If you are planning a trip to New Zealand, Rotorua should be at the top of your list. Going to Rotorua is like going to another planet, and while it can be done as a day trip from Auckland, that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to see. There are hot bubbling mud pools dotting the city, puffs of smoke rising from ponds and geysers putting on a show as well as natural hot springs for pure relaxation. This is because the area has a lot of geothermal activity and Rotorua is located in the Waimangu Volcanic Valley, the youngest geothermal system on our planet. Because of this, the whole valley is a protected wildlife reserve.
There are so many unique things to do in Rotorua and this travel guide includes adventurous things to do in Rotorua as well as relaxing activities to do in Rotorua for the ultimate balance between excitement and pure bliss.
Top Things to do in Rotorua
Rotorua is one of the most distinctive places on planet Earth and this list shares with you the best things to do in Rotorua for a truly epic visit.
Explore the thermal activity of Rotorua
The thermal park of Wai-O-Tapu is one of the top attractions in Rotorua and features brightly coloured hot springs, bubbling mud pools, and of course the famous Lady Knox Geyser. Every day at 10:15 visitors in the park gather round the geyser to watch a demonstration of Lady Knox spew boiling water into the sky.
The park is also home to New Zealand’s largest mud pool and was once a mud volcano. This thermal wonderland is unlike any other place in the world, in both sight and smell. The park is filled with steam, with smoke emitting the sulfur smell, similar to that smell that lingers after a match is lit. Walking through this park is a totally unforgettable and exclusive experience that can’t be replicated anywhere else in the world.
A trip to Rotorua doesn’t stop at one thermal park though, add on a visit to Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley to experience even more of the incredible and powerful beauty of this energetic region.
Go whitewater rafting on Kaituna River
One of the most thrilling Rotorua tourist attractions is the grade 5 rapids on the Kaituna River. Dive into the water with an expert guide who will set you up with safety gear and brief you before taking you through 14 separate rapids. The expedition takes about an hour guiding you through warm water canyons and over the world’s largest free-fall drop available to the general public at the 7-metre Tutea Falls.
Hike the volcanic crater on Mount Tarawera
Take a hike to the summit of Mount Tarawera where you will get a chance to walk around the crater of an actual volcano. On a guided walk, you’ll begin the morning by being picked up from your accommodation and brought to the base of the mountain where you’ll get on a quad to be taken to the start of the track. Your guide will give you facts and share stories and legends about the area and Maori culture. Once at the summit you’ll be rewarded with a gorgeous panoramic view of the entire valley and with the accomplishment that you hiked the crater of a volcano!
Chill out at Kerosene Creek
Kerosene Creek is one of the more popular free things to do in Rotorua, especially after a day of hiking or a long car ride. The creek is warmed by the geothermic activity and locals and tourists alike can be found relaxing in the warm waters at the base of a small waterfall. To get to the falls, just follow the trails and sounds of other people. Remember to take trash with you and respect other people relaxing in the creek.
Visit Te Puia for culture & geysers
Te Puia is another one of the geothermal Rotorua attractions to witness first hand, where you can also learn about Maori culture and history. It’s home the largest geyser in the southern hemisphere, Pohutu Geyser, where water can be sprayed up to 30 metres and has lastest as long as 250 days. Though you’ll most likely only see it erupt for a few minutes, this geyser is still a worthy stop on your Rotorua sightseeing itinerary that is pretty much a guarantee to see as it erupts about 20 times a day.
In Te Puia you’ll also see bubbling mud pools, steaming springs and even the iconic kiwi bird, all in the incredible Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley.
Take a break at the geothermal hot springs
Treat yourself to a day of luxury at the geothermal hot springs for the ultimate relaxation holiday. There are 5 separate thermal pools that look over the picturesque Lake Rotorua for you to enjoy. The spa is world-famous and it gets the water for the pools from 2 different natural springs. The geothermal pools are meant for relaxation, restoration, and rejuvenation, filled with alkaline water and others that are slightly acidic. The spa was built on the old bathhouse site which was originally built in the 1800s.
Embrace your inner child with ZORB inflatable ball rides
If you truly want a one of a kind experience, you have to go zorbing. Rotarua is the only place in New Zealand where you and your friends can roll down a hill in a giant inflatable ball. The ball is specially designed to keep you upright the entire time so you are not bouncing all over the place. You can also choose from the H20GO or the DRYGO versions. The H2OGO even comes with the option of warm or cold water! This is truly a one-of-a-kind experience.
Explore an ancient forest
The forest on Sanctuary Mountain is one of the most pristine and protected forests on Earth. On a tour, you can get up close and personal with rare species of trees and animals. Your tour guide will point out different things and give you the history or facts about it each unique part of the forest that makes up the unique ecosystem. The groups stay small so you can gain intimate knowledge of this ancient forest and its hidden creatures. Your guide will also take you to a special clearing where rare parrots like to hang out, plus the chance to climb the tower for a birds-eye view of the area.
Sail above the trees ziplining
For another view from above, this zipline tour is a Rotorua must-do. The park is made from zip lines, swinging rope bridges, spiral staircases, and wooden platforms offering you an exciting view of a forest that has been untouched for centuries. You’ll also get to creep along a suspended cliff walkway and enjoy an 18-metre abseil. Not for the faint of heart, this tour will definitely get your heart pumping. What is even more special is that anyone who books this tour is contributing to the ongoing conservation effort in the area.
Visit the buried village of Te Wairoa
The Village of Te Wairoa is one of New Zealand’s oldest archaeological sites and needs to be on your list of things to see in Rotorua. Visiting this village brings you to an award-winning interactive museum and beautiful walking trails where you can learn the history of the ancient village through audio guides as well as costumed guides. You’ll see and learn about the major volcanic eruption in 1886 which destroyed the town through the objects that have been excavated.
Explore Rotorua by land and water
Hop on board a real WWll amphibious duck boat for a land and water tour of Rotorua. Take a tour of the beautiful lake district with the gorgeous backdrop of a volcano for epic scenery. Get to explore 4 different lakes, Lake Okareka, Lake Tarawera, Lake Rotokakahe, also known as The Green Lake, and the Tikitapu also known as The Blue Lake. As you explore the lakes, a knowledgeable guide will give you all sorts of information and facts about the lakes and the surrounding volcanoes.
The best of Rotorua in a day
Of all the great Rotorua activities, this combination of activities is one for the record books. On a tour, you’ll be given all the gear and a safety briefing required before taking off on your kayak across Lake Rotoiti to your final destination of Manupirua Springs. As you paddle, your guide will be telling you local legends and interesting facts of the area. Get free time to swim around and look for the different hot pools while a traditional Kiwi barbecue is cooked for you to enjoy afterward. After dinner you’ll get back into your kayaks to explore the fascinating glowworm caves.
You can travel around the world and won’t find another place like Rotorua. This geothermal wonderland is a once in a lifetime experience and now you know exactly how to spend your time and what to do in Rotorua!
Continue planning your trip to New Zealand!
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