22 July 2020

Top 10 Things to do in Rotorua | Travel Guide

Rotorua is a must-visit destination on any New Zealand North Island road trip, known for its unique geothermal activity, beautiful nature, Maori culture and history. There is also an abundance of fun activities on offer - like Queenstown is the adventure capital of the South Island, Rotorua is the adventure capital of the North.

Located in the Bay of Plenty, Rotorua is less than three hours drive south-east from Auckland and one hour north of Taupo. You could spend several days here enjoying the many different attractions it has to offer. Here are ten of some of the best things to do, with further travel information at the end.


1. Luging at Skyline Rotorua

You could easily spend a full day at Skyline Rotorua with lots of fun to be had. Head up the gondola for sweeping views over the lake and city, hop in a downhill luge (go-kart) with controls only to turn, brake and let gravity do its thing! There are three awesome tracks blasting through the redwood forest complete with twists, turns and tunnels.

There is also Zoom Ziplines, a Skyswing, a mountain bike park, shops, a cafe and restaurant. Buy a combination ticket to get more bang for your buck.

Cost: Gondola + 3 Luge rides: $60 per adult (there are a range of combination tickets available).

2. Experience Maori Culture at Te Puia

Te Puia is one of the top places in the country to experience Maori culture. Home to the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute, you can enjoy live Maori cultural performances and gain an insight into the myths & legends of the Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley. The iconic Pohutu Geyser is another top attraction that erupts violently every 15-minutes, as well as the Kiwi Conservation Centre where you can view our flightless native bird up close.

Cost: Day Pass: $30 NZ per adult.

3. Kaituna White Water Rafting

Kaituna Rafting is personally one of the most thrilling experiences I've ever had. Surrounded by lush native forest, the Kaituna is a thundering river that winds its way through the outskirts of Rotorua. It’s home to the highest commercially raftable waterfall in the world - the 7-metre Tutea Falls. It's been ranked as the best white water rafting experience in New Zealand.

Cost: $79 NZ per adult.

4. Polynesian Spa

Polynesian Spa is New Zealand’s original and iconic geothermal bathing experience, with access to both acidic and alkaline natural mineral springs. Relax and enjoy a range of lush spa therapies in a huge complex of pools, whether you choose the luxury private option or the main pools. Either way, you have a wide range of temperatures, minerals and views of Lake Rotorua to enjoy.

Cost: Deluxe Lake Spa: $49 per person
Lake View Private Pool: $35 per adult (minimum two)
(There are a range of different options available).

5. Wai-O-Tapu

Made over thousands of years, Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Valley is one of the most spectacular landscapes of geothermal colour and energy. You could spend half a day there walking around, admiring the bright orange and turquoise ‘champagne’ pool, bubbling mud, impressive volcanic craters, steaming fumaroles and bright silica terraces.

The entrance ticket includes the daily mini-show at the Lady Knox Geyser (pictured above), which erupts just once a day at 10:15 am. Wai-O-Tapu is located 25-minutes drive south of Rotorua.

Cost: Thermal Park & Lady Knox Geyser: $32.50 NZ per adult.

6. Jet boating & The Squeeze

New Zealand River Jet offers scenic and thrilling jet boat rides along the Waikato River, where you can fly up to 90km/h. On The Squeeze tour, embark on a jet boat adventure and discover the incredible nature of New Zealand with a ride through Tutukau Gorge, complete with a few tight squeezes through amazing rock features.

Cost: The Riverjet scenic Blast: $125 NZ per adult
The Squeeze: $189 NZ per adult.

7. The Redwoods - Whakarewarewa Forest

For a forest experience unlike any other in New Zealand, check out the mighty Redwoods Forest. Also known as Whakarewarewa Forest, The Redwoods is a mix of native and exotic forest with tracks that can be experienced by bike or foot.

General entrance is free but there is also a Redwoods Treewalk experience on offer. Suspended high above the forest floor, you can encounter the 75-metre-tall redwoods as you walk across eco-suspended bridges and platforms intricately designed to honour and accentuate the stunning natural environment. It's regarded by many as one of the best treetop walks in New Zealand. It is also doable at night with some stunning light displays.

Cost: Free
Treewalk & Nightlights: $30 NZ per adult.

8. Go Zorbing

Did you know that Zorbing was invented right here in Rotorua and it's the only place in New Zealand where you can do it? You basically dive into a giant inflatable ball (Zorb) and roll down Mt Ngongotaha, where the fun will have you laughing uncontrollably.

There are four different ball rolling tracks to choose from - the world’s longest zig-zag Sidewinder Track, the smooth ‘n’ fast double Straight Track, MEGA Track - the longest, fastest and steepest track in all the land, and the newest track Big Air,  is the latest thrill ride. Ride with water or without water, the choice is yours!

Cost: Two-ride deal: $85 NZ per person.

9. Kuirau Park and Lake Rotorua

A couple of free must-do activities include visiting Kuirau Park and Lake Rotorua in the city centre. The park showcases much of the volcanic activity that Rotorua is famous for including steaming and bubbling mud pools and there is even a free geothermal foot bath to enjoy.

Lake Rotorua is the second-largest lake in the North Island and it's a beautiful spot for a picnic on a nice day. If you enjoy boats, you can cruise Lake Rotorua on a traditional paddle steamer or with Rotorua Duck Tours (which includes a guided city tour).

Cost: Free.
Rotorua Paddle Steamer: $19.50 NZ per adult or pay extra for a Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner Cruise
Duck Tours Rotorua City + Lakes Tour: $75 NZ per adult.

10. Go Ziplining in a forest

Rotorua Canopy Tours will take you on a journey through prehistoric native forest. Explore the canopy as you fly on a network of ziplines, swing bridges, cliff-walks, treetop platforms and more.

There are two unforgettable eco-adventure ziplining tours to choose from, both three hours of pure fun, guided by your knowledgeable and experienced Kiwi guides. They will keep you safe, make you laugh and bring the forest to life as you become part of the forest restoration story.

Cost: The Original Canopy Tour: $149 per adult
The Ultimate Canopy Tour: $199 per adult.

Please Note: Another top geothermal site in Rotorua is Hell's Gate. I didn't include it as it is currently closed until the end of October.

Eats & Drinks

Eat Streat is a foodie haven and one of the coolest hot spots in the city. Located at the lake end of Tutanekai Street, enjoy a pedestrian-only zone with quality restaurants, cafes and bars as well as the famous Lady Jane's Ice Cream Parlour.

Check out the top-rated restaurants and cafes on Trip Advisor here. If you happen to be in town on a Thursday, check out the Rotorua Night Market from 5-9 pm. There's a range of delicious street food, live music and entertainment on offer.

Where to Stay

There is a variety of accommodation options to choose from depending on your budget including modern hotels, cheap and cheerful motels, budget backpackers and campgrounds. 

The top three traveller ranked options on Trip Advisor include Aura Accommodation, Peppers on the Point Rotorua and Kings on Peace.

When I visited last year I stayed at Base Rotorua Hot Rocks which is a good option for solo and travellers on a budget. They have affordable dorm rooms or private rooms and have good facilities including a geothermal-heated pool and spa and an onsite bar.

Day Trips from Rotorua

If you have longer to spend in the Rotorua area, you could spend half or a full day at other nearby NZ  attractions and hot spots including:

Waitomo Caves - There are guided full-day tours from Rotorua that take you underground into these famous mysterious caves to see our glowworms.

Hobbiton - For fans of Lord of the Rings or even those just wanting to see some spectacular scenery, there are half-day trips to Hobbiton running several times a day from Rotorua.

Mount Maunganui - If you fancy a beach day, a bit of surf action or want to climb to the top of the stunning 'Mount', Mount Maunganui is less than an hour's drive away.

Taupo - An hour's drive away in the other direction, Taupo is a great place to spend the day. Hang out at NZ's largest lake, see the Mine Bay Maori rock carvings and visit Huka Falls.

Pin it! :)

Rotorua is a top destination in New Zealand with a lot to offer, including nature, relaxation, culture, history as well as a whole lot of action-packed fun.

If you have other recommendations for top things to do, feel free to leave them in the comments below!

Happy Travels,

Check out my YouTube video on Wai-O-Tapu and luging in Rotorua:

*Pricings and information provided were accurate at the time of posting.

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