Top 20 things to do in Rotorua

Whakarewarewa Forest. Image: Graeme Murray

Hell's Gate

Rotorua Canopy Tours. Image: Miles Holden

Kuirau Park

Mount Tarawera. Image: Kaitiaki Adventures

Image: Kaituna Cascades

Top 20 things to do in Rotorua

Experience the healing properties of slipping into a mineral hot spring, get your pulse racing with one of Rotorua’s famous adventure activities, and learn more about New Zealand’s history through a Māori cultural experience.

Go mountain biking in Whakarewarewa Forest

This majestic redwood forest is rocking 130km of MTB trails, with varying landscape and fantastic scenery leaving no question why this is a premier riding destination.

Walk among the redwoods in Whakarewarewa Forest

Yep, it’s not just for wheels. Feel the tranquillity wash over you as you venture into the cool, calm, quiet atmosphere created by these mighty trees, either on foot or horseback. The Redwoods Treewalk is a must-do, sitting 20 metres above the forest floor and traversing a series of 28 suspension bridges to get the birds’ eye view of this ancient forest.

Warm body and soul in natural hot springs

Famous for its incredible geothermal activity, Rotorua is awash with delicious rejuvenating mineral spas on offer. Take in some beautiful scenery while your troubles melt away at the lakeside Polynesian Spa; say goodbye to aches and hello to silky skin after a session at Waikite Valley Thermal Pools; or partake in the ancient practice of a geothermal mud bath followed by a sulphur soak at Hell’s Gate.

Immerse yourself in Māori culture at Tamaki Māori Village

This award-winning attraction is a fully recreated traditional village dedicated to changing the way people experience cultural storytelling. This immersive experience will teach you about tangata (people), whenua (land) and atua (spirit) from a Māori perspective. Choose from a daytime, evening or overnight experience and partake in different customs and traditions.

Zip-a-dee doo-dah

Zoom through trees and sky on a zipline tour that will leave you with a smile on your face. Rotorua Canopy Tours will take you on an adventure through a 119-year-old forest as you explore the network of ziplines, swing bridges, tree-top platforms and cliff walks, while Skyline Rotorua gives you the thrill of flying over the redwoods in a gondola with Lake Rotorua as your backdrop.

Watch the cauldron bubble at Kuiaru Park

The absolute best place in Rotorua to see the effects of geothermal activity for free, a walk around Kuiaru Park will have you hanging mesmerised over thickly bubbling mud pools and walking through the steam of a boiling hot crater lake. You may get the urge to cackle loudly and randomly recite some potion ingredients – don’t fight it.

Go luge or go home

The famous Rotorua Luge is one of the foremost reasons why this unassuming town became one of New Zealand’s adventure capitals. On this part go-kart, part toboggan, you’ll quickly discover how addictive shooting down hillsides on Skyline Rotorua’s Scenic and Intermediate tracks can be.

Be a human marble

One of the most bizarrely iconic sights of Rotorua seeing people bouncing down a grassy slope inside a giant inflatable ball. Tick this unique experience off your bucket list at ZORB Rotorua and have a go at all four tracks – the Straight Track, the Sidewinder, the Big Air, or the Mega Track, the steepest downhill ball rolling track in the world!

See the granddaddy of geysers at Te Puia

Get a load of Pōhutu Geyser, the largest active geyser in the Southern Hemisphere. This geothermal valley is also a cultural experience, taking you deeper into the history, mythology and traditions of the Māori people. Te Puia also houses six kiwi in its Kiwi Conservation Centre, and you can see master weavers and carvers creating traditional masterpieces at the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute. On the Te Puia Light Trail you can experience the sensory adventure of the valley under the night skies.

Your free hot spring in the bush

A favourite spot with Rotorua locals, Kerosene Creek is a beautiful spot to enjoy natural hot springs for free. A short walk through lush native bush will lead you to the stream, waterfall, and small hot pools created by swimmers piling rocks up to separate the pools from the stream. Even the stream itself offers little hot pockets if you’re lucky enough to locate them!

Have an aMAZE-ing day out with the family

Bring the family for some good old-fashioned carnival-style fun at aMAZEme. Find your way through the dead ends and trick pathways of the hedge maze, check out the animals at McGregor’s Garden, and foster some friendly competition with activities like tug o’ war, sack races and giant board games.

Experience a day in the life of a living Māori village

You’ll get to embrace the culture, history and geography of Rotorua at Whakarewarewa: The Living Māori Village, the home and legacy of the Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao people. The tribe have lived here for over 200 years and are still welcoming visitors to share their stories and way of life. You’ll also get the chance to get up close to Rotorua’s famous geothermal activity, and learn about the myths and legends relating to Whakarewarewa’s bubbling mud pools, geysers and hot springs.

Get your adventure on at Skyline Rotorua

Offering some of the best opportunities to experience Rotorua’s adventurous spirit and appreciate its landscape, Skyline Rotorua is your headquarters for must-do activities. Start with a scenic gondola ride up to the main complex, where you can then take your pick of pulse-racing adventures; will it be the luge, zipline, Skyswing, or mountain biking? Finish off your day with a meal and a stunning view at Stratosphere Restaurant & Bar.

See baby kiwi at Rainbow Springs

Meet and learn about a New Zealand icon at this nature park, where you can take a tour of the National Kiwi Hatchery and see conservation in action. If you’re lucky with the timing of your visit, you may even get the chance to see kiwi chicks being weighed or fed.

Meet furry friends at Paradise Valley Springs

Native New Zealand birds, cuddly farm animals and even a pride of lions – this animal park has it all. Check out the lion feeding show at 2.30pm, pat and feed alpacas, horses, sheep and more, drink from a pure freshwater spring, and get up close to nature on the elevated treetops walkway, which takes you up to six metres off the ground among the canopy of large native Tawa trees.

Appreciate a rich culture at Mitai Māori Village

This Maori and island fusion experience tells the story of Tamatekapua’s journey to Aotearoa on the Te Arawa canoe, and brings history to life through traditional songs, dances and games performed by Māori and Pacific Islanders. You’ll also see warriors in traditional dress paddle a waka down the Wai-o-whiro stream and dine on a traditional hāngī.

Visit history at the Buried Village of Te Wairoa

One of the most-visited historical sites in New Zealand, Te Wairoa was once the location of the Pink and White Terraces, the eighth wonder of the world, until Mount Tarawera erupted in 1886, burying the village of Te Wairoa and completely destroying the terraces. Today, you can explore the Museum of Te Wairoa, explore the archeological site and walk the scenic pathways connecting the buried village with the surrounding native bush.

Take a guided tour of Mount Tarawera

Revered by local Māori, the only way to explore this volcano is on a guided tour through Kaitiaki Adventures. You’ll get to soak in the incredible vistas from the mountainside and, if you’re up for it, take an optional run into the heart of the volcanic crater.

Make the most of the scenery at Lake Rotoiti

Whether its on a luxury catamaran cruise, or under your own steam in a kayak or canoe, Lake Rotoiti is a beautiful experience. Be sure to stop in at Manupirua Springs, a stunning hot pool complex only accessible by water or air. If you’re staying on shore, try one of the beautiful walking tracks that take you on a route to appreciate the view: Okere Falls Tracks or Hinehopu/Hongi’s Track.

Plunge over the world’s highest raftable waterfall

Yes, Rotorua is home to the world’s highest commercially raftable waterfall, the seven-metre Tutea Falls on the Kaituna River. Kaituna Cascades will teach you everything you need to know before taking you on an action-packed journey through grade 4 and 5 rapids, including that thrilling drop.

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