Summary: The top things to do in Rotorua
- Geothermal Park and Mud pools
- Raft down Tutea Waterfall
- Zipline at Redwoods Forest
- Learn about Maori culture
- Skyline Rotorua
- Waimangu Volcanic Valley
- Mountain Biking
- Rotorua Lake Tours
- Secret Spot Hot Tubs
- Velocity Valley Adventure
- Volcanic Hills Winery
- Go Zorb
Is Rotorua worth visiting?
The simple answer? Absolutely yes!
Rotorua (pronounced row-tuh-roo-uh) means the second lake in the Māori language as it was the second lake to be discovered by early Māori explorer, Ihenga. Situated in the middle of the North Island in the Bay of Plenty, Rotorua is famous for celebrating its Maori culture and has the largest Maori population of any city in New Zealand (approximately 1 third). It is the best place to visit in New Zealand to immerse yourself in Maori culture, history and legends.
Rotorua is also famous for its stunning volcanic scenery, natural geothermal activity and large mud pools, making it one epic place to visit! Not only that, the city is awesome for thrill seekers, from the highest commercially rafted waterfall to zip-lining through ancient forests and countless mountain bike trails, Rotorua is sure to satisfy your wild side.
Free with every car hire, our GO Play discount card for Rotorua and Bay of Plenty offers hundreds of discounts so you can explore every inch of this city. So, if you want a city you can relax in, adventure in and be cultured in then let’s get GOing with our amazing things to do in Rotorua. We are sure you will want to add it to your New Zealand itinerary by the end!
12 Amazing Things To Do in Rotorua (The full breakdown)
1. Let off steam at a Geothermal Park and Mud pool
Rotorua region is one of the world’s most active geothermal fields, with bubbling hot springs erupting daily. So, you can’t visit Rotorua and not take advantage of the natural hot springs, geothermal activity and mud baths, can you? Some premier pools will charge but there is a list of free hot pools in Rotorua for those on a budget. Let’s take a quick dip into the best hot springs to can visit:
Located within walking distance of Rotorua city centre and listed as one of the top 10 spas in the world, Polynesian Spa must be at the top of your list. Relax in one of their 28 hot pools with a stunning lake view or treat yourself to the private pools and a signature spa treatment. If this doesn’t get you to add Rotorua to your bucket list, what will?
Steeped in Maori history, Hell’s Gate offered healing properties to wounded Maori warriors. Today, you can ‘let off steam’ and bathe in their hot mud pools, said to relieve symptoms of arthritis and exfoliate your skin.
Waikite Valley Thermal Pools
A short drive from Rotorua town centre, Waikite valley thermal pools are worth the trip. The pools are sourced by Te Manaroa spring, New Zealand’s largest single source of 100% pure boiling geothermal water. The hot pool experience is 35-38 degrees celsius, you couldn’t get more relaxing than that!
Located right next to Rotorua city centre, it is too easy to take a stroll to the hot pools, foot spa and mud baths in Kuirau park. Walk through one of the various trails and see the bubbling geothermal activity with eruptions happening daily.
A 20-minute drive from Rotorua city centre sits the natural hot springs and hot waterfall of Kerosene creek. One of the best free things to do in Rotorua and where all the locals go to relax amongst other nature lovers.
If you need more ideas for Free Things to do in Rotorua, we have written up the best list.
Wai O Tapu
Not open to swimming but well worth a visit is one of the most beautiful geothermal hotspots in Rotorua. Admire the vibrant colours and natural steam of the photogenic Lady Knox geyser.
2. Raft down the 7-metre Tutea Waterfall
One of the best Rotorua attractions, the world’s highest commercially rafted waterfall sits at 7 metres high and is an adrenaline-induced way to spend your day! 13 years and over can be kitted out in wetsuits, life jackets and helmets before jumping into a raft and experiences water rapids, smaller waterfalls and then building up to the huge Tutea falls. Are you brave enough to take the plunge?
3. Do New Zealand’s best Zip-line at Redwoods Forest
Rotorua canopy tours offer many adventure activities at Redwoods forest, from a tree walk to zip-lining, there is something for everyone. With 3 Canopy tours to choose from and their original zip-line named New Zealand’s best zip-line, you won’t be disappointed as you take 3 hours to zoom through dense rainforest with mountains and lakes as a backdrop. Simply stunning!
4. Immerse yourself in Maori culture
To really appreciate New Zealand, you have to immerse yourself in Maori culture and nowhere celebrates this more than Rotorua. Immerse yourself in one of these experiences and learn about the legends, history and even see a live Haka cultural performance:
Expanding 70 hectares across the Te Whakarewarewa geothermal region, you could have a full day of fun at Te Puia. With hot pools, mud baths, a historic Maori village, art galleries and classes and experiences, Te Puia aims to teach all visitors about the Maori culture Rotorua has.
Te Pa Tū (Previously named Tamaki Maori Village)
The only cultural experience to receive a Supreme New Zealand tourism award, Te Pa Tū (Previously named Tamaki Maori Village) are experts in preserving traditions, legends and rituals. Join them for a feast of traditional Maori food, songs and dramas at one of their 4-hour evening events, lined with the Maori lunar calendar.
Whakarewarewa – The Living Maori Village
New Zealand’s only living Maori Village who’s ancestors can be traced back to 1250 and 1300 AD, Whakarewarewa absolutely must be on your list. Experience the Jurassic Park-like Geothermal landscapes, learn about the Maori history and see the village where they still live today. Help to preserve the history, traditions and rituals of our Polynesian ancestors.
Mitai Maori Village
Witness traditional warriors setting sail in an ancient canoe and be amazed by their weaponry and combat skills. All of this with a traditionally cooked meal in a Hangi earth-cooked feast; you will learn so much about the Maori culture at Mitai.
5. Ride Skyline Rotorua
Jump on board a gondola and ride your way into the skyline for amazing views across Lake Rotorua and the volcanic valley. Not only that, once you get to the top you can jump onto another awesome activity such as the largest luge track, zip lines, mountain biking trails, sky swing and shops and restaurants. Skyline Rotorua is not just a cable car, it’s a place you can spend the whole day exploring.
6. Explore Waimangu Volcanic Valley
At only a 20 minutes drive from Rotorua town centre, you can choose to self-drive or book a tour guide to explore the beautiful Waimangu Volcanic Valley. See the stunning Mount Tarawera active volcano and learn about the incredible pink and white terraces, once the 8th wonder of the World until the eruption of the volcano in 1886. Waimangu volcanic valley is the only geothermal system in the world to have been naturally created within written history (the last 5,000 years), now that is cool enough to want to visit, right?
7. Cruise The Best Mountain Biking trails
Mountain Biking (MTB) is one of New Zealand’s most loved sports. With a diverse and rugged landscape, mountain biking is very exhilarating in this beautiful country and Rotorua was named “Mountain Bike Heaven” by Red Bull and made it onto the list of best mountain biking trails in New Zealand.
Redwoods Forest (Whakarewarewa Forest)
This adventurous mountain bike trail helped Rotorua gain IMBA Gold Status so it has to be top of your list. With 5,600 hectares to get lost in, you will be riding through lush green native forest bushes and tall exotic trees such as Californian Redwoods. You will have 160km of forest floor track to ride so plan a couple of days if you want to complete it all.
Skyline Rotorua Trail
There’s a reason the skyline has made it onto this list twice, their mountain bike trail is the only gondola-accessed trail in the world and also helped Rotorua gain a Gold Status award. At 200m elevation, you will have 14 trails to choose from and there is something for everyone.
Ask our team about fitting a bike rack on your rental car with GO Rentals.
8. Jump on a Rotorua Lake Tour
The Rotorua region is abundant with 18 breathtaking lakes to admire and explore, check out our top picks:
You can’t visit Rotorua and not take a boat cruise on lake Rotorua, the second-largest lake on the North Island. Formed by the crater of a large volcano, you may be surprised to know that it is the most productive trout fishing lake in New Zealand.
Lake Tikitapu (Blue Lake)
You may have guessed that it gets its name, Blue Lake, from being a pristine blue all year round. With 2 beaches, boat access and swimming spots, Lake Tikitapu is an amazing place to relax for the whole family.
Lying beneath the majestic Mount Tarawera, lake Tarawera has a hot water beach with a view of the steam-clouded cliffs. Get yourself there immediately for a day of family fun.
If you are into water sports then Lake Taupo is for you. Hire yourself a kayak, water-ski or sailboat to see the historic Maori carvings only accessible by water.
With a charming small town settlement, Lake Okareka is the place to go if you want to avoid heavily tourist areas. You can paddle board, fish or hike and feel like a local.
9. Find the Secret Spot Hot Tubs
Spend an hour relaxing in one of the cedar wood hot tubs in the middle of Whakarewarewa Forest with drinks delivered at the press of a button? Yes please! Whether you are visiting Rotorua for adventure or city culture, you will want to rest your feet in one of these immense hot tubs.
10. Jump into Velocity Valley Adventure
If you are an adrenaline addict then Velocity Valley is the place to be. Ride the World’s first commercial Agrojet and feel like James Bond as you hurl across the water with 3G’s of force or strap yourself into a human swing and catapult to 130km/h in 1 second. Or try your hand at a 43m Bungy jump then soar like a bird in a 220km/h wind tunnel. Are you brave enough to do all the thrilling activities here?
Be sure to have your relaxing Rotorua accommodation booked so you can unwind after your heart-racing day, check out our full Rotorua accommodation guide.
11. Sample everything at Volcanic Hills Winery
If you don’t have time for a full New Zealand road trip into the award-winning wine region of Central Otago, then Volcanic Hills Winery has got you covered. Based in Rotorua city centre with a view of Lake Rotorua, you can sample some of New Zealand’s best wines in the tasting room and learn how they are made, a beautiful way to end the day, or start the afternoon!
12. Hurl yourself down a hill with Go Zorb
Ever seen a beautiful hilly landscape and wondered what it would be like to hurl yourself down it? We thought so! Now you can with Go Zorb. Invented by Kiwis in Rotorua, Zorbing is a thrilling way to explore landscape and water tracks and experience anti-gravity weightlessness. You can spin at speeds of up to 50km/h so it is not for the faint-hearted. But after all, you don’t come to the world-renowned adventure country of New Zealand and not try a few heart-racing experiences, do you?
Read about why we love Zorbing in Rotorua so much and you will be booking your ticket, we’re sure!
Frequently Asked Questions
When is the best time to visit Rotorua?
Summer, December through to February, is the perfect time to visit Rotorua with the longest daylight hours and temperatures between 21 and 29 degrees Celsius. But, this is the most busiest time of year to visit as it attracts the most tourists.
You could also enjoy visiting Rotorua in Spring, September to November, when the temperates are a little cooler at 13-21 degrees Celsius. Visiting the geothermal hot pools in colder temperates is awesome as you get to plunge into the warmth.
What is the weather like in Rotorua?
The summers are really pleasant in Rotorua as you can experience mostly sunny days without the scorching temperature of some places in the Southern Hemisphere. The winter months bring a lot of rain and temperatures range between 4 and 16 degrees Celsius and rarely drops below -1.
Where can I visit near Rotorua?
Use our awesome trip planner to plan your itinerary in New Zealand and see how far your can actually go in the time you have. These are some places you can stop at on your way in or out of Rotorua:
At only an hour’s drive from Rotorua city centre, you can visit the Lord of The Rings set and see the majestic Hobbit shire. Join them for a Hobbit style banquet or second breakfast too! Did somebody say elevenses?
New Zealand’s most visited waterfall is only an hour’s drive from Rotorua town centre. You can walk across the footbridge at the top and be amazed by the 220,000 litres of water surging down the 11-metre drop.
Why not pick up your rental car at Auckland Airport and plan the most epic road trip to Rotorua? You can thank us later for the idea.