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 backpackers. Whether you’re a flashpackerlooking to spend some cash on the popularactivities, orsomeonelooking fora great place to work and experience the true Kiwi lifestyle, you’llneed some free stuff to do at some point. In fact, some of Rotorua‘s best experiences are for free thanks to the kindnessof nature.After checking out our 5 Free Natural Hot Poolsin Rotorua and our 10 Free or Cheap Things To Do in Rotorua, you might want to check out somefree outdoor experiences in Rotorua in the list below!
1. Rainbow Mountain
Maunga Kakaramea, also known as “mountain of coloured earth” or Rainbow Mountain, is easily accessed by a 3km walk. It passes 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 if you take the 1-hour one-way track.
Location: 26km southeast of Rotorua, alongState Highway 5 (between Rotorua and Taupo).
2. 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, henceits nickname “Redwood Forest”. Get a bike from your hostel or hire one in town and head to this mountain biker paradise!
Location:5km southeast of Rotorua city centre along Long Mile Road.
3. Kerosene Creek
When leaving Rotorua heading to Taupo, stop by thetoastiestcreek inthe region. The hot stream creates multiple small natural pools lodged between the rocks where locals and knowledgeable tourists come to sooth their soar hiker’s feet. It’s one of the 5 Free Natural Hot Pools in Rotorua.
Location: About 30km south of Rotorua, offState Highway 5 (between Rotorua and Taupo), onOld Waiotapu Road. Kerosene Creek is2.2km down the gravel road.
4. Okere Falls
Okere Falls is the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world. Even by itself, it is a stunning fall of pristine natural beauty. If you are lucky, you might see some raft-flipping going on and tourists swimming to get back on board.
Location: 21km from Rotorua on Trout Pool Road off State Highway 33 (the Rotorua to Taurangaroad).
5. Blue and green lakes
Which one of Lake Tikitapu and Lake Rotokakahi is the green one? Take a hike and go decidefor yourself. The hike to view both lakes starts near Redwood Forest (see above). At the hike’s highest point, you will be able to see both lakes and witness their clear difference in shade.
Location: 9km southeast of Rotorua, alongTe Ngae Road then alongTarawera Road at the roundabout.
6. Kuirau park
Located almost in Rotorua town centre, KuirauPark features living proof of the geothermal activity happening under our feet. Expect shallow hot pools, bubbling mud, and lots of steam!
Location: Pukuatua Street & Ranolf Street
7. Hamurana Springs
Blue, green, turquoise: the waters of the Hamurana Springs look like the something from a fairy tale. The deepest freshwater spring of the North Island is, in fact, a tranquil stream that begs to be photographed! Swimmers beware: the water is fresh… Very fresh! [Update: This attraction is no longer free. The fee is under NZ$20].
Location: Hamurana Springs is located about 15km northeast of Rotorua, alongHamurana Road.
8. Wai-O-Tapu Boardwalk
The short track along the “Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland” and near Rainbow Mountain 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: 27km south of Rotorua off State Highway 5,turn left onLoop Road until you reach Waiotapu Track.
9. Government Gardens
Sitting in front ofthe Rotorua Museum, 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 just simply chill out. Incidentally, the Rotorua Museum is one of our favourite things to doon a rainy day in Rotorua.
10. 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 15km Tarawera Trail.
Location:Water Taxi fromTarawera Road, Lake Tarawera. Alternatively, access the Tarawera Trail fromTe Waiora car park on Tarawera Road.