The Complete Guide to Rotorua
The Complete Guide to Rotorua

15 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Rotorua


Free or Cheap Activities in Rotorua

How can a place be so smelly but so awesome? Rotorua is a must-visit in New Zealand due to the geothermal activity here making it an intriguing place, especially as the aroma of sulphur licks your face. Don’t worry, you soon become immune to the stench and will be onto enjoying the free things to do in Rotorua!

The Earth’s crust is thin in this part of the country producing many hot mud pools and thermal hot springs. Luckily for us, this means there are a few springs in the area that you can enjoy for free, which we have listed here for you. If nature is your thing, then take a look at these 10 Free Natural Spots Near Rotorua. So take a look at our quick list below of what to do in Rotorua for free or very little cost.

Plus, don’t forget to book yourself into one of The 50 Best Accommodations in Rotorua.

1. Take a Dip in a Hot Spring – FREE

One of the most popular Rotorua activities is to dip in a hot pool. 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.

13 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Rotorua©

2. Walk or Bike in Whakarewarewa Redwood Forest – FREE

The Redwood Forest is one of the most popular Rotorua attractions. 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. This should be on top of your list of things to do in Rotorua.

 Steve Watson© Steve Watson

3. Check Out Rotorua Night Market – FREE

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 and a must-do amongst the lists of Rotorua activities!

Pexels© Pexels

4. Watch Rafters Plunge Down a Waterfall – FREE

Want more free activities in Rotorua? The short Kaituna River Walk leads to Okere 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.

13 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Rotorua© Rafting Rotorua - Destination Rotorua

5. Stroll Around Kuirau Park – FREE

Here comes the most accessible Rotorua attraction. 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 Ranolf Street.

free things to do in rotorua©

6. Visit the Waimangu Volcanic Valley – CHEAP

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 – FREE

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 activity in Rotorua.


8. Relax in a Soothing Mud Pool – CHEAP

The only mud spa in Rotorua, Hell’s Gate is a geothermal activity in Rotorua with a difference. Experience the mud, which you lather on yourself to open your skin, and wash it off in the sulphur mineral water that have been used by the local Maori for more than 800 years. The experience starts at around NZ$25 but optional transport from your Rotorua accommodation is available.

15 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Rotorua© Hell's Gate via Destination Rotorua

9. Roll Down a Hill in a Giant Inflatable Ball – CHEAP

A fun and unique activity in Rotorua, ZORB is an insane ride in a giant inflatable hamster ball! Superman dive into the ball’s opening, when you’re then zipped into the hollow inside with a shallow layer of water to make the experience smooth and slippery. There are four tracks down the hill to choose from. Each ride costs approximately NZ$35.

13 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Rotorua© ZORB Rotorua via Destination Rotorua

10. Experience the Geothermal Mineral Waters of the Polynesian Spa – CHEAP

One of the easiest hot pool complexes to access in Rotorua, Polynesian Spa not only win points for not costing too much to get to but is one of the most upmarket hot pools available in the area. Those on a budget can choose the main pools complex for around NZ$20-$25 where you can soak in a range of acidic and alkaline spring water pools with gorgeous Lake Rotorua views.

13 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Rotorua© Polynesian Spa via Destination Rotorua

11. Visit Hamurana Spring – CHEAP

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. Admission is around NZ$18 per adult and NZ$8 for children.

Frederik Vanrenterghem© Frederik Vanrenterghem

12. Relax in the Waikite Valley Thermal Pools – CHEAP

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.©

13. Enjoy a Stroll Alongside Lake Rotorua – FREE

Adding to our list of free things to do in Rotorua, the lakeshore should also be on the list of fun things to do in Rotorua with its stellar views and lively birdlife. Whatever you do, don’t feed the black swans!

13 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Rotorua© Julian Apse - Tourism New Zealand

14. Hike Rainbow Mountain – FREE

For this next Rotorua attraction, you will need a car, as Rainbow Mountain is 26km (16 miles) 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 in 10 Free Natural Spots Near Rotorua.

Michal Klajban (© Michal Klajban (

15. Go to Wingspan – CHEAP

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.©


[CLOSED] Rotorua Museum

[Update: currently closed for earthquake damage repairs].

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.©

Now That You Have Done the Free Things to Do in Rotorua …

… Check out all this other information about Rotorua!

That’s it for our list of cheap and free things to do in Rotorua. Find more free stuff in the 50 Best Free Things to Do in New Zealand.


Laura S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor in chief and co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in New Zealand over 10 years ago and with a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to travel New Zealand. She knows Aotearoa inside-out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience New Zealand’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also editor of several other South Pacific travel guides and is the co-host of NZ Pocket Guide’s live New Zealand travel Q&As on YouTube.

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