The Short Walks to Long Hikes in Rotorua
Lakes, geothermal parks, volcanoes, native bush, towering redwood forests… Rotorua has an amazing array of landscapes to enjoy all within a short drive from the city centre. The North Island town is an excellent place to lace up your hiking shoes and experience the epic scenery on foot. You’ll find some of the most unique hiking experiences in the country right here, with treetop walkways, walks alongside bubbling mud pools, and so much more. While we could add so many more Rotorua walks to this list, these are our top picks for the best walks and hikes in Rotorua!
1. Redwood Memorial Grove Track (30 Mins Loop)
Get a taste of the popular Redwoods/Whakarewarewa Forest known for its plantation of Coastal Californian Redwood trees where the largest trees here stand about 236 m (774 ft) tall. Another feature of this walk is the crystal clear waters of the Dead Tree Swamp – an old thermal pond home to all sorts of plant and aquatic life. This walk forest provides an awesome photo opportunity, but if you don’t have time to explore The Redwoods more, the Redwood Memorial Grove Track is a great one to do. To extend the trail, take the Waitawa Walk (1 hr total). The Redwoods is also a popular mountain biking area, so take a look at the 10 Best Bike Trails in Rotorua if you want to experience The Redwoods on two wheels.
Location: The Redwoods Visitor Centre, Long Mile Road, Whakarewarewa, approximately 5 km (3 mi) from Rotorua city centre.
2. Blue Lake Walk (Lake Tikitapu) (1 Hr 30 Mins Loop)
Rotorua is surrounded by magnificent lakes with walking trails to take in the beauty. The Blue Lake Walk provides a mix of bush and quiet beaches on the edge of the crystal-clear Lake Tikitapu (Blue Lake). You’ll also get views of the neighbouring Lake Rotokakahi (Green Lake). Once you’re done with the Blue Lake Walk, check out the Tikitapu Natural Walk (30 mins).
Location: Te Ngae Road off Tarawera Road, approximately 12 km (7 mi) from Rotorua city centre.
3. Kuirau Park (10-20 Mins Loop)
A walk accessible from the city centre is around the free geothermal park of Kuirau Park. A walkway through the park takes you to various mud pools and steaming lakes. There are naturally-heated foot baths to ease your feet in after your, admittedly, short walk.
Location: Access off Kuirau Street, Lake Road, Ranolf Street and Pukuatua Road, Rotorua city centre.
4. The Tarawera Trail (5-6 Hrs One Way)
Lakeviews, bays, native forest and natural hot pools await those hikers looking to take on the Tarawera Trail. The 15 km (9 mi) trail ends with a campsite, giving you the option to stay overnight at Hot Water Beach – a natural geothermal area at Te Rata Bay. Alternatively, water taxis with Totally Tarawera can be booked in advance to pick you up at the end of the trail.
Location: Te Wairoa car park on Tarawera Road (the car park is locked at night for security), approximately 15.5 km (10 mi) from Rotorua city centre.
5. The Rotorua Walkway (5-7 Hrs Loop)
This walkway is perfect for those staying in the city without a vehicle to get to the other walking trails. The Rotorua Walkway is 28 km (17 mi) long taking you to the most scenic and interesting sights around the city. You’ll walk through geothermal areas, alongside Lake Rotorua, through wildlife-rich areas and to historic sites. The walk is split into eight sections with plenty of access points so you can walk parts of the walkway for shorter trips – see the Rotorua Walkway Map for more details.
Location: There are several access points to the Rotorua Walkway. See the map linked above. 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.
6. Tarawera Falls Track (20 Mins One Way)
Who doesn’t love a good waterfall?! See the spectacular sight of Tarawera Falls on an easy well-graded track following the Tarawera River. You will arrive at a viewing area for the falls, where you can either backtrack to where you started or continue on the Tarawera Outlet Track toward Lake Tarawera (1 hr 30 mins one way). Note that a permit is required to use the access road to Tarawera Falls, available at the links above.
Location: Waterfall Road car park, Kawerau, approximately 73 km (45 mi) from Rotorua via State Highway 30.
7. Mt Ngongotaha Nature Loop (1 Hr Loop) and Jubilee Track (1 Hr 30 Mins Return)
One of the lesser-known yet enchanting walks in the Rotorua area is on the Mt Ngongotaha Nature Loop and Jubilee Track. You’re likely to see a ton of different native bird species, such as grey warbler, kereru, fantail, tui and tomtit. Mt Ngongotaha Nature Loop Track is a 2.5 km (1.5 mi) loop track which is a rather easy-going track suitable for most fitness levels. Information panels along the way tell interesting facts about the forest and its inhabitants. The Jubilee Track is a 5 km (3 mi) return, which is a steep climb to the summit of Mt Ngongotaha. It’s an excellent way to stay in this amazing forest for longer, but note that there is no view from the summit due to the forest growth.
Location: Paradise Valley Road, just off Clayton and Pukehangi Roads, approximately 6 km (3.8 mi) from Rotorua city centre (you can take the bus).
8. Maunga Kākaramea Summit Track (1 Hr 30 Mins One Way) and Maunga Kākaramea Loop (15 Mins Loop)
See two stunning vibrant lakes on the 15-minute Maunga Kākaramea Loop Walk – a must-do pitstop on the way in or out of Rotorua. For a longer mission with some amazing views, continue on the Maunga Kākaramea Summit Track (formerly known as Rainbow Mountain) 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) south of Rotorua city centre.
9. Redwoods Treewalk (30 Minutes Loop Walk)
Get a brand new perspective of the forest on the Redwoods Treewalk – a walkway with 28 suspension bridges and 27 platforms attached to redwood trees that are over 100 years old. The walkway is open day and night, with beautiful light displays to marvel at after dark, along with the 10 Things to Do in Rotorua at Night. Note that there is a fee to do this walk.
Location: 1 Long Mile Road, Whakarewarewa, approximately 5 km (3 mi) from Rotorua city centre.
10. Mt Tarawera (4 Hr 30 Mins Round Trip)
Some of New Zealand’s most awe-inspiring volcanic landscapes can be found on Mt Tarawera, a volcano famous for having the biggest eruption in New Zealand in the last 500 years. This exclusive hike around the red crater rim of Mt Tarawera is only available with selected guides, via bus tour to the mountain with Kaitiaki Adventures or via helicopter with Volcanic Air. The tour with Kaitiaki Adventures is a 4 hrs 30 mins round trip complete with a guided walk in this breathtaking and historic place.
Location: Access to Mt Tarawera is with approved guides only like Kaitiaki Adventures. Pick-ups from central accommodations in Rotura are included.
11. Lake Ōkāreka Walkway (1 Hrs 30 Mins Return)
Walk alongside the beautiful Lake Ōkāreka on an easy boardwalk stroll complete with lake views and wildlife. The wetland area is rich in birdlife from pukeko to herons and much more. The walk is suitable for buggies and wheelchairs. You might also want to stick around Lake Ōkāreka and head to Boyes Beach to make use of the picnic areas and barbecues. There’s also the Ōkāreka Mistletoe Walk (10 mins one way) at the northern end of the settlement.
Location: 50/62 Acacia Road, Lake Ōkareka, approximately 12 km (7 mi) from Rotorua city centre.
12. Lake Ōkataina Walking Tracks (10 Mins – 3 Hrs Return)
With five trails linking together in the Lake Ōkataina Scenic Reserve, you can hike for as long or as little as you like. There’s the Ngahopua Track/Twin Lakes Track (50 mins loop) taking you above two volcanic crater lakes. You can then connect to the Anaha Track (1 hr one way) following an old logging track to the Kepa Track (10 mins one way). The Te Auheke Track/Cascades Track (40 mins loop) is a highlight, which passes sheer cliff faces with moss, ferns and thousands of glowworms at night before reaching the pretty Cascade Falls. Finally, the Tarawhai Track (50 mins loop) is a gorgeous nature trail through native forest.
Location: Lake Ōkataina Road, approximately 28 km (18 mi) from Rotorua city centre.
13. Okere Falls Track (30 Mins One Way)
This waterfall is the site of white water rafting, kayaking and sledging! Take a walk through the bush, with information panels to read and several lookouts of Okere Falls to enjoy the view and watch people get their adrenaline rush. Glowworms can also be seen along the trail at night.
Location: Trout Pool Road, approximately 21 km (13 mi) from Rotorua city centre via State Highway 33.
14. Kaharoa Kōkako Track (45 Mins One Way)
Located north of Lake Rotorua, the Kaharoa Kōkako Track (also known as the Hollow Track) takes walkers on a pleasant bush walk to the Onaia Stream. The usually tranquil setting makes a good place for a picnic or even for a refreshing dip. This walk is family-friendly, along with the 20 Things to Do in Rotorua with Kids.
Location: Kapukapu Road, Hamurana, approximately 30 km (18.5 mi) from Rotorua city centre.
15. King Hill Reserve Walking Track (20 Mins One Way)
A family-friendly and wheelchair-accessible walkway that won’t take too much time out of your day in the King Hill Reserve Walking Track. Walk among native forest with tawa and rimu trees and spot old mining relics along the way.
Location: Karamu Street or Old State Mill Road, Mamaku, approximately 20 km (12.5 mi) from Rotorua city centre.
5 More Walks in Rotorua
If you have somehow exhausted all of your options above, here are five more walks in Rotorua:
- Tikitapu Nature Walk (30 mins loop) – Forest walk with information panels about plants and birds – Tarawera Road, Lake Tikitapu
- Mangorewa Track (5 hrs 30 mins return) – One of the last remaining lowland forests in the area, featuring some stream crossings – State Highway 36, Ngawaro
- Western Ōkataina Walkway (7 hrs one way) – Walking/mountain biking trail linking Lake Okareka with Lake Rotoiti – Millar Road, Lake Okareka
- Tuhoto Ariki Trail (1 hr 30 mins one way) – Walking/mountain biking trail featuring the highest point of the Whakarewarewa Forest – Waipa Mill car park, SH5
- Tarawera Outlet to Humphries Bay (3 hrs one way) – Skirt the northern shores of Lake Tarawera through native bush and campsites – Access via Tarawera Falls to Tarawera Outlet Track from Tarawera Falls car park.
More About Rotorua
In between stretching your legs, you might also want to explore the following:
- 20 Awesome Places to Visit in Rotorua
- The Food Guide to Rotorua
- The 50 Best Accommodations in Rotorua
Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed, you’re likely to find it in the 25 Best Things to Do in Rotorua.