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.
Location: Along State Highway 5 about 53km from Rotorua. Turn down Wai-O-Tapu Road for 1km.
2. Hamurana Springs
A cool natural feature of the Rotorua area is the crystal clear Hamurana Springs. Takes a 15-minute walk to get to the springs with decking viewpoints looking over the springs. This is a paid activity of around NZ$20 each.
Location: 17km 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 Trails from Te Wairoa on a 5-hour hike to Hot Water Beach where you can bathe in some natural hot pools and stay the night in the campsite.
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. However, the Waikite Valley Springs is a little off the beaten track. Plus, it’s affordable and features a geothermal walk to see the source of the natural hot springs.
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.
Location: 178 Fairy Springs Road, Rotorua
6. Velocity Valley
For a place in Rotorua to try 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.
Location: Paradise Valley Road, Rotorua
7. Tamaki Maori Village
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.
Location: Pick-ups are included from accommodations in Rotorua city centre or drive yourself about 15 minutes along State Highway 5 from Rotorua.
8. 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.
Location: Hemo Road, Rotorua. Drive, walk or take the bus from Rotorua Central.
9. Motion Entertainment
Your rainy day saviour in Rotorua has to be Motion Entertainment. If you’re travelling with a group of mates then battle it out on the bowling alley, at the mini gold, on the 4D shooting missions, in escape rooms, laser tag and more!
10. Kerosene Creek
For some free natural hot springs, check out Kerosene Creek about 30 minutes out of Rotorua. 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: Take State Highway 5 and turn off at Old Waiotapu Road just before you reach the little town of Waiotapu.
What is there to say about Ogo? 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.
Location: Ngongotaha Road, Rotorua
12. Hells Gate
If you love bubbling mud, then Hells Gate is your place! Not only can you watch the geothermal wonders or 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.
Location: 20 minutes out of Rotorua north on State Highway 30 to Tikitere.
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. Plus, other birds of prey species are seen at this rehabilitation centre for New Zealand birds of prey.
Location: Paradise Valley Road, Rotorua
14. Kuirau Park
A free geothermal park right in the centre of Rotorua is Kuirau Park. Check out the steamy lakes, pools and bubbling mud. You can even bathe your feet in the hot foot baths.
Location: Kuirau Street, Rotorua
15. Polynesia 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.
Location: Hinemoa Street, Rotorua
16. Rainbow Springs
No this is not another hot springs 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 has bird and reptile enclosures, as well as plenty of trout ponds.
Location: 192 Fairy Springs Road, Rotorua (next to Skyline Rotorua).
17. 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.
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. For more geothermal attractions, see here.
Location: 55 minutes drive out of Rotorua. On State Highway 5 at Mihi, turn down Tutukau road the Orakei Korako Road.
19. Jet Boating on the Waikato River
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.
20. Redwoods Forest
Walking tracks, biking tracks, treetop trails… There are many ways to enjoy the Redwoods in Rotorua. The Redwoods can either be enjoyed as a free activity, or you can hire a bike or buy tickets to the 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, Rotorua.