1. take a dip in a hot spring
Between Taupo and Rotorua, make sure to stop off at one of the free hot pool spots. One example is the bridge leading to Wai-O-Tapu is a perfect spot where cool and hot streams meet. Check out the other Free Natural Hot Pools in Rotorua.
2. Walk or bike in Whakarewarewa Redwood Forest
Taking a trip up to a lookout will give you views of Rotorua. Or there’s a wide selection of mountain bike trails to hurtle down. Find out how to get there in Rotorua Guide for backpackers.
3. check out Rotorua night market
It’s like a market… but at night. Taking place every Thursday night on Tutanekai Street, stuff your face with delicious food and enjoy the evening entertainment. A real community vibe!
4. Watch rafters plunge down a waterfall
The short Kaituna River Walk leads toOkere Falls the highest commercially rafter falls in New Zealand. The entrance to the walk is also a good place to see glowworms (when it’s dark, obviously). See where else you can raft here: The 7 Places to go White Water Rafting in New Zealand.
5. stroll around Kuirau Park
Kuirau Park gives visitors a taste (quite literally, the smell is so strong you can taste it) of the volcanic activity that Rotorua is famous for. Walk around the various mud pools. Kuirau Park can be found along Pukuatua Street and Randolf Street.
6. Visit the Waimangu Volcanic Valley
Wander through a geothermal valley packed with geysers, hot springs, vibrant lakes, steaming vents and fascinating history. Discover Waimangu’s network of walking trails, which range from 1 hour to 2 hours+, giving you great value for money at one of the most affordable geothermal parks in the Rotorua area. A day out among the epic geothermal features, as well as the stunning forest, lake and mountain scenery makes the Waimangu Volcanic Valley well worth exploring!
7. See the Maori village of Ohinemutu
The suburb in Rotorua used to be a Maori village. Sights here are the Tama-Te-Kapua marae (Maori meeting house) and St Faith’s Anglican Church. If you can’t afford to see one of the 10 Places to Experience Maori Culture in New Zealand then this is another free alternative.
8. visit Hamurana Spring
A 15-minute drive out of Rotorua is the crystal clear Hamurana Spring. The easy 15-minute walking track can be found just off Hamurana Road. [Update: a small entry fee has been introduced here].
9. Rotorua museum
This would not be a ‘free or cheap things to do’ list without a museum. But wait a minute, you have to pay for this museum! At NZ$20 you can learn about the historic mud bathhouse. Or just take a cheeky picture of the grand architecture from the outside for free! Alternatively, walk around the Government Gardens just before the museum with water features, gardens and Maori art. [Update: currently closed for earthquake damage repairs].
10. Waikite valley thermal pools
A whole host of thermal pools using natural thermal water await at the Waikite Valley Thermal Pools, as well as a bushwalk to the hot water spring itself. Admission is just NZ$15! Find the complex down the Waikite Valley Road, a 30-minute drive out of Rotorua.
11. relax by lake Rotorua
Whatever you do, don’t feed the black swans!
12. Hike rainbow mountain
You will need a car, as Rainbow Mountain is 26km out of Rotorua. There is either the short walk to Crater Lake or the longer walk to the summit. Find out more information about this hike in10 Free Natural Spots Near Rotorua.
13. Go to Wingspan
At just NZ$25, we think this just makes the cheap-things-to-do list. Wingspan is the National Bird of Prey Centre for New Zealand and an amazing opportunity to see birds of prey close-up in this recovery centre. See flying displays every day at 1.30pm to watch the rare New Zealand falcon do its thing.