The Best Free (and Cheap) Activities in Rotorua
How can a place be so smelly but so awesome? Rotorua is a must-visit in New Zealand, whether it’s for its rich Maori heritage or the geothermal activity. Don’t worry, you soon become immune to the stench and will be onto enjoying the free and cheap 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 hot springs in the area that you can enjoy for free, which we have listed in the 5 Free Natural Hot Pools in Rotorua 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 at very little cost.
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, while Kerosene Creek is one of the most popular hot pools with its small waterfall cascading through the bush.
Location: Outskirts of Rotorua – see specific locations in the 5 Free Natural Hot Pools in Rotorua.
2. Walk or Cycle Through Whakarewarewa Redwood Forest – FREE
Whakarewarewa Forest, commonly known as the Redwood Forest, is one of the most popular Rotorua attractions. There are a number of trails to choose from throughout the park of towering Califonia redwood trees, whether it’s to a lookout with views of Rotorua or alongside some crystal-clear springs. There’s also a wide selection of mountain bike trails to hurtle down, should you happen to have a bike (hiring one isn’t exactly free).
Location: Longmile Road, approximately 5 km (3 mi) from Rotorua city centre.
3. See Bubbling Mud and Soak Your Feet in Hot Baths at 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 and use the free hot foot baths to soak your feet.
Location: Kuirau Street, Rotorua city centre.
4. 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 list of Rotorua activities! The market starts at 4:30 pm to 8:30 pm in winter and 5 pm to 9 pm in summer. Check out more experiences like this in the 10 Best Foodie Experiences in Rotorua.
Location: Tutanekai Street, Rotorua city centre.
5. Watch Rafters Plunge Down a Waterfall – FREE
Want more free activities in Rotorua? The short walk along the Kaituna River on the Okere Falls Track takes you to a viewpoint of the highest commercially rafted falls in New Zealand (and the world!) The entrance to the walk is also a good place to see glowworms (after dark, obviously). See where else you can raft in the 7 Best Places for White Water Rafting in New Zealand, as well as more short walks in the 15 Must-Do Walks in Rotorua.
Location: Trout Pool Road, approximately 21 km (13 mi) north of 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!
Location: 587 Waimangu Road, approximately 25 km (15.5 mi) from Rotorua town centre.
7. See the Maori Village of Ohinemutu – FREE
The inner-city suburb of Ohinemutu in Rotorua is not only a living Maori village, but it used to be the centre of the Rotorua area in the early 1870s. Walk around the village and enjoy sights like the Tama-Te-Kapua Marae (Maori meeting house) and St Faith’s Anglican Church. What’s more, all of this is within walking distance of Rotorua city centre. If you can’t afford to see one of the 10 Best Maori Tours in New Zealand then this is another free alternative activity in Rotorua.
Location: Tunohopu Street, Ohinemutu, Rotorua city centre.
8. Relax in a Soothing Mud Pool at Hell’s Gate – 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 has been used by the local Maori for more than 800 years. The experience starts at around NZ$40 but optional transport from your Rotorua accommodation is available. Book your entry to Hell’s Gate on Viator, Klook, KKday or whatever you prefer!
Location: 351 State Highway 30, Tikitere, approximately 16 km (10 mi) or 20 minutes drive from Rotorua city centre.
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, and then 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$40.
Location: 525 Ngongotaha Road, approximately 5 km (3 mi) from Rotorua city centre.
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$40 where you can soak in a range of acidic and alkaline spring water pools with gorgeous Lake Rotorua views. Discover more of New Zealand’s best hot pools, including more around Rotorua, in the 10 Best Hot Pools in New Zealand.
Location: 1000 Hinemoa Street, Rotorua city centre.
11. Visit Hamurana Spring – CHEAP
Next on our list of cheap things to do in Rotorua is Hamurana Springs. A cool natural feature of the area is this crystal-clear spring. Take a 15-minute walk to get to the springs with decking viewpoints looking over the springs. Admission is around NZ$20 per adult, but you can sometimes find cheaper deals on the day.
Location: State Highway 36, Hamurana (near the golf course), approximately 17 km (10.5 mi) north of Rotorua city centre.
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 source of the hot water spring itself. These hot pools are among some of the cheapest in the Rotorua area, at around NZ$20. On the downside, it’s a 30-minute drive out of town.
Location: 648 Waikite Valley Road, Waikite Valley, approximately 28 km (17 mi) from Rotorua city centre.
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! The lakefront is part of the Rotorua Walkway, which is a 28 km (17 mi) walk taking you to the most scenic and interesting sights around the city. Find out more about it in the 15 Must-Do Walks in Rotorua.
Location: There are several access points to the Rotorua Walkway. Pick up a Rotorua Walkways map from a local information centre for a map detailing the exit and entry points. Otherwise, good places to start are along the lakefront at Sulphur Bay and the Government Gardens where you will find map boards along the walkway. There is also a map board on the east side of Kuirau Park.
14. Hike Maunga Kākaramea (Rainbow Mountain) – FREE
See two stunning vibrant lakes on the 15-minute Maunga Kākaramea Loop Walk – a must-do free pitstop on the way in or out of Rotorua. For a longer mission with some amazing views, continue on the Maunga Kākaramea Summit Track with views overlooking the Rotorua countryside. See Mt Tarawera, Lake Tarawera, Lake Rotomahana and Lake Rerewhakaaitu, as well as mountain ranges.
Location: State Highway 5, approximately 26 km (16 mi) from Rotorua city centre.
15. See Native Birds of Prey at Wingspan – CHEAP
New Zealand has many unique bird species and one of the best places to see some of these rare birds is at Wingspan, the National Bird of Prey Centre. Visit the aviary of these birds in rehabilitation close up, such as the New Zealand falcon and the dwarf owl called a morepork or “ruru” in Maori. Arrive at Wingspan at around 2 pm and you can even watch New Zealand falcon daily flight displays.
Location: Paradise Valley Road, approximately 8.5 km (5 mi) from Rotorua town centre.
More Free and Cheap Things to Do in Rotorua
That’s it for our list of cheap and free things to do in Rotorua, but there are more ways to enjoy New Zealand’s geothermal hotspot on a budget:
- The Top Cheap Eats in Rotorua
- 20 Best Budget Accommodations in Rotorua
- The Budget Travel Guide to Rotorua