The Must-Dos in Rotorua!
Not many people come to New Zealand without visiting Rotorua. Action, relaxation, culture, nature… It has it all in this geothermal hot spot in the centre of the North Island. With a rich cultural history, it will come as no surprise that experiencing the Maori culture is one of the must-dos in Rotorua, while geothermal parks, native bird parks and adventurous ziplining are also on the menu. Make your travel itinerary planning a little easier by scrolling down this list of the best things to do in Rotorua.
While there’s so much to do in Rotorua, just take a look at these 20 Awesome Places to Visit in Rotorua, we’ve made sure to narrow down your options to just the Rotorua must-dos. If you do plan on staying a while though, check out these Rotorua hotels or Rotorua budget accommodation.
1. See Some Geothermal Wonders
As cliche as it sounds, Rotorua really is a hotbed for geothermal activity in New Zealand. Colourful pools, silica terraces, steamy lakes, geysers and more can be found in various different locations in Rotorua. For vibrant colourful and steamy lakes, visit Wai-O-Tapu (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor), while Te Puia has the largest and most impressive geyser in the area (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor). Alternatively, Waimangu Volcanic Valley covers a much larger area with spectacular craters, huge steaming lakes, bubbling hot springs and more (on Viator or Tripadvisor). Otherwise, there are plenty of free geothermal attractions for your dose of steamy lakes and bubbling mud, such as Kuirau Park and the bubbling mud pools just outside of Wai-O-Tapu. For more ideas, take a look at the 8 Best Geothermal Parks in New Zealand.
Location: Wai-O-Tapu – Waiotapu Loop Road, 53km (33 miles) from Rotorua. Te Puia – Hemo Road, Rotorua. Waimangu Volcanic Valley – 587 Waimangu Road, 25km (15.5 miles) from Rotorua town centre. Kuirau Park – Kuirau Street, Rotorua town centre.
2. Relax in a Natural Hot Pool
On the subject of geothermal activity, Rotorua is the place to be for unwinding in a naturally heated hot pool. Choose from the convenience of the Polynesian Spa in Rotorua city centre overlooking Lake Rotorua or the super affordable Waikite Valley Thermal Pools nestled in native bush. For those of you feeling more adventurous, seek out the free natural hot pools spots like Kerosene Creek. We list those ones for you in 5 Free Natural Hot Pools in Rotorua, as well as paid hot pools in the 10 Best Hot Pools in New Zealand.
Location: Polynesian Spa – 1000 Hinemoa Street. Waikite Valley Thermal Pools – 648 Waikite Valley Road, Waikite Valley.
3. Roll Down a Hill in an Inflatable Ball
Yep, it’s one of the wacky activities in Rotorua which is weird yet ridiculously fun. Your hollow inflatable hamster ball is filled with a little bit of water on the bottom, as well as you and your rolling buddies if you choose, then your ball is unleashed to roll down a hill! Choose from different tracks for this nonsensical tumbling experience. Be aware, once you ride you’ll want to do it again and again… Learn more about this activity with Zorb on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Location: 525 Ngongotaha Road, approximately 5km (3 miles) from Rotorua city centre.
4. Do The Luge at Skyline Rotorua
Luging is another ridiculously fun sport in Rotorua, but this one is definitely for those who want to get competitive with their mates. Hop in a downhill go-kart with controls only to turn, brake and let gravity do its thing! There are three awesome tracks at Skyline Rotorua blasting through the redwood forest complete with twists, turns and tunnels. Book your Skyline Rotorua & Luge Rides on Viator and Tripadvisor. See more like this in the 10 Things to Do in Rotorua with Kids.
Location: 178 Fairy Springs Road, approximately 5km (3 miles) from Rotorua city centre.
5. Immerse in the Maori Culture
Rotorua is the hub for travellers to experience the culture of the first settlers in New Zealand, the Maori. Watch captivating cultural performances of the Haka, indulge in a traditional Maori meal called a Hangi and learn about this fascinating Polynesian culture first-hand. All the Maori experiences have different drawcards, such as the evening tours with a welcoming ceremony, Maori village, performances and a Hangi at Tamaki Maori Village (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor) and Mitai Maori Village (on Viator and Tripadvisor). Te Puia (on Viator or Tripadvisor) has a Maori culture performance and welcoming ceremony throughout the day, while Whakarewarewa Maori Living Village (on Viator or Tripadvisor) combines Maori traditions and a geothermal environment in their daytime tours. See more options for Maori shows in the 10 Best Maori Tours in New Zealand and discover more ways you can try Maori food in the 8 Things to Do in Rotorua for Foodies.
Location: Tamaki Maori Village transport departs from 1220 Hinemaru Street, Rotorua city centre. Mitai Maori Village offers Rotorua accommodation pick-ups. Te Puia – Hemo Road. Whakarewarewa Maori Living Village – 17 Tryon Street.
6. See Rare Birds at Wingspan
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 for around 2pm and you can even watch the New Zealand falcon’s daily flight displays.
Location: Paradise Valley Road, approximately 8.5km (5 miles) from Rotorua town centre.
7. Visit the Rainbow Springs Kiwi House
For more wildlife encounters, visit the Kiwi House at Rainbow Springs. A behind-the-scenes tour will give you the chance to see young kiwi birds before they are released into the wild as part of a conservation breeding program. A day pass to Rainbow Springs will also give you the opportunity to see more New Zealand native wildlife as well as lots and lots of rainbow trout. Find out more about day passes for Rainbow Springs on Viator and Tripadvisor. See more activities like this in the 10 Things to Do in Rotorua with Kids.
Location: 192 Fairy Springs Road, approximately 5km (3 miles) from Rotorua city centre.
8. Walk on Mt Tarawera
Ever wanted to wander around the crater of a volcano? Do just that on Mt Tarawera! This mountain has a hugely significant history in New Zealand with a huge eruption that occurred in 1886 shaping the whole landscape around it. This mountain is only accessible with a guided tour, but with the vibrant red volcanic landscape, a scree slope run and breathtaking photo opportunities, this walk even rivals the famous Tongariro Crossing. Kaitiaki Adventures run walking tours on the mountain (find out more on Viator and Tripadvisor). Alternatively, land on Mt Tarawera on a helicopter tour with Volcanic Air (available on Viator and Tripadvisor). Plus, see more like this in the 10 Luxury Activities in Rotorua.
Location: Kaitiaki Adventures – offers pick-ups in Rotorua. Volcanic Air – Lakefront Lakefront Drive.
9. Raft Down the World’s Highest Commercially Rafted Waterfall
That’s right, if you have that go big or go home mantra then white water rafting the Kaituna River is a must! The biggest feature of the river is a 7m (23ft) waterfall, the highest commercially rafted waterfall in New Zealand! Rafting trips are available with River Rats Rafting (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor), Kaituna Cascades (on Viator and Tripadvisor) and Kaitiaki Adventures (on Viator and Tripadvisor).
Location: River Rats Rafting – 837 Te Ngae Road, approximately 9km (5.6 miles) from Rotorua town centre. Kaituna Cascades – 18 Okere Falls Road, approximately 20km (12 miles) from Rotorua town centre. Kaitiaki Adventures – 1135 Te Ngae Road, approximately 12km (7 miles) from Rotura town centre.
10. Walk or Cycle in the Redwoods Forest
The Whakawerawera Redwood Forest is one of the most popular attractions in Rotorua – unlike nowhere else in the world with its giant Californian redwood trees combined with native ferns. There are various walks to enjoy for all ages, where a walk to a lookout will give you views of Rotorua. Or opt for hurtling down the hills on one of the many mountain bike trails where you can rent electric mountain bikes from Mohawk Ebike Tours. Check them out on Viator or Tripadvisor. The forest is also home to the Redwoods Treewalk, which can be done in the day to get a different perspective of the forest high in the canopy or at night to see beautiful light displays. Check out more free activities (in relation to the walks you can do in the forest) in the 13 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Rotorua.
Location: Longmile Road, approximately 5km (3 miles) from Rotorua city centre.
11. Kayak or SUP Through a Cave of Glowworms
One of the lesser-known activities in Rotorua and lesser-known places to see glowworms in New Zealand, Lake Rotoiti hides a small glowworm cave that you can float into via kayak or paddleboard. Join River Rats Rafts & Kayak for a sunset paddle on Lake Rotoiti where you’ll drift through glowworm caves, soak in natural hot springs and conclude with a picnic barbecue dinner. Find out more about this tour on Viator and Tripadvisor. Alternatively, Paddle Board Rotorua offers a shorter experience to the glowworms on a paddleboard or kayak. More information can be found on Viator and Tripadvisor. See more activities like this in the 10 Romantic Activities in Rotorua for Couples.
Location: Paddle Board Rotorua – 1167 Fenton Street. River Rats Rafts & Kayak – 837 Te Ngae Road, approximately 9km (5.6 miles) from Rotorua town centre (pick-ups are available).
12. Zip Through the Trees with Rotorua Canopy Tours
Adventure-seekers, try out Rotorua Canopy Tours. Their classic small-group tour takes you on a thrilling experience ziplining on six huge ziplines through centuries-old forest. Not only will you soar some 22m (72ft) above the ground, but you’ll also learn about the forest on this educational eco-tour. Alternatively, conquer all of the ziplines, including a tandem zipline on The Ultimate Canopy Tour. Learn more about Rotorua Canopy Tours on Viator and Tripadvisor. Then, see how it compares to other zippy thrills in the country in the 10 Best Places to Zipline in New Zealand.
Location: 147 Fairy Springs Road, approximately 5km (3 miles) from Rotorua city centre. Accommodation pick-ups are included.