Rotorua has a varied selection of bars: some are very traditional, others are quite classy and many tend to fall somewhere in between. To help you make the most of the city’s eclectic nightlife, here’s a showcase of 10 of its best establishments.
Bar, Pub, Pub Grub, Contemporary, European, $$$
Pig & Whistle is a bit of an institution in its own right. While the pub itself has been operating since 1993, it is housed in a heritage building that for many years served as Rotorua’s police station. Interesting history aside, the venue is quite popular among local patrons who regularly drop by for some casual drinks and a classic pub meal while they listen to some live music, join in on a pub quiz or watch the latest rugby match on TV screens.
Hennessy's Irish Bar
Bar, Pub, Gastropub, Pub Grub, European, Contemporary, $$$
Hennessy’s Irish Bar is a friendly venue that has something for everyone: a regular line-up of sports screenings and live entertainment; hearty gastropub thoroughfares like fish and chips, gluten-free and vegetarian mains to cater for all palates and dietary needs; and a selection of kids’ meals that make this casual joint an ideal stopover on a family outing. The pub also has a large selection of tap beers (Guinness included) and it uniquely offers New Zealand’s Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir wines on tap – not something you’ll easily find elsewhere.
Bar, Pub Grub, Contemporary, European, $$$
Clarke’s is situated on the ground floor of Novotel Rotorua Lakeside. The bar is particularly known for its impressive range of cocktails, beers and New Zealand wines. On a cold night, you can catch up with friends over a round of drinks by the cosy fire place; visit on a clear summer’s night and you’ll get to relish the al fresco terrace and its surrounding lake views.
Mezz Bar - Rydges Rotorua
Bar, Cocktail Bar, Pub Grub, European, Contemporary, $$$
Part of Rydges Rotorua, Mezz Bar is a stylish venue known for its classy cocktails and chilled out ambiance. Visit during happy hour (5-7pm daily) to make the most of the regular food and drink specials. Besides offering reduced prices on beers, signature cocktails, wines and spirits the bar will also offer complimentary nibbles and platters to suit the occasion. If you have a bigger appetite, make sure to try out some of the bar’s classic pizzas.
BREW | Craft Beer Pub
Bar, Craft Ale Bar, Pub Grub, Contemporary, European, $$$
Originally established in 2011, BREW has evolved from a simple craft beer pub to a lively gastropub establishment. The bar has a full range of house-made beers on tap, and an ever-changing selection of New Zealand craft ales so you can get a full taste of what’s brewing on these shores. Those wanting some food to complement their beer-tasting sessions can browse through an extensive assortment of burgers and classic thoroughfares that are sure to satisfy even the hungriest of visitors.
Bar, Nightclub, European, Contemporary, Pub Grub, $$$
If it’s a party joint that you seek, Lava Bar is the ultimate place to go. The bar and nightclub is owned by the Base Backpackers hostel – so naturally, it draws a younger, more dynamic crowd. When the DJs aren’t spinning records, there are quiz nights, themed party nights and an eclectic live music concert schedule to keep you busy.
Ponsonby Rd Lounge Bar
Bar, European, $$$
Don’t be fooled by the bar’s name: it isn’t located in the upscale Auckland suburb of Ponsonby. This Ponsonby Rd is just a stone’s throw away from Rotorua’s lakefront, making it a good place to stop by for a drink and listen to some cool tunes after you’ve spent the day exploring the city’s best attractions. Cocktails are the house speciality: if you’re eager to sip something new, the bar’s flagship Ponsonby concoction is composed of Markers Mark bourbon whisky, Campari, sweet vermouth and Angostura Bitters.
Duke's Bar and Restaurant - Prince's Gate Hotel
Bar, Boutique Hotel Restaurant, Contemporary, European, Oceanian, $$$
Head to the main house of the boutique Prince’s Gate Hotel to find Duke’s Bar and Restaurant. This is as much a place to catch up with some friends over a glass of wine as it is a venue to relish a great dining experience. Food is seasonal and made from scratch, meaning that the restaurant can easily cater to any dietary requirements they’re met with. If you’re wanting something extra special, the dinner menu includes a sophisticated offering of Port wines to complement their New Zealand dishes.
Our Backyard Pub
Bar, Pub, Pub Grub, European, Oceanian, $$$
Our Backyard Pub is one of the best venues downtown for those wanting to unwind in an outdoorsy setting. Its premises, an old building dating back to 1934, has been revamped to include two massive decks, which can be hired out for private functions. Food is pub thoroughfare with a local twist, and includes offerings like steak sandwiches, vegetable lasagne, burgers, salads and scotch fillet. Tap and bottled beers are the prized drink offerings in this venue – there are more than 20 different bottled brands, from New Zealand and abroad, to choose from.
Ruck 'n Maul
Bar, Pub Grub, European, Oceanian, $$$
Ruck ‘n Maul is a lively sports bar with gambling facilities that are particularly renowned for its generously sized meals. Several TV screens and a live projector ensure the sports-loving patrons don’t miss the latest match on show; there are also TAB betting facilities and poker machines for those who feel that luck is on their side. Food and drinks are reasonably priced and there are regular specials on those to keep the crowds content.