10 Free Natural Attractions in Rotorua© NZPocketGuide.com
10 Free Natural Attractions in Rotorua

10 Free Natural Attractions in Rotorua

© NZPocketGuide.com
Article Single Pages© NZPocketGuide.com
Article Single Pages© NZPocketGuide.com
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Bubbling Mud, Mysterious Forests, Colourful Lakes, Hot Pools… It’s All Here Within Reach of Rotorua!

Let’s say it: Rotorua rocks! The place is a buzzing epicentre for travellers. Whether you’re ticking off activities from the bucket list, such as a Māori show or visiting a geothermal park, or a working holidaymaker looking for a great place to work and experience the true Kiwi lifestyle, you’ll probably need some free stuff to do at some point. In fact, some of Rotorua’s best experiences are for free thanks to the kindness of nature. Let’s take a look at some of the best, yet still free, natural attractions in Rotorua!

1. Maunga Kākaramea (Rainbow Mountain)

Maunga Kākaramea, also known as the “mountain of coloured earth” or “Rainbow Mountain”, is easily explored across two walking trails. The trails pass in front of many typical Rotorua features such as steam rising from the ground and crater lakes. The view from the summit is a perfect picture opportunity too. Learn more about the walks here in the 20 Best Walks in Rotorua.

Location: State Highway 5, approximately 26 km (16 mi) south of Rotorua city centre.

10 Free Natural Attractions in Rotorua© NZPocketGuide.com

2. Whakarewarewa Forest (Redwood Forest)

The forest is a gigantic network of mountain biking and walking tracks. Known as Whakarewarewa Forest by the locals, it is mainly constituted by Californian Coast Redwood, hence its nickname “Redwood Forest“. Hire a bike from Rotorua Mountain Bikes or hire one in town and head to this mountain biker paradise – see the 10 Best Bike Trails in Rotorua! There are some awesome walks here too, as described in the 20 Best Walks in Rotorua.

Location: Entrances are from Long Mile Road, Lynmore, approximately 5 km (3 mi) from Rotorua city centre, and Waipa State Mill car park off SH5, approximately 6 km (3.6 mi) from Rotorua city centre.

10 Free Natural Attractions in Rotorua© NZPocketGuide.com

3. Kerosene Creek

When leaving Rotorua and heading to Taupo, stop by the toastiest creek in the region. The hot stream creates multiple small natural pools lodged between the rocks where locals and knowledgeable tourists come to soothe their soar hiker’s feet. Learn more about Kerosene Creek in the 5 Free Natural Hot Pools in Rotorua.

Location: Old Waiotapu Road, approximately 28 km (17 mi) south of Rotorua. Take State Highway 5, then Old Waiotapu Road. Find Kerosene Creek approximately 2 km (1.2 mi) down Old Waiotapu Road.

10 Free Natural Attractions in Rotorua© Unsplash

4. Okere Falls

Okere Falls is the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world. Even by itself, it is a stunning waterfall of pristine natural beauty. Take the 30-minute bushwalk to admire the falls from various lookouts and learn about the flora and fauna around you on the trail’s information panels.

Location: Trout Pool Road, approximately 21 km (13 mi) from Rotorua via State Highway 33.

10 Free Natural Attractions in Rotorua© Rafting Rotorua - Destination Rotorua

5. Lake Tikitapu and Rotokakahi (Blue and Green Lakes)

Which one of Lake Tikitapu and Lake Rotokakahi is the green one? Take a hike and discover for yourself! The hike to view both lakes (but mostly Blue Lake, as it is the Blue Lake Track) provides a mix of bush and quiet beaches on the edge of crystal-clear waters.

Location: Te Ngae Road off Tarawera Road, approximately 12 km (7 mi) from Rotorua city centre.

10 Free Natural Attractions in Rotorua© NZPocketGuide.com

6. Kuirau Park

Located in Rotorua town centre, Kuirau Park features living proof of the geothermal activity happening under our feet. Expect shallow hot pools, bubbling mud, and lots of steam! Follow the walkways around the park to discover an array of geothermal features, then relax your feet in the free geothermally heated foot baths.

Location: Access off Kuirau Street, Lake Road, Ranolf Street and Pukuatua Road, Rotorua city centre.

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7. Waiotapu Mud Pool

Some of the best bubbling mud displays in the Rotorua area can be found along the Waiotapu Boardwalk to the Waiotapu Mud Pool. The short track near the world-famous “Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland” is the ideal short stop between Rotorua and Taupo. In hides a pool of bubbling mud and, yet again, more steam! The platform elevates above the mud pool to offer another perspective.

Location: Waiotapu Loop Road, approximately 27 km (17 mi) south of Rotorua via State Highway 5. The Waiotapu Mud Pool is at the northern end of Waiotapu Loop Road.

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8. Government Gardens and Sulphur Point

Sitting in the heart of the city, the Government Gardens are the pride of the Rotorua community. It is both a historical place telling tales of yore and the perfect place to simply chill out. The Rotorua Museum, with its Elizabethan architecture, makes a majestic backdrop to the gardens even if it has been out of service as a museum for several years now. As an added bonus, take Hatupatu or Queens Drive behind the museum and you’ll reach a short walkway at Sulphur Point to see the sulphur-stained landscape on the edge of Lake Rotorua.

Location: Queens Drive, Rotorua city centre.

10 Free Natural Attractions in Rotorua© NZPocketGuide.com

9. Hot Water Beach (Te Rata Bay)

Not to be confused with the famous Hot Water Beach in the Coromandel, Te Rata Bay features a small hot stream falling into Lake Tarawera. It is accessible by water taxi and is also part of the 15 km (9 mi) Tarawera Trail. Learn more about it in our 20 Best Walks in Rotorua.

Location: Water taxis with Totally Tarawera depart from Tarawera Road, Lake Tarawera. Alternatively, access the Tarawera Trail from Te Wairoa car park on Tarawera Road, approximately 15.5 km (10 mi) from Rotorua city centre.

10 Free Natural Attractions in Rotorua© NZPocketGuide.com

10. Hamurana Springs

[Update: This attraction is no longer free. The fee is under NZ$20].

Blue, green, turquoise: the waters of the Hamurana Springs look like something from a fairy tale. The deepest freshwater spring of the North Island is, in fact, a tranquil stream that begs to be photographed!

Location: Hamurana Road, Hamurana, approximately 15 km (9 mi) northeast of Rotorua.

10 Free Natural Attractions in Rotorua© NZPocketGuide.com

More Natural Attractions in Rotorua

That’s it for our list of free natural attractions in Rotorua. If that somehow wasn’t enough, check out more natural attractions scattered between these insightful articles:

Finally, plan the rest of your trip to “Rotovegas” using The Complete Travel Guide to Rotorua and find a place to stay in the Places to Stay in Rotorua: 50 Best Accommodations.


The information in this guide has been compiled from our extensive research, travel and experiences across New Zealand and the South Pacific, accumulated over more than a decade of numerous visits to each destination. Additional sources for this guide include the following:

Our editorial standards: At NZ Pocket Guide, we uphold strict editorial standards to ensure accurate and quality content.

About The Author

Laura S.

This article has been reviewed and published by Laura, the editor-in-chief and co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. Laura is a first-class honours journalism graduate and a travel journalist with expertise in New Zealand and South Pacific tourism for over 10 years. She also runs travel guides for five of the top destinations in the South Pacific and is the co-host of over 250 episodes of the NZ Travel Show on YouTube.

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