The Top Tourist Attractions in Rotorua, New Zealand
Never underestimate Rotorua. There’s so much to do in this “little town” on the North Island that you will also leave wanting more. Although Rotorua is famous for being a hotbed for geothermal activity, as well as having a rich Maori culture, there are so many adrenaline, wildlife and nature experiences to be had as well. For this reason, we have tried to pack more than 20 awesome places to visit in Rotorua in this article, but even then, there’s always more to do in Rotorua.
We’ve picked out some of the highlights of Rotorua, whether your bag is geothermal parks, experiencing the Maori culture, seeing native wildlife, walking around stunning lakes or on top of volcanoes. It’s all here in this list of places to visit in Rotorua.
The first tourist attraction in Rotorua on our list is Wai-O-Tapu. Rotorua is famous for its geothermal activity so let’s not waste any time getting onto it. Wai-O-Tapu is the place you need to go to if you want to see the orange steamy pools of the “Champagne Pool” or the vibrant green “Devil’s Bath”. There are over 20 different geothermal features to be wowed by throughout the park so is a good couple of hours spent. Read reviews and book tickets on Wai-O-Tapu’s page on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Location: Along State Highway 5 about 53km (33 miles) from Rotorua. Turn down Wai-O-Tapu Road for 1km (0.6 miles).
2. Hamurana Springs
Next on our list of the best Rotorua tourist attractions is Hamurana Springs. A cool natural feature of the Rotorua 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, making it one of the 15 Cheap Things to Do in Rotorua.
Location: 17km (10.5 miles) out of Rotura. Follow State Highway 36 to Hamurana. It’s near the golf course.
3. Lake Tarawera
Waterfalls, natural hot pools and not to mention the stunning lake and volcano scenery, Lake Tarawera is an awesome day trip or overnight trip from Rotorua. While there are options to go with activity providers on the lake, an alternative is to hike the Tarawera Trail from Te Wairoa for five hours to Hot Water Beach where you can bathe in some natural hot pools and stay the night in the campsite. Return water taxis are available. Find out more on the DOC website.
Location: Te Wairoa is a 15-minute drive out of Rotorua down Tarawera Road.
4. Waikite Valley Thermal Pools
You are spoiled for choice with hot pools in Rotorua, between free natural pools to luxurious Polynesian Spa (see point #15). However, the Waikite Valley Thermal Pools is a little off the beaten track making it one of the fun places to visit in Rotorua. Plus, it’s more affordable and features a geothermal walk to see the source of the natural hot springs. Find out more about Waikite Valley Thermal Pools on Klook, Viator or Tripadvisor. Plus, compare Waikite to other hot pools across the country in the 10 Best Hot Pools in New Zealand.
Location: 30 minutes from Rotorua. Take State Highway 5 and turn down the Waikite Valley Road at Waiotapu.
5. Skyline Rotorua
The top of the Skyline Gondola has many things to do from giant swings to the seriously fun Luge. Keen mountain bikers can also try out the downhill trails from the top of the gondola. Skyline Rotorua can also be accessed by city bus, making it an easy tourist attraction in Rotorua to visit if you don’t have your own vehicle.
Location: 178 Fairy Springs Road, approximately 5km (3 miles) from Rotorua city centre.
6. Velocity Valley
For a place to visit in Rotorua with some insanely fun stuff, check out Velocity Valley. Choose from jet boating, bungy jumping, freefalling, Shweebing and giant swinging in this adventure park that runs of a ticket system – a bit like an extreme funfair. Find out more about Velocity Valley on Viator, Tripadvisor and Klook.
Location: 1335 Paradise Valley Road, approximately 9km (6 miles) from Rotorua city centre.
7. Tamaki Maori Village
Experiencing the Maori culture is probably one of the most popular attractions in Rotorua. Rotorua is rich in Maori culture and there are many opportunities to experience the Maori culture for yourself. One of those ways is very having a tour of the Tamaki Maori Village complete with traditional Maori games, crafts, cultural performances and finishing off with a hangi meal buffet. Check out Tamaki Maori Village on Viator, Tripadvisor and Klook. Plus, see how this Maori experience compares to the 10 Best Maori Tours in New Zealand.
Location: Tamaki Maori Village provides transport from 1220 Hinemaru Street, Rotorua city centre. Alternatively, drive yourself about 15 minutes along State Highway 5 from Rotorua.
8. Te Puia
Another extremely popular Rotorua tourist attraction is Te Puia. Te Puia brings everything Rotorua is famous for together with a geothermal park featuring the impressive Pohutu Geyser, as well as cultural performances inside a marae. Watch an example of the powerful powhiri, a Maori welcoming ceremony. Walk around the geothermal hot pools and bubbling mud. Also, see an example of a traditional Maori village. Learn more about Te Puia on Klook, KKday, Viator and Tripadvisor.
Location: Hemo Road, Rotorua. Drive, walk or take the bus from Rotorua city centre.
9. Motion Entertainment
Your rainy day saviour in Rotorua has to be Motion Entertainment. If you’re travelling with a group of mates or family then battle it out on the bowling alley, at the mini golf, on the 4D shooting missions, in escape rooms, laser tag and more! Be aware, when the weather does not play ball, Motion Entertainment becomes one of the most popular attractions in Rotorua. See more rainy day attractions in the 15 Things to Do in Rotorua on a Rainy Day.
Location: 346 Te Ngae Road, Lynmore, approximately 4km (2.5 miles) from Rotorua city centre.
10. Kerosene Creek
For some free natural hot springs and one of the most popular places to visit in Rotorua, check out Kerosene Creek about 30 minutes out of the city. Relax in the naturally-heated stream and waterfall in the creek. For more natural hot pools, check out 5 Free Natural Hot Pools in Rotorua.
Location: 28km (17 miles) south of Rotorua. Take State Highway 5, then travel about 2km (1.2 miles) down Old Walotapu Road, just before you reach the little village of Waiotapu. There will likely be other vehicles parked there.
What is there to say about Zorb? Get inside a giant inflatable hamster ball and roll down a hill! It’s simple yet incredibly fun as you jump into the ball with a little bit of water and experience the feeling of chaos as you roll down the hill. Warning: once is never enough. Check out Zorb on Viator, Tripadvisor and Klook for more details. We also list this in the12 Most Romantic Things to Do in Rotorua for Couples.
Location: 525 Ngongotaha Road, Fairy Springs, approximately 6km (4 miles) from Rotorua city centre.
12. Hell’s Gate
One of the best attractions in Rotorua is Hell’s Gate. If you love bubbling mud, then this is your place! Not only can you watch bubbling mud and other geothermal features, but you can also relax in a mud spa bath to rejuvenate your skin. There are also options to try a hangi – a traditional Maori meal. Book your entry to Hell’s Gate on Viator, Tripadvisor, Klook, Kkday or whatever you prefer!
Location: 351 State Highway 30, Tikitere, approximately 16km (10 miles) or 2o minutes drive from Rotorua city centre.
The National Bird of Prey Centre is your incredible opportunity to get up close to New Zealand’s smallest and only owl, the morepork. Also, check out the flight of the New Zealand falcon every afternoon at 2pm. Other birds of prey species are seen at this rehabilitation centre.
Location: Paradise Valley Road, approximately 8.5km (5 miles) from Rotorua town centre.
14. Kuirau Park
Next is a FREE and super accessible Rotorua tourist attraction, Kuirau Park! The free geothermal park right in the centre of Rotorua features steamy lakes, pools and bubbling mud. You can even bathe your feet in the hot foot baths. Check out more attractions like this in the 15 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Rotorua.
Location: Kuirau Street, Rotorua city centre.
15. Polynesian Spa
Another place to visit right in the centre of Rotorua is the Polynesian Spa. Relax in a huge complex of pools, whether you choose the luxury option or the main pools. Either way, you have a wide range of temperatures, minerals and views to enjoy. Check out Polynesian Spa on Klook, KKday, Viator and Tripadvisor for more information. Plus, see more experiences like this in the 10 Best Luxury Experiences in Rotorua.
Location: 1000 Hinemoa Street, Rotorua city centre.
16. Rainbow Springs
If you are travelling with kids, then Rainbow Springs will be one of your favourite tourist attractions in Rotorua. No, this is not another hot spring but a wildlife attraction in Rotorua! Visit the kiwi house to learn about the breeding programs used to boost the populations of kiwi. If you’re lucky, you might even see a kiwi chick. The main park of Rainbow Springs has bird and reptile enclosures, as well as plenty of trout ponds. Find out more about Rainbow Springs on Viator, Tripadvisor or KKday. Plus, check out more activities like this in the 10 Things to Do in Rotorua with Kids.
Location: 192 Fairy Springs Road (next to Skyline Rotorua), approximately 5km (3 miles) from Rotorua city centre.
17. Mt Tarawera
A mesmerising place to visit in Rotorua is Mt Tarawera. Did you know you can actually walk on Mt Tarawera? Mt Tarawera famously had a huge eruption in 1886, destroying the landscape and villages around it. Walking on this vibrant red volcano with Kaitiaki Adventures is a great way to embrace the landscape and history of this place. Plus, it’s an awesome short alternative to the landscape you would experience on the Tongariro Crossing. Check out Kaitiaki Adventures on Viator and Tripadvisor for more details.
Location: The only way to get up to Mt Tarawera as a tourist is with Kaitiaki Adventures. They do pick-ups in Rotorua.
18. Orakei Korako
Explore a little further off the beaten track towards Taupo and you’ll find the geothermal park of Orakei Korako. A boat service provides access across the Waikato River to the geothermal park full of silica terraces, geysers, colours, pools, caves and steamy stuff. Learn more about Orakei Korako on Viator and Tripadvisor. For more geothermal attractions, check out the 8 Best Geothermal Parks in New Zealand.
Location: 55 minutes drive out of Rotorua. On State Highway 5 at Mihi, turn down Tutukau road the Orakei Korako Road.
19. Whakarewarewa Redwood Forest
Walking tracks, biking tracks, treetop trails, even hot pools… There are many ways to enjoy the Redwoods in Rotorua. Whakarewarewa Redwood Forest can either be enjoyed as a free activity, or you can hire a bike (see hires with Mohawk Ebike Tours on Viator or Tripadvisor) or buy tickets to the Redwoods Treewalk with 21 suspension bridges up high in the forest. For a special perspective, come at night to see the light displays in the trees. This is also a great option for places to visit in Rotorua if you don’t have a car as you can take a city bus there.
Location: Long Mile Road, approximately 5km (3 miles) from Rotorua city centre.
20. Lake Rotoiti
The neighbouring lake to Lake Rotorua, Lake Rotoiti is a world of its own. The scenic lake hides all sorts of wonders between glowworm caves and natural hot pools. Kayaking tours (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor), stand-up paddleboard excursions (on Viator and Tripadvisor) and even sailing on a catamaran yacht are all marvellous ways to explore the lake. However, the big canoe tour with Waimarino Group offers a unique way to paddle on the lake’s tranquil waters while listening to Maori legends and history.
Location: State Highway 30 and 33, Rotorua. Waimarino offers Rotorua accommodation pick-ups.
Less than an hour’s drive of Rotorua is The Lord of the Rings movie attraction that’s on every nerd’s bucket list! Take a tour of where Middle-earth adventures begin at the Hobbiton Movie Set. The 1h30min to 2-hour tour takes you to iconic locations from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings movies, including The Mill, The Green Dragon Inn and tens of Hobbit Holes! Check out reviews and book tickets to Hobbiton on Viator, Tripadvisor, Klook or KKday. Plus, see more LOTR locations in the 23 Best Lord of the Rings Locations in New Zealand.
Location: 501 Buckland Road, Matamata, approximately 69km (43 miles) from Rotorua.
[CLOSED] Jet Boating on the Waikato River
[Update: NZ Riverjet is no longer operating]. Mix a visit to Orakei Korako with a jet boat ride down the Waikato River. NZ Riverjet in Mihi does trips to Orakei Korako or to a secret natural hot pool and canyon known as The Squeeze. The way back is a thrilling jet boat ride complete with 360 spins.
Location: 35 minutes from Rotorua on State Highway 5 at Mihi.
More About Rotorua
That’s it for the best places to visit in Rotorua but by no means is the end of our Rotorua travel tips! Check out the following guides for more travel inspiration:
- 20 Best Things to Do in Rotorua
- The Best Day Trips from Rotorua
- 10 Free Natural Attractions in Rotorua
- 11 Must-Do Walks in Rotorua
- 10 Best Bike Trails in Rotorua
- The Complete Travel Guide to Rotorua
Finally, if you found this guide useful then you might find planning the rest of your trip super easy with the North Island in Two Weeks: New Zealand Road Trip Itinerary and North Island in One Week: New Zealand Road Trip Itinerary.