Rotorua is popular for its geothermal activity, Maori cultural influence, and its role in the famous Lord of the Rings movies.

How is Wellington different from Rotorua?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

Let's take a look at the differences and similarities between Rotorua and Wellington. Then, you can decide for yourself which place is better for your next trip.

Are the Museums and Historical Sights Better in Wellington or Rotorua?

Wellington
Rotorua

Rotorua is a very popular place for its museums and history. Also, Wellington is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for its museums and landmarks.

Rotorua offers many unique museums, sights, and landmarks that will make for a memorable trip. The area is filled with opportunities to learn about the Maori culture. The Maori village of Whakarewarewa is a highlight and you should also visit Te Wairoa. Fans of Lord of the Rings won't want to miss Hobbiton either. Finally, Rotorua Museum well worth a visit.

If you're looking for an educational opportunity, there are a decent number of museums and historical sights around Wellington. As the capital city, you'll find a number of museums and sights around town. Check out the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, the Beehive, the Wellington Museum, and the City Gallery.


Is the Food Better in Wellington or Rotorua? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

Wellington
Rotorua

Both Wellington and Rotorua offer a number of excellent restaurants to choose from.

Wellington has a huge number of terrific restaurants. There are waterfront restaurants and a vibrant cafe scene around town. You'll also find local markets and many diverse eateries that you can explore.

Dining out in Rotorua is an experience not to be missed. There's a wide selection of culinary options in the area that include steambox (food prepared with the geothermal heat), and hāngī, which is a traditional Maori cooking technique. Many restaurants also make use of the local fruit, vegetables, and meats.

Is Wellington or Rotorua Better for Nightlife?

Wellington
Rotorua

Wellington is an excellent place to visit for its evening party scene. Also, Rotorua is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for nightlife.

Wellington has a lively atmosphere and nightlife is popular here. The best nightlife scene is found along Courtenay Place. There you'll find nightclubs, pubs, and cocktail bars. Cuba Street is another fun area with a bit more of a local vibe, and the waterfront is another great nightlife district in the city.

Rotorua has an active nightlife scene for those who seek it out. You'll find the best concentration of bars and restaurants around Tutankei Street, which is often referred to as "Eat Street".

Is Wellington or Rotorua Better for Beaches?

Wellington
Rotorua

Wellington is an excellent place to visit for the beach. However, Rotorua is not a beach destination.

The beaches at Wellington attract visitors from all over. There are nice beaches within walking distance of the city center. There are also beaches that are well worth the drive if you're looking to get a bit out of town. In the summer months, there are swimming beaches, and year around they have nice views and a good atmosphere.

Rotorua is not a beach destination.


Is Wellington or Rotorua Better for Hiking?

Wellington
Rotorua

Rotorua is a very popular place for its hiking trails. Also, Wellington is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for its hiking experiences.

Many visitors explore the nearby hiking trails while visiting Rotorua. The area is filled with beautiful walking trails that take you by lakes, volcanoes, and geothermal hot springs. A favorite route in the area is Tarawera Trail, which is 15 kilometers long and ends at a natural hot water beach.

Many people include a hike when visiting Wellington. The area has rolling hills and beautiful coastlines that are filled with walking trails and scenic views. Some of the more popular trails in the area are the Red Rocks walk and the City-to-Sea walk.

Is the Shopping Better in Wellington or Rotorua?

Wellington
Rotorua

Wellington is an excellent place to visit for its shopping areas. Also, Rotorua is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for shopping.

Many visitors explore the shopping areas in Wellington. For the city's best shopping, head to the "Golden Mile". This is the area defined by Lambton Quay, Willis Street, Manners Street and Courtenay Place. There are boutique designers and high end fashion outlets throughout the area. The city also has many great markets and local shopping areas.

Rotorua is a great destination for shopping. You'll find stores and galleries selling art and crafts around the main town center.

Is Wellington or Rotorua Better for Families?

Wellington
Rotorua

Rotorua is a must-visit destination for its kid-friendly activities. Also, Wellington is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for its family-friendly activities.

As it has a large number of activities for kids, Rotorua is a very family-friendly destination. The geothermal activity is fascinating for kids and adults alike. There are also many activities that will teach kids about the Maori culture and for animal lovers, there are farms and wildlife tours. Lord of the Rings fans won't want to miss Hobbiton, and there are many thrilling activities in the area such as white water rafting.

Wellington is known to be a very family-friendly place to visit. There's the Wellington Zoo as well as Island Bay Marine Education Centre, both of which are great for animal-lovers. Waitangi Park is a nice park where kids can run around and play, and if you're looking for something indoors, head to the Space Place at Carter Observatory. If everyone needs some down time, there's always the beach with is fun to hang out at.


Is Wellington or Rotorua Better for Couples?

Wellington
Rotorua

Rotorua is a must-visit destination for its romantic activities. Also, Wellington is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for couples.

Rotorua makes for a terrific place to visit as a couple. The unique environment and beautiful natural setting make this a wonderful honeymoon destination. Couples will appreciate the geothermal activity, beautiful walking trails, and diverse outdoor activities. There's also horseback riding, hot springs, and helicopter rides.

Wellington is a good city for couples to visit. The botanical gardens are beautiful to explore, and there is also a bird sanctuary in the area as well. Couple's will also enjoy the many nice restaurants and beautiful outdoor space around town.

Is Wellington or Rotorua Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?

Wellington
Rotorua

Rotorua is a must-visit destination for backpackers and budget travelers. Also, Wellington is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for backpackers.

With so many budget-friendly offerings, Rotorua is extremely popular for backpackers. Well established on the backpacker trail, there are plenty of hostels in the area and tons of activities that backpackers will enjoy.

Wellington is a very popular city for backpackers and budget travelers. Located on the south side of the North Island, many backpackers use this city as a gateway to the South Island. There are many hostels around town and other fellow backpackers to hang out with.

Is Wellington or Rotorua Better for Students?

Wellington
Rotorua

Wellington is a city with good options for its student-friendly activities. However, Rotorua is not popular with students.

Plenty of students visit Wellington. The locals are friendly and welcoming, and the atmosphere is a nice setting for students.

Rotorua is not popular with students.


Is Wellington or Rotorua Better for Public Transit? Which Is Easier to Get Around Without a Car?

Wellington
Rotorua

Wellington is an excellent place to visit for times when you don't have a car. Also, Rotorua is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for its public transit.

Many visitors use the public transit system in Wellington. There are city buses, trains, and ferries that are popular with tourists and locals alike.

You'll find some public transit in Rotorua, but it may not be enough to take you everywhere. There are buses and shuttles that travel around town and through the area.

Is Wellington or Rotorua a more walkable city?

Wellington
Rotorua

Wellington is an excellent place to visit for its ease of walking around. Also, Rotorua is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for its walkability.

Wellington is a very walkable destination. This is one of New Zealand's most walkable cities and it has a compact city center.

Rotorua is somewhat walkable. The town itself is fairly walkable but if you want to get into the surrounding areas, having a vehicle provides the most flexibility.

For even more information, also check out Is Wellington Worth Visiting? and Is Rotorua Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in Rotorua or Wellington?

How long in Wellington or Rotorua?

Visitors can find plenty of fun things to do in both Wellington and Rotorua. In our opinion, Wellington has more to see and do, so we recommend that you spend more time in Wellington than Rotorua. However, 2-3 days is a good amount of time to spend in either destination.

Families should spend more time in Rotorua than Wellington. Because of the many family-friendly attractions and fun things to do for kids in Rotorua, it's a great place to visit with the whole family.

Couples should spend more time in Rotorua than Wellington. You'll find plenty of romantic sights and fun activities in Rotorua that are perfect for a weekend getaway or a longer couple's trip.


  • How many days in Wellington or Rotorua? Ideal Length of Stay
    Wellington 2-3 
    Rotorua 2-3

One day in Wellington or Rotorua?

In Wellington, you'll find nightlife and food. You'll find plenty of activities on the beach. This city offers something for everyone. One day is usually not enough time for a trip here as there is plenty to do.

With museums and nightlife around the diverse town of Rotorua, there's plenty to do. Anyone can find something fun to do here. Make sure you spend some time hiking while you're in the area. But since there are so many activities, you'll likely want to spend more than one day exploring.


A weekend in Wellington or Rotorua?

In Wellington, you'll find food and shopping. The length of your trip often depends on your style of travel. A weekend here is typical. Most people come for the beaches. A weekend is a great amount of time to relax and see the many things that Wellington has to offer.

With nightlife and food around the destination of Rotorua, there's plenty to do. Many travelers plan to spend time hiking while in the area. It offers something for everyone. Many people spend a weekend here. In a weekend, you should have a good grasp of this town.

Five days in Wellington or Rotorua?

Wellington is a great place to explore. Many visitors spend time at the beach while visiting the area. Five days is more than enough time to enjoy everything. Take some day trips to nearby places to fill the extra days. Anyone can find something fun to do here.

Rotorua, a popular town, is full of activities for travelers. Hiking can easily take up a good amount of your time here, too. Most people find that five days is more than enough time to see everything. Your budget might influence how long you stay.

A week in Wellington or Rotorua?

It's hard to know how much time to spend in Wellington. Many people enjoy the museums and nightlife when visiting Wellington. People usually spend lots of time at the beach. One week may feel like too much time unless you plan to do a lot of relaxing.

Rotorua is a popular place that is full of things to see and experience. One week is plenty of time to see everything, even with extra days to spare. It has many unique tourist attractions and fascinating things to do.


For some great organized tour ideas, see Tours for Outdoor and Nature Lovers in New Zealand, The Best Adventure Tours to New Zealand, The Best Eco Tours in New Zealand, and The Best Thrill-Seeking Tours in New Zealand.


Which place is cheaper, Rotorua or Wellington?

These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.

The average daily cost (per person) in Wellington is $103, while the average daily cost in Rotorua is $93. These costs include accommodation (assuming double occupancy, so the traveler is sharing the room), food, transportation, and entertainment. While every person is different, these costs are an average of past travelers in each destination. What follows is a categorical breakdown of travel costs for Wellington and Rotorua in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Wellington $60
    Rotorua $48
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Wellington $120
    Rotorua $96
Compare Hotels in Wellington and Rotorua

Looking for a hotel in Wellington or Rotorua? Prices vary by location, date, season, and the level of luxury. See below for options and compare which is best for your budget and travel style.

Hotels in Wellington


Hotels in Rotorua


Kayak helps you find the best prices for hotels, flights, and rental cars for destinations around the world. Compare prices for multiple destinations when planning your next trip.


Our Analysis
We've analyzed the average and typical hotel prices based on guest reviews, star ratings, and hotel amenities here: Wellington Hotel Prices and Rotorua Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Wellington $12
    Rotorua $5.01

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Wellington

Also for Wellington, here are a few examples of actual transportation services:

  • Wētā Workshop Experience with Guided Transfers: $61
  • Wellington Airport Transfer to Wellington Hotels and Vice versa: $76
  • Wellington Airport (WLG) to Wellington - Arrival Private Transfer: $28
  • Private Transfer with Wellington Dial a Driver: $73
  • Private Transfer from Wellington hotels to Wellington Cruise Port: $26
  • Private Transfer from Wellington Cruise Port to Wellington Hotels: $26
  • Private Airport Transfer: $63
  • Departure Transfer: Wellington Central City Centre Hotels to Wellington Airport: $13
  • Arrival Transfer: Wellington Airport to Central Wellington City Centre Hotels: $13

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Rotorua

Also for Rotorua, here are a few examples of actual transportation services:

  • Rotorua to Auckland Afternoon Transfer with Waitomo Glow Worms: $181

Is it cheaper to fly into Wellington or Rotorua?

Prices for flights to both Rotorua and Wellington change regularly based on dates and travel demand. We suggest you find the best prices for your next trip on Kayak, because you can compare the cost of flights across multiple airlines for your prefered dates.





Food
  • Food Meals for one day
    Wellington $29
    Rotorua $29
Typical Food Prices in Wellington

For Wellington, here are some examples of average food and meal prices for travelers:


  • Dinner
    $8.91

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Wellington

For Wellington, here are some samples of tours and activities related to meals and dining experiences:

  • Walking Food Tour Of Wellington: $151
  • A Taste Of Wellington Food Tour (half Day): $185

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Rotorua

For Rotorua, here are some samples of tours and activities related to meals and dining experiences:

  • Mitai Maori Village: Cultural Experience and Dinner Buffet: $91
  • Te Pa Tu Māori Cultural Experience with Dinner: $153

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Wellington $16
    Rotorua $34

Tours and Activities in Wellington

For Wellington, here are a few prices for actual activities, tours, and tickets provided by various companies:

  • 30 Mins Lamborghini Supercar Passenger Experience: $133
  • 5 hour Wellington City Heights Shared tour: $91
  • A Taste of Kapiti - Kapiti Foodie Delights Tour: $288
  • Commentated Harbour Tour: $41
  • Commentated Harbour Tour: $42
  • From Cave to Coast Wellington Highlights Tour: $118
  • From Source to Sea Remutaka Mountain Bike Cycle Tour: $103
  • From Half-Day Foodie Tour of the Wairarapa: $104
  • From Taste Buds Tour of Petone: $163
  • Full Day Lord of the Rings Tour: $172
  • Full Day Tour of Wellington: $172
  • Full-Day Wellington Self-Guided Electric Bike Tour: $51

Typical Entertainment Prices in Rotorua

Below are a few sample prices from actual travelers for Rotorua's activities, tours, and tickets:


  • Lunch Out for Two
    $27

Tours and Activities in Rotorua

For Rotorua, here are a few prices for actual activities, tours, and tickets provided by various companies:

  • Agrodome Farm Experience including Farm Show and Farm Tour - Rotorua: $30
  • Cultural Experience & Seasonal Māori Cuisine at Te Pā Tū : $157
  • From Hobbiton Movie Set Tour with Festive Lunch: $153
  • From Wai O Tapu & Waimangu Eco Thermal Morning Tour: $90
  • From Wai-O-Tapu, Waimangu and Te Puia Full-Day Tour: $191
  • Geothermal Adults Only Mineral Bathing - Pavilion Pools Bathing Ticket: $27
  • Geothermal Lakeside Bathing Experience - Deluxe Lake Spa: $45
  • Geothermal Mineral Baths Experience: Pavilion Pools for 12+: $26
  • Hells Gate Mud Bath and Sulphur Spa Experience: $50
  • Hobbiton Day Tour from Rotorua with lunch at Hobbiton: $156
  • Kaituna River: 3.5-Hour White Water Sledging Experience: $76
  • Kaituna River: Whitewater Rafting Experience: $64

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Wellington $12
    Rotorua $12

Sample the Local Flavors in Wellington

Also in Wellington, these are the prices for nightlife and alcohol related activities from various tour providers:

  • Wellington Craft Brewery Half Day Tour: $93
  • Wellington Craft Brewery Half-Day Guided Tour with Tastings: $94
  • 5 hour Martinborough shared Chefs Wine Tour with Gourmet lunch: $139
  • Martinborough Full Day Wine Tour: $169
  • 1/2 Day Martinborough Private Chefs wine tastings tour with lunch: $242
  • Chefs Private Martinborough wine tour with Gourmet Lunch: $353

Typical Alcohol Prices in Rotorua

Below are a few samples from actual travelers for alcohol and nightlife costs in Rotorua:


  • Bottle of Wine
    $11


When comparing the travel costs between Wellington and Rotorua, we can see that Wellington is more expensive. However, the two cities are actually relatively comparable in price, as the difference is somewhat minimal. Generally, this means that you could travel with generally the same travel style and level of luxury in each place. Since both cities are in Pacific, it's no surprise that their costs are relatively close, as many destinations here have somewhat similar travel prices overall.

If you're trying to decide if either of these two destinations are within your price range, also see Is Wellington Expensive? and Is Rotorua Expensive?.


Which is Bigger, Wellington or Rotorua?

Wellington has a larger population, and is about 6 times larger than the population of Rotorua. When comparing the sizes of Wellington and Rotorua, keep in mind that a larger population does not always imply the destination has more attractions or better activities. So, always research the type of place that you want to visit along with the activities and attractions that interest you.


When is the best time to visit Wellington or Rotorua?

Both destinations experience a temperate climate with four distinct seasons. And since both cities are in the southern hemisphere, summer is in January and winter is in July.

Should I visit Wellington or Rotorua in the Summer?

Both Rotorua and Wellington are popular destinations to visit in the summer with plenty of activities. Many visitors come to Wellington in the summer for the beaches, the hiking, and the family-friendly experiences. Also, most visitors come to Rotorua for the hiking and the family-friendly experiences during these months.

In the summer, Wellington is a little warmer than Rotorua. Typically, the summer temperatures in Wellington in January average around 18°C (64°F), and Rotorua averages at about 12°C (54°F).

In January, Wellington usually receives more rain than Rotorua. Wellington gets 61 mm (2.4 in) of rain, while Rotorua receives 46 mm (1.8 in) of rain each month for the summer.


  • Summer Average Temperatures January
    Wellington 18°C (64°F) 
    Rotorua 12°C (54°F)

Should I visit Wellington or Rotorua in the Autumn?

Both Rotorua and Wellington during the autumn are popular places to visit. Most visitors come to Wellington for the hiking trails and the shopping scene during these months. Furthermore, the autumn months attract visitors to Rotorua because of the hiking trails, the shopping scene, and the natural beauty of the area.

In April, Wellington is generally around the same temperature as Rotorua. Daily temperatures in Wellington average around 15°C (58°F), and Rotorua fluctuates around 16°C (61°F).

Wellington usually gets more rain in April than Rotorua. Wellington gets 82 mm (3.2 in) of rain, while Rotorua receives 34 mm (1.3 in) of rain this time of the year.


  • Autumn Average Temperatures April
    Wellington 15°C (58°F) 
    Rotorua 16°C (61°F)

Should I visit Wellington or Rotorua in the Winter?

The winter attracts plenty of travelers to both Wellington and Rotorua. The winter months attract visitors to Wellington because of the museums, the shopping scene, and the cuisine. Furthermore, the museums, the shopping scene, and the cuisine are the main draw to Rotorua this time of year.

Wellington is much colder than Rotorua in the winter. The daily temperature in Wellington averages around 10°C (49°F) in July, and Rotorua fluctuates around 26°C (79°F).

Wellington gets a good bit of rain this time of year. In July, Wellington usually receives more rain than Rotorua. Wellington gets 111 mm (4.4 in) of rain, while Rotorua receives 3 mm (0.1 in) of rain each month for the winter.


  • Winter Average Temperatures July
    Wellington 10°C (49°F) 
    Rotorua 26°C (79°F)

Should I visit Wellington or Rotorua in the Spring?

The spring brings many poeple to Wellington as well as Rotorua. The beaches are the main draw to Wellington this time of year. Additionally, many travelers come to Rotorua for the natural beauty.

In the spring, Wellington is cooler than Rotorua. Typically, the spring temperatures in Wellington in October average around 13°C (55°F), and Rotorua averages at about 19°C (66°F).

Wellington usually gets more rain in October than Rotorua. Wellington gets 93 mm (3.7 in) of rain, while Rotorua receives 35 mm (1.4 in) of rain this time of the year.


  • Spring Average Temperatures October
    Wellington 13°C (55°F) 
    Rotorua 19°C (66°F)

Typical Weather for Rotorua and Wellington

Wellington Rotorua
Temp (°C) Rain (mm) Temp (°C) Rain (mm)
Jan 18°C (64°F) 61 mm (2.4 in) 12°C (54°F) 46 mm (1.8 in)
Feb 18°C (64°F) 51 mm (2 in) 13°C (55°F) 45 mm (1.8 in)
Mar 17°C (62°F) 75 mm (3 in) 15°C (59°F) 32 mm (1.3 in)
Apr 15°C (58°F) 82 mm (3.2 in) 16°C (61°F) 34 mm (1.3 in)
May 12°C (54°F) 92 mm (3.6 in) 19°C (66°F) 16 mm (0.6 in)
Jun 10°C (51°F) 113 mm (4.4 in) 23°C (73°F) 10 mm (0.4 in)
Jul 10°C (49°F) 111 mm (4.4 in) 26°C (79°F) 3 mm (0.1 in)
Aug 10°C (50°F) 98 mm (3.9 in) 26°C (79°F) 1 mm (0 in)
Sep 12°C (53°F) 79 mm (3.1 in) 24°C (75°F) 10 mm (0.4 in)
Oct 13°C (55°F) 93 mm (3.7 in) 19°C (66°F) 35 mm (1.4 in)
Nov 15°C (58°F) 79 mm (3.1 in) 16°C (61°F) 77 mm (3 in)
Dec 17°C (62°F) 69 mm (2.7 in) 13°C (55°F) 41 mm (1.6 in)