Located on New Zealand’s North Island, the small city of Rotorua has a huge variety of experiences that will immediately make you want to plan a trip here! This is a hotbed for geothermal activity like amazing hot springs and geysers, it has an incredible landscape with 18 lakes nearby, and it’s one of the best spots to experience the amazing Māori culture.
I know after my first visit here, I was struck by how friendly everyone was and that there was something new to discover around every corner. From geyser fields to glow worms to traditional Māori feasts, I couldn’t get enough of everything Rotorua has to offer.
I’ve put together this guide to Rotorua so you can plan your own getaway. There are 33 things to do on this list of things to do in Rotorua and honestly, I could’ve kept going!
Feel free to pick and choose what catches your eye, and if you don’t get to try everything, you’ll have plenty of ideas for when you come back because I know you’ll want to!
- 1. Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland
- 2. White water rafting (the famous 7-meter drop!)
- 3. Te Puia
- 4. Day trip to Hobbiton
- 5. Ride in the Duck Boat
- 6. Rotorua Museum and Government Gardens
- 7. Māori cultural experience
- 8. See glow worms
- 9. Hike on Mt Tarawera
- 10. Ziplining
- 11. Ride the Skyline Gondola and Luge
- 12. Explore Tutanekai Street and Eat Streat
- 13. Walk in the Whakarewarewa Forest
- 14. Visit Hell’s Gate
- 15. Golf
- 16. Walk the lake’s edge
- 17. Rotorua Night Market
- 18. Relax at the Polynesian Spa
- 19. Go horseback riding
- 20. Explore Kuirau Park
- 21. Secret Spot Hot Tubs
- 22. Scenic flight
- 23. Bungy jumping
- 24. Giant swing experience
- 25. Visit the 3D Trick Art Gallery
- 26. Mountain biking
- 27. Roll around in a Zorb
- 28. Visit a winery
- 29. See a Kiwi Bird
- 30. Jet boating
- 31. 4WD Safari Tour
- 32. Day trip to Taupo
- 33. Day trip to Tauranga
About Rotorua, New Zealand
The city of Rotorua lies within the Bay of Plenty region. This area is home to some of the most amazing beaches in New Zealand, tons of orchards and gardens, incredible scenery, and natural geothermal wonders. The drive from Rotorua to Taupo is one of my favorites for all its incredible sights along the way!
The geothermic activity around Rotorua has always been a draw and, in fact, was why this town was established back in the 1880s. Rotorua was built by the government to help attract tourists to the “hot lakes” … which is still why many people come today! Rotorua is famous for its natural hot springs and spas, bubbling mud pools, and geysers that shoot into the air.
The name Rotorua comes from the Māori word meaning “second lake” and this city sits on the south shore of Lake Rotorua. But there are also more than a dozen other lakes and rivers nearby, making this an incredible destination for water activities like white water rafting and boating. There are also great bike trails, forests to hike through, and adventurous activities for thrill-seekers.
Almost 40% of Rotorua’s population identifies as Māori, making this a hub of the Māori culture. It’s an amazing place to learn more about the Māori people and traditions while you’re here.
Regarding the local seasons, Rotorua has pretty nice weather all the time, but the best time to visit is usually during the summer from December to February. This is when you’ll have long hours of sunlight and temperatures around 29°C (84°F) during the day and lows around 12°C (53°F) at night. But don’t discount the cooler months – taking a dip in hot springs is one of the best fall and winter activities, plus you won’t have to fight the crowds!
The Best Things to do in Rotorua
1. Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland
While this sounds like a theme park, this is actually a site formed some 230,000 years ago with stunning natural wonders on display! Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland gives you a front-row seat to a huge geothermal park located on the north side of a collapsed volcano crater. It’s one of the top attractions in Rotorua!
Here, you can see the largest mud pool in New Zealand and the Lady Knox Geyser which can shoot water as high as 10-20 meters (33-65 feet) into the air. The landscape is full of sulfur lakes, geysers, naturally-colored hot springs, bubbling mud, steaming ground, and giant volcanic craters. It’s such a unique area to explore.
There are guided tour options or you can walk through on your own along one of three different paths. When you come, make sure you’re here for 10:15 am when the Lady Knox Geyser erupts as part of a daily presentation.
It’s located about 20 minutes from Rotorua along the Thermal Explorer Highway (SH 5). Admission starts around $11 NZD, and make sure you have credit/debit handy as they don’t accept cash.
2. White water rafting (the famous 7-meter drop!)
If you’re looking for adventure, Rotorua has you covered. Experience the Kaituna River firsthand as you navigate the white-water rapids on this rafting tour.
You will pass by a stunning rainforest while you float through the canyon and under majestic waterfalls before you actually get to go over a waterfall! The 7-meter (23-foot) drop of Tutea Falls is definitely one that gets your heart racing. This waterfall is famous among the white water rafting community worldwide. If fact, it’s the highest commercially rafted drop in the world (definitely worthy of bragging rights to your friends back home!)
This is also one of the very best whitewater rafting experiences in all of New Zealand. The waterfall drop has made it famous.
If that isn’t enough excitement, you’ll also have the chance to try cliff jumping with a leap off of a 3-meter (10-foot) cliff.
This experience is only a 20-minute drive from Rotorua and the tour includes hotel pick-up and drop-off, so you don’t need to worry about transportation. It will take some courage for sure, but all the safety equipment including a wetsuit and helmet are provided, and experienced river guides are always on hand to help.
This experience will have you out on the river for an hour and costs $105 NZD per person. It’s a fun family bonding activity – just make sure kids are 13 years old or older for the trip.
There are also some photographers out there who will capture you in your best wetsuit-wearing pose! You can buy those after the activity, once your heart has stopped racing.
Tip: Wear a swimsuit and bring a change of clothes for afterward!
3. Te Puia
Discover one of only two geyser fields in the world still in its natural state at Te Puia. This 60-hectare landscape lies within the Te Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley. It’s full of mud pools and geysers, including the Pōhutu Geyser which is the largest active geyser in the Southern Hemisphere!
It’s located only 5 minutes from Rotorua and I recommend joining a guided tour once you arrive to learn all about the history and heritage of Te Puia. Make sure you also stop into the Kiwi Conservation Center to get an up-close look at these endangered birds and learn how the sanctuary is working to help them.
You can also visit the Māori village to see the traditional carving and weaving right in front of your eyes, particularly flax weaving and carvings of wood, stone, and bone.
The highlight is definitely taking a breathtaking stroll down the Te Whakarewarewa geyser terrace as you explore the geothermal landscape.
Guided tours are $70 NZD for adults and $35 NZD for kids. For a unique experience, you can also go at night to see the geysers under the stars! Tickets are the same price for during the day or the evening.
Te Puia is open daily during the busy season and closed Mondays and Tuesdays in the winter.
4. Day trip to Hobbiton
The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies were filmed here in New Zealand, so while you’re here, step into Middle-earth and see where movie magic came to life. There are 150 filming locations scattered across the North and South Islands, but one of the best is the amazing Hobbiton movie set.
This sheep farm with lush green pastures and rolling hills has been transformed with hobbit holes, the famous Green Dragon Inn (where you can enjoy a drink!), and the Party Tree. It’s a treasure trove for Lord of the Rings fans and a pretty cool experience, even if you’ve only seen a couple of the movies.
Hobbiton is easily one of the most popular attractions in all of New Zealand, so you should add it to your ‘to-do’ list.
You can drive yourself here as it’s just over an hour from Rotorua or join a guided tour to have everything planned out for you.
This small-group Hobbiton tour takes you to explore the movie set and visit Bilbo’s hobbit hole as you hear behind-the-scenes stories. On top of visiting Hobbiton, this tour also goes to the famous Waitomo glow worm caves as you take a boat through this galaxy of living lights – two attractions in one tour! The all-inclusive experience including transportation and all admission fees is $350 NZD.
Related read: Want to see another spot where movie magic was made in NZ? One of the best things to do on the Coromandel Peninsula is visit Cathedral Cove, where the Chronicles of Narnia were filmed!
5. Ride in the Duck Boat
For a totally new way to explore Rotorua, hop aboard a Duck Boat! These bright yellow World War II amphibious vehicles can travel both on land and on the water.
This Duck Boat guided tour is 1.5 hours long and starts at Rotorua’s city center. You’ll pass by landmarks like Lake Rotorua, Mokoia Island, and Government Gardens before splashing down into Lake Tikitapu and Lake Okareka.
This is such a fun experience for kids to join in too! It’s really entertaining and a great way to see the city. The tour guides are awesome at giving lots of great information while also making you laugh. This is one of those unexpected activities you’ll be talking about once you get home!
Tickets are $85 NZD per person. It’s one of the most popular things to do in Rotorua for families with young children – kids love the duck boat!
6. Rotorua Museum and Government Gardens
Take a walk through the beautiful Government Gardens right on the edge of the lake in Rotorua’s downtown. The flowers here are stunning and it’s a nice place to stroll around and take photos.
This land here was gifted by the Māori people to the government back in the late 1800s. It has a geothermal area where a Tudor-style bath house was built in 1908 to house the hot pools.
Now that bath house is home to the Rotorua Museum and art gallery. It has rich and dramatic displays of Rotorua culture and history with exhibits that can be explored from the basement to the roof – which has breathtaking views of the city and lake.
Note: The museum is currently closed after a seismic investigation revealed it needed renovations as it wasn’t up to earthquake safety standards. The good news is that work is currently being done to strengthen the structure and redesign the exhibits before it reopens in 2025.
7. Māori cultural experience
Rotorua is an amazing place to learn about the Māori people and culture. You can completely immerse yourself here by visiting a Māori village or taking part in a traditional feast. These are among the most unique things to do in Rotorua.
Spend a night at the Mitai Maori Village cultural experience where you will get introduced to the Maori culture with performances including weaponry displays and a traditional Hangi feast cooked in an underground oven. From the moment you arrive, you’ll be captivated by experiences like seeing warriors in traditional dress paddling their ancient canoe, watching ‘haka’ and ‘poi’ dances, and seeing glow worms and fish in the Fairy Spring on a guided bush walk. Rates for the tour start at approximately $123 NZD per person.
Another option is to spend an evening at Te Pā Tū where you’ll experience a powhiri (welcome ceremony) performed by descendants of New Zealand’s ancient warriors. You’ll walk by crackling fires and traditional homes as you listen to instruments and see re-enactments of daily activities. The experience also includes haka song and dance and a hangi feast with slow-cooked meat and vegetables. Tour prices begin at around $245 NZD per visitor.
8. See glow worms
Imagine entering a cave with twinkling blue lights that look almost like the night sky. This amazing phenomenon is created by a species of glow worm that can only be found in New Zealand and parts of Australia.
The first time I saw these glow worms in NZ I was just in awe – these tiny creatures produce this light naturally and the bioluminescence is spectacular up close. The glow worms here are typically found in caves or forests and while you can explore on your own, joining a tour is one of the best Rotorua activities.
One of the best ways to get into the caves is by paddling. Take a twilight paddleboard tour or a kayaking tour through small hidden caves that are home to galaxies of glow worms. You’ll gently glide through the caves to see the spectacular display and then paddle across the lake as the first stars appear at night. These are nice small tours, so it doesn’t feel crowded. They each costs $130 NZD.
For a night-time adventure, this nocturnal glow worm tour lets you walk through the bush on a guided night walk before exploring the Waitomo Caves. You’ll turn off your flashlight as the glow worms light up the world around you – even on the cloudiest night. Plus you might see other wildlife like wallabies and possums and you’ll get to do a bit of star gazing. This affordable tour is $79 NZD per person.
If you’re looking for a longer option, this full-day tour includes a visit to the Waitomo Caves to see the glow worms as well as a stop at the Hobbiton Movie Set. You can tailor the tour to where you’d like to go and you’ll see two of the best stops in Rotorua with all transportation provided.
Related read: Exploring glow worm caves is just one of the incredible stops on a road trip from Auckland to Paihia!
9. Hike on Mt Tarawera
When you’re looking for some of the best hikes on the North Island, there are some amazing trails around Mount Tarawera. This mountain was actually a volcano that erupted back in 1886!
You can take the Tarawera Trail which starts at the Te Wairoa parking lot, about 15 minutes from Rotorua. It’s about a 4-6 hour hike passing through the bush with views of the lake and Mount Tarawera and ending at the natural hot springs of Hot Water Beach. You’ll want to hike it in one direction and then take a water taxi back – otherwise, it’s a really long day!
If you want to hike the summit of Mount Tarawera for incredible panoramic views that have been compared to the Grand Canyon, you’ll need a tour. This is a sacred place for the Māori, so access to the mountain is limited.
This Mt Tarawera guided hike is four hours long to help you uncover the magnificence of the mountain and learn about the diverse geology of New Zealand. You’ll follow winding trails from the base all the way up to the crater’s edge to learn about the volcano’s eruption in 1886. You’ll have an amazing view near the crater overlooking the geothermal valley of Waimangu. The guided hike includes transport from your hotel and costs $185 NZD.
For anyone looking for a unique hiking tour, I definitely recommend this. Your hard work and patience will pay off when you reach the top!
Fly high above the 500-year-old forest of Rotorua with a ziplining adventure tour. You’ll start at a platform 21 meters (72 feet) above the ground before taking a series of six ziplines above the tree canopy.
I’ve ziplined around the world and have to say New Zealand has some of the best ziplines! It’s such a neat way to cover a lot of ground and explore a unique spot. Plus, the feeling of soaring above the ground never gets old! Luckily, there are a couple of really fun zipline tours available in Rotorua.
The expert guides are so nice at giving you all the instructions and safety gear you’ll need, so it’s easy to relax and enjoy the ride. The longest zipline here is 220 meters (722 feet), which gives a nice long ride. There are also suspension bridges to walk across along the way.
Round-trip transportation is included, and at the end of the tour, you will get access to all the images from your zipline adventure and be able to download them. The tour is $159 NZD.
11. Ride the Skyline Gondola and Luge
Another way to soar high above Rotorua is aboard the Skyline Gondola. These gondolas fit 8 people inside and offer spectacular views of Lake Rotorua, the city, and the geothermal pools.
Even if you don’t love heights, I found this ride really relaxing as you glide along the 900-meter (2,950-foot) Doppelmayr cableway system.
Once you’re at the top, the adventure doesn’t have to stop! You can luge, mountain bike, zipline, try the Skyswing, hike the nature trails, check out the Jelly Belly store, or have a meal and wine with a view at one of the restaurants.
One of the most interesting activities is riding the luge! It’s part go-cart, part toboggan, and is gravity-fueled as you make your way down the course. Challenge your family or friends to discover who among you is the best driver!
For just a gondola ride, it’s $37 NZD, but you can add on a luge ride for an additional $15 NZD. The luge is a one-time ride, so if you think you’ll want to go down more than once, there are packages available with multiple rides included.
The Skyline Gondola is open 7 days a week from 10 am to 5 pm and there’s a night luge (complete with colorful LED lights!) available on certain nights until 8 pm.
Related Read: There is another Skyline Gondola and Luge in Queenstown. It’s one of the best things to do in Queenstown with kids.
12. Explore Tutanekai Street and Eat Streat
While in Rotorua, don’t miss one of the best evening activities – exploring Tutanekai Street and the iconic ‘Eat Streat‘. Tutanekai is one of the main avenues in town and on the lake side of it, you’ll find lively restaurants, pubs, nightclubs, and more all along the area about the size of a city block.
Eat Streat is kind of like the ultimate food court with an outdoor dining area around a covered pathway. It’s open all year round and the walkway is heated, which is nice during the colder months. You’ll find everything from hearty pub food, steaks, Indian, Italian, and ice cream here.
I mentioned ice cream because you HAVE to stop at Lady Janes Ice Cream Parlour. It’s been here for decades and locals will tell you to get a ‘Danish cone’ which is a large waffle cone with creamy ice cream topped with fresh whipped cream and sprinkles. So good!
If you don’t want to start with dessert, grab ice cream after you try some of the food at Atticus Finch. Their dishes are made to share, so come with friends to enjoy dumplings, fried fish, lamb, and incredible pavlova.
If you aren’t full yet or can make another trip down, I highly recommend the food at Ambrosia. The retractable ceilings here make dining outdoors really cool. Come earlier in the evening (5-7 pm) for the early bird three-course meal for under $30 NZD. There’s also live music on Friday nights and Sunday afternoons.
13. Walk in the Whakarewarewa Forest
The Whakarewarewa Forest, or ‘The Redwoods’ as the locals call it, is an outdoor paradise to walk or bike around. It’s located only five minutes from downtown and has 160 km (100 miles) of winding paths.
Whether on foot or pedaling through, you’ll pass under forest canopies of Redwood, Douglas Fir, Eucalyptus, and Larch trees. Once you’re above the tree line, there are great views of the lakes around here and Mount Tarawera.
The Whakarewarewa Mountain Bike Park is a great place to start with trails for everyone from beginners to advanced riders. The trails here are among the best in the world – a Red Bull rating put them in the top 8! You can rent bikes in Rotorua or near the trailhead off of Waipa State Mill Road for about $40 NZD for two hours.
You can also book a self-guided tour to explore the trail network with all the equipment you need. This half-day ride through Whakarewarewa Forest has staff who will help you plan your route and then you’ll set off for 4 hours of mountain biking fun. You’ll meet your guides at the gateway to the forest – keep an eye out for the ‘Mountain Biking’ sign about 3km after passing Te Puia. This tour is around $50 NZD per person and is available all year round.
14. Visit Hell’s Gate
Don’t worry, there’s nothing scary about visiting Hell’s Gate in Rotorua, but you will feel like you’re entering another world. This is one of the most unique geothermal reserves that was once used by Māori warriors to help heal their wounds. Now, visitors can take a dip in the mineral-rich waters to feel relaxed and rejuvenated.
Hell’s Gate is located between Lake Rotorua and Lake Rotoiti in one of the most active geothermal areas of Rotorua. As you walk through here, you’ll be surrounded by clouds of geothermic steam, mud volcanoes, and the largest hot waterfall in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s easy to see how this place has been the inspiration for myths and legends.
You can drop in and visit on your own, but I recommend booking a tour so you’ll get the full experience. This Hell’s Gate tour includes a geothermal walk, a chance to try out Māori carving, and the highlight – a dip in the geothermal mud and sulfur waters! You’ll be in a place where people have experienced the healing properties of this mud and water for over 800 years! Tickets are $99 NZD.
Whether you’re an amateur golfer (like me!) or a pro, you can hit the course in Rotorua for a fun morning or afternoon on the greens.
If fun is more your style, try this mini golf course with rabbits (yes, I said rabbits!), which is great for families. After choosing your golf club and ball, you’re free to explore the area as you play. And of course, there are friendly giant rabbits you can hold and pet while navigating the course. What a fun distraction!
The mini golf course also includes an 80-year-old kiwifruit vine tunnel, a world-class native plant garden, bubbles, and techno light shows. The course is open daily from 10 am to 10 pm with admission at $I8 NZD per person.
If you’re a more serious golfer, you can try the course available at the Arikikapakapa Rotorua Golf Club. This particular golf club is one of New Zealand’s top golf facilities. The course navigates by holes over and around both dormant and active thermal zones.
It’s an 18-hole, par 70 course with lots of variation and challenge. Fees for nine holes range from $25-55 NZD or $40-90 NZD for 18 holes. So, if you’re planning to visit, make sure to pack your clubs and take your golf game to the next level.
16. Walk the lake’s edge
If you’re looking for a place to spend time relaxing, you always have the option to go to the picturesque edge of the city’s peaceful lake. No need to worry about admission fees, this is one of the best free things to do in Rotorua.
Once you’re at the edge of the vast Rotorua Lake, you can take a stroll, jog, cycle, and also have a nice picnic. It’s also an excellent spot to watch the sunrise and sunset, so don’t forget to bring a camera with you. If you’re lucky enough, you might even spot some black swans swimming in the lake!
Nothing beats hanging out in a place with complete serenity plus a beautiful view. It’s a nice way to relax if you’ve been busy with lots of adventurous activities!
Related read: Make sure to explore another lake that is one of my favorite places by checking out all the things to do in Lake Tekapo!
17. Rotorua Night Market
If you’re in Rotorua on a Thursday night, stop into the Rotorua Night Market for a fun evening of shopping and entertainment. It’s located in the heart of Tutanekai Street between Hinemoa and Haupapa streets.
This place is special because you can indulge in boutique-style shopping and dozens of food trucks while being entertained by great performers. Expect to see some talented singers and dancers performing here.
You’ll also find a huge variety of handmade art and crafts. This is one of my favorite places to pick up a little souvenir or a gift to take home.
The market typically runs from 5-9 pm, but you can check out the Rotorua Night Market on Facebook for weekly updates.
18. Relax at the Polynesian Spa
The famous Polynesian Spa is the perfect way to relax and is one of the top Rotorua attractions.
The hot mineral waters come from two different natural springs that fill 28 pools. The water from the Priest Spring is slightly acidic and will relieve tired muscles along with aches and pains. Then, dip into the alkaline waters of the Rachel Spring to nourish your skin.
With so many pools to choose from, there are ones dedicated to families, adults, and even a few ‘cooler’ pools if you want a break from the hot water. I particularly like the mineral pools that overlook Lake Rotorua.
There are also deluxe spa treatments here from mud wraps to massages if you really feel like treating yourself. I recommend spending at least three hours here so you have lots of time to enjoy the hot mineral baths, a spa treatment, and the therapy relaxation lounge after.
Polynesian Spa is open seven days a week from 9 am to 10 pm. Pool prices start at $33.95 NZD, while rates for spa treatments are $164 NZD and up.
19. Go horseback riding
I vividly recall my first experience riding a horse, which was somewhat terrifying once I was in the saddle. But it’s definitely one of the must-try Rotorua activities. It’s a nice way to give your feet a break and see some areas that are harder to get to.
You can book this one-hour guided horse trekking tour, where you can explore New Zealand’s fantastic countryside. There are horses for every level of rider, making it suitable for kids, first-timers, or expert riders.
With a guide, you will head into the foothills of Mount Ngongotaha. Take winding paths through wild bush and over farmland and admire stunning lake views. Don’t forget to pause to capture some beautiful photos.
The tour includes hotel pick up and drop off, and rates start at $75 NZD.
20. Explore Kuirau Park
One of the best places to unwind is Kuirau Park, which is the only free geothermal public park in New Zealand. It features a variety of naturally bubbling, steaming, and boiling geothermal activity.
Kuirau Park is located walking distance from the city center and is accessible from Pukuatua and Ranolf streets.
There are several pathways through the park that bring you to the crater lake, mud pool, hot springs, and a free thermal foot bath, all of which are located in a wonderfully landscaped area with flower gardens and local plants. The free foot baths feel amazing after a long day of walking, just bring a towel with you to dry off!
You’re also free to set up a picnic near the children’s playground, where picnic tables and barbecue facilities are available. If you happen to visit on a Saturday, expect to see many food vendors in the area too.
While rare, be aware that new eruptions do occur in this park from time to time. There were football-sized rocks thrown into the air when a new steam vent formed in 2001!
21. Secret Spot Hot Tubs
Secret Spot Hot Tubs is definitely a must-visit when you’re in Rotorua, New Zealand. As the name suggests, the place offers hot tubs hidden away next to the trees and Waipa Stream.
There are 12 private hot tubs you can book that fit up to 6 people and are filled with water from a hidden spring in the Whakarewarewa Forest. Make sure you reserve ahead of time so there’s a pool ready for you!
If you don’t want a full-on hot tub soak, they also offer a mini cedar hot tub for your feet. Just purchase a fresh-brewed coffee or beverage from the on-site bar to get a complimentary ‘shinny dip’ – this is especially nice after mountain biking in the area!
For a relaxing getaway, reserve your spot with this private hot tub soak package. You’ll get a cedar hot tub exclusively for you to enjoy a relaxing 45-minute dip for $39 NZD a person. Order from the bar without leaving the tub with the push of a button! The tour also includes car parking, lockers for storing clothes, a site map, and a hot shower.
Secret Spot Hot Tubs is open every day between 9 am and 10 pm. Hot tub prices range from $41 NZD for one person up to $210 NZD for six people. Rates for children (5 to 14 years old) are $14 NZD.
22. Scenic flight
One of the best ways to see Mount Tarawera is from the air! It’s famous for its violent eruption back in 1886 that lasted for six hours, destroyed villages, and covered the area with millions of tonnes of ash. The eruption totally transformed the landscape, which you can see best while flying over.
Take the Mt. Tarawera Helicopter tour for a bird’s-eye view of the volcano, including its crater lakes and domes before you get to land on the actual dormant volcano! You’ll get to explore the volcanic terrain on foot with your pilot, who will share some of its history with you. While pricey at just over $500 NZD per person, this is an experience you’ll never forget!
If you prefer a slightly more affordable flight, you can book the Mt. Tarawera scenic float plane tour. You’ll take off right from Lake Rotorua where you’ll soar high above it for about 30 minutes. On board, you will get an impressive aerial view of the Streaming Cliffs and the Waimangu Volcanic Valley. On your way back, you will pass over the Blue and Green Lakes and the bubbling geysers of Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve. Tour rates start at $299 NZD per visitor.
23. Bungy jumping
Your visit here won’t be complete without trying bungy jumping in New Zealand! Bungy jumping was invented here, and it’s a popular activity for locals and tourists … if you’re brave enough!
The Rotorua Bungy at Velocity Valley provides some of the most breathtaking views of the district, including nearby farmland and Lake Rotorua and Mokoia Island from a distance.
Challenge yourself to this adrenaline-pumping Rotorua bungy jump where you will leap off a 43-meter (141-foot) platform. As you stand on the tower, you’ll hear your jump master call “3, 2, 1. Bungy!”
Don’t have a camera? No problem! Your jump will be recorded in GoPro video, and you can watch it and look at the photos after the jump. A member of the bungy crew will take a picture with you to celebrate your successful jump. You will even receive a congratulatory certificate – you earned it!
Jumps start at around $169 NZD per person. If you need transportation, free rides are available if booked with the tour in advance.
Fun Fact: In New Zealand, the word “bungee” is spelled “bungy”. Because New Zealand is the home to commercial bungy jumping, Kiwi’s believe that their spelling is the right way, and the rest of the world spells it wrong. How do you spell bungy?
24. Giant swing experience
Another must-try activity at Velocity Valley is the hair-raising giant swoop swing. This giant swing in Rotorua may not be as high as the world’s biggest swing (Nevis Swing) in Queenstown, but it still feels really high when you’re on it!
Secure a spot at Rotorua’s giant Sky Swing here, and don’t forget to bring your adventure buddies with you. You’ll enjoy swinging several times while cocooned inside hang gliding harnesses. The swing pulls you 40 meters (130 feet) into the air until you pull the ripcord and freefall 10 meters (32 feet) and start swinging like a pendulum.
The sky swing experience is $55 NZD per person and up to three people can be on the swing at once. It might help you overcome your fear of heights if you bring a friend along!
Giant Sky Swing is open every Monday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm and until 5 pm on Saturdays.
25. Visit the 3D Trick Art Gallery
For some of the most creative and interactive photos you’ll take on your trip, step inside the 3D Trick Art Gallery.
Unlike typical museums, here you have the freedom to touch and interact with 3D artworks in the gallery. You can pose inside various exhibits for lifelike photos that make it look like you’re running from a dinosaur, crossing a waterfall, inside a hot air balloon, or riding a dolphin! This is a blast for families and groups of friends – prepare to make some silly faces and laugh lots.
You can book your 3D Trick Art Gallery visit here, and explore more than 50 different artworks. This is the only gallery of its kind in all of New Zealand! Admission is $22 NZD per visitor.
The 3D Trick Art Gallery is open from Monday to Friday between 10 am to 5 pm and on Saturdays and Sundays between 9 am to 5 pm. It’s important to note that the last entry is at 4 pm, so make sure you arrive before then.
26. Mountain biking
Rotorua was named one of the world’s best mountain biking destinations! There are lots of biking trails scattered around the city offering the chance to see incredible natural spots or cultural and heritage sites.
The world-renowned mountain bike trails in Whakarewarewa Forest extend about 150 kilometers (93 miles). The trails are suitable for all levels of bikers, whether you’re a beginner or a pro. There’s also a kids’ loop in the area, so children can have fun as well.
There’s a new addition in the forest, and that’s the Whakarewarewa Forest Loop. This loop consists of a 33-kilometer (20-mile) circular trail crafted to fit a wide range of bikers. Throughout the loop, you’ll encounter uphill, downhill, and flat areas. There are also some look-out points with spectacular views, which are ideal to catch your breath.
If you prefer a biking trail with more fascinating views, you can take the Te Ara Ahi Cycle Trail, also known as ‘Thermal by Bike’ as it passes four geothermal areas. There are also beautiful forests and lakes, and notable cultural and historical sites.
Apart from that, you also have the option to ride around Lake Rotorua or try out one of the many other trails in and around Rotorua including Rainbow Mountain, Timber Trail, Skyline MTB Park, Western Okataina Walkway, Moerangi Track, and Whirinaki Forest.
No need to worry about fitting a mountain bike in your suitcase either. Renting one is easy at Mountain Bike Rotorua at the entrance to the Whakarewarewa Forest. They offer all kinds of bikes for kids and adults. Rental rates range from $20 NZD to $129 NZD depending on how long you rent for. They are open daily from 9 am to 4 pm.
27. Roll around in a Zorb
If you’ve ever seen those giant inflatable balls called Zorbs, well you’ve come to where this bizarre and fun activity was invented! That’s right, two Kiwi friends invented the downhill ball rolling craze in Rotorua back in 1994. Now one of the original inventors and his brother run ZORB Rotorua, where you can join in the fun!
This is one of the best attractions in Rotorua with four different downhill tracks to offer lots of laughs as you go down in a giant Zorb. Add this exciting ZORB inflatable ball ride to your bucket list and bring your family and friends with you.
Pick from straight or twisty tracks to go downhill or opt for the H2OGO experience where the ball is filled with 40 liters of water (warm in the winter, cold in the summer) to create your own waterslide! Pack your swimsuit and expect to get soaking wet. You’ll get to document your experience with a GoPro as well.
In between rides, you can have a relaxing dip in hot tubs, or you can make use of the complimentary Wi-Fi, which are both tour inclusions. This wild ride is $85 NZD per person.
ZORB Rotorua is open from 10 am to 4 pm on weekdays, and 10 am to 5 pm during weekends.
28. Visit a winery
Spending a day or even an afternoon in a winery is a must-do in Rotorua. New Zealand is well-known for its premium quality fine wines, and some of them can be found right here in Rotorua. One of my favorites is Volcanic Hills Winery. The winery is located at the bottom of the Skyline Gondola and the tasting room is at the top with the best views overlooking the lake!
While there aren’t any grapes grown nearby, Volcanic Hills brings in grapes from the best wine-growing regions around the country. This saves locals and tourists the trip to various wine regions in New Zealand by bringing the wine to you! The grapes arrive fresh and cold and are made into wine in Rotorua – the Pinot Noir and Rose made here are amazing!
You can book a wine tasting that includes five wines and a gondola ride for $50 NZD or you can try three wines for only $13 NZD. The tasting room has breathtaking views that you can enjoy while taking a sip from your wine glass. They also encourage you to chat with them about wine. During winter, they have a special offer of mulled wine that costs $9 NZD per glass.
The tasting room at Volcanic Hills Winery is open from noon to 5 pm every Sunday, Monday, and Thursday, and from noon to 6 pm every Friday and Saturday. It is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
If you want to take home some wine, Volcanic Hills Winery also sells wines by the bottle and offers shipping.
Related read: If you’re craving more amazing wine, head over to the South Island and check out my guide to pick the best wine tours in Queenstown!
29. See a Kiwi Bird
You’ve come all the way to New Zealand, don’t leave without seeing a kiwi bird! The National Kiwi Hatchery is the top place in the world for hatching and raising kiwi chicks and lets visitors see them up close.
The kiwi is the national icon of New Zealand and a unique little bird that can’t fly and has loose feathers that look more like hair. The kiwi population is dwindling, so researchers are working hard to help these little creatures. What’s great is that 100% of your ticket cost here goes to the kiwi hatching program!
You’ll be able to tour the facility where they have successfully hatched more than 2,000 chicks. If you’re really lucky, you might even get to see a newly hatched kiwi chick! The basic tour is 45-minutes long and costs $45 NZD. It also includes a visit to the interactive ‘human-sized’ kiwi burrow where you can sit in a giant kiwi egg!
If you want more of a behind-the-scenes experience, you’ll get to join the hatchery team in the staff-only area. There you can learn all about their incubation and chick-raising techniques while seeing the birds up close. This tour is $195 NZD.
You must book a tour at least 48 hours in advance and the hatchery is open from 8:30 am to 2 pm.
30. Jet boating
Lake Rotorua is not only the second biggest lake on the North Island, but it’s also the oldest lake in the region. It’s known for its tear-drop shape and dark green-yellow water because of the high content of volcanic minerals like sulfur.
But it wasn’t always tranquil around this lake. This area was home to a massive volcano that created the lake about 200,000 years ago when the magma chamber underneath collapsed and water rushed in.
For a more detailed history of the area and to get out on the lake, book this Katoa Jet Boat tour on Lake Rotorua. This tour includes a 30-minute ride where an expert driver will spin the boat 360° while you listen to live narration on the history of the district.
Other than that, you will be taken to all the iconic landmarks around the lake, including Mokoia Island, Sulphur Bay, and Kawaha Point.
The departure point for this activity is along Lakefront Drive, and you will be provided with life jackets. Tour prices start from around $85 NZD per person and run daily from 9 am to 4 pm.
31. 4WD Safari Tour
While I’ve definitely driven some rough roads and wished I had a four-wheel drive, going off-roading (on purpose!) in New Zealand is a blast.
This bush safari tour is an all-terrain adventure that involves driving a 4WD vehicle on your own through the New Zealand forest filled with thrills in every corner. You don’t need to have previous 4WD experience for this activity as you’ll get guided instruction from a pro via two-way radio.
This tour starts with a full safety briefing and then the fun begins! Expect some deep muddy holes, rugged areas, tight corners, a seven meter-high luge, steep sections, thrilling descents, waterfalls and more as you explore the forest.
You have the option to upgrade your tour to the 4×4 Monster Thrill Ride or Raceline Karting, or both. Experience going up and down almost vertical slopes on a monster truck maneuvered by an expert driver, or go on a kart racing on New Zealand’s longest circuit. For an ultimate experience, do all three Rotorua activities mentioned above.
Off Road NZ operates every day, rain or shine. Departures start from 9 am with the last tour at 4 pm. Tour rates start at about $110 NZD per person.
32. Day trip to Taupo
Apart from Lake Rotorua, another stunning lake you should visit is Lake Taupo. It’s one of the most beautiful places to visit in New Zealand! One the edge of Lake Taupo sits the town of Taupo where there are plenty of fun things to see and do.
A day trip here is super easy – just follow the Thermal Explorer Highway for about an hour. This stretch of road has some awesome attractions including Craters of the Moon, Orakei Korako Geothermal Park, Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland, Waikite Valley Thermal Pools, Te Puia, and more.
Once you’re at Lake Taupo, you’ll see why it’s one of the perfect places for a romantic getaway in NZ. The lake is gorgeous! One of my top recommendations here is to get on the lake with this boat cruise to visit the famous Maori Rock Carvings. These carvings tower 14 meters (45 feet) above the water and can only be reached by boat.
Lake Taupo is actually the largest lake in New Zealand and this massive crater lake sits in the caldera of the Taupo volcano on central North Island. On the northeastern shores of the lake is a town of the same name that is fun to visit as well.
For a fully planned day out where you don’t need to worry about transportation or picking where to go, join this Taupo day trip tour. You’ll get to see Lake Taupo and the beautiful Huka Falls as well as pick one of two geothermal destinations to explore. You can opt for Orakei Korako to see the terraced pools of steaming water, or choose Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland to see incredible pools with a wide range of colors due to different volcanic minerals.
This tour is limited to 11 people and includes hotel pick-up and drop-off as well as entrance fees at your chosen geothermal site. You can join the tour for as low as $250 NZD. Departure time of the tour is at 9 am, and the activity will last for roughly eight hours.
33. Day trip to Tauranga
A little over an hour’s drive from Rotorua is the biggest city in the Bay of Plenty. Tauranga is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country and has some of the best beaches on the North Island!
Waihi Beach, Ohope, Mount Maunganui Beach, and Makatana Beach are just a few of the stunning beaches you can visit. These beaches are popular for swimming and surfing or kayaking and dolphin-watching cruises.
When you’re on Mount Maunganui Beach, take a detour for one of the top hikes in New Zealand to the summit of Mount Maunganui. The epic hike is one of the best things to do in Mount Maunganui! It’s about 45 minutes to reach the top of this extinct volcano. Once there, the panoramic views took my breath away!
If you’re not into hiking, you can go for a gyroplane ride around Mount Maunganui instead. Tauranga is the first place in New Zealand to offer this exhilarating flying activity, so better not miss it. Rates start at $250 NZD per a 20-minute flight.
Other attractions you can visit in this beautiful city include Classic Flyers Museum, Tauranga Art Gallery, Hopukiore (a historical site), McLaren Falls Park, and Kaimai Mamaku Forest Park – there are so many fun things to do in Tauranga!
There are also plenty of cafes, bars, and restaurants, which offer a variety of cuisines. Leveret & Mills Reef is among the best near here – a winery and fine-dining restaurant set in a lovely garden.
Where to Stay in Rotorua
Now that you know just how much Rotorua has to offer, plan to stay a while! What’s great about this area is all the choices for accommodations – whether you are backpacking on a budget or looking for a luxurious place to call home for a few nights. These are my top picks for every budget!
$ – Rock Solid Backpackers Rotorua
This is one of the budget-friendly hotels centrally located in the city within walking distance of many Rotorua attractions like Government Gardens and the Polynesian Spa. It is a perfect fit for travelers with a tight budget where rooms in a shared dorm of four to eight people start at only $27 NZD per night. If you don’t want to share, there are private rooms available as well around the $100 NZD mark.
You can save money on meals by using the communal kitchen here complete with cooking facilities and there’s a spacious guest lounge where you can hang out. If you’re in the mood for a more challenging activity, head to the 20-meter (65-foot) rock-climbing wall next door which offers guests staying here a discounted rate.
Another convenience at the hostel is the on-site tour desk. There you can inquire and ask for help as you organize your Rotorua activities for the day.
You can easily book a room on HostelWorld.com or Booking.com.
$$ – Thermal Oak Motel
If more rooms and spacious accommodations are what you’re looking for, you’ll find them here. The motel offers modern suites and high-quality units with free parking and Wi-Fi. The choices range from deluxe studios to a three-bedroom flat house, with rates from $180 NZD up to $600 NZD per night.
All accommodations are complete with air conditioning, a flat-screen TV, a fully-equipped kitchenette and a large modern bathroom with a walk-in shower. There’s also a dining area available in most of the rooms, including the executive two-bedroom unit (which also has a private outdoor spa pool).
Besides the rooms, you can go for a dip in one of the two public mineral spa pools. Another advantage is the convenient access to the city center, which is only a 10-minute walk away. This means you can enjoy the activities and sights of Rotorua downtown anytime you please.
$$$ – Rydges Rotorua
For a more luxurious stay in Rotorua, this hotel offers a scenic view and a relaxing atmosphere located on the edge of Redwoods Forest and overlooking the Whakarewarewa Geothermal Reserve and Historical Village.
Choose between a superior or deluxe room, which each features air conditioning, comfy beds, and cable TV with free movies. If you’re looking for something a little extra, you can book a private suite instead. Accommodation rates start from $242 NZD per night.
Start your morning with a visit to the on-site gym or a swim in the heated outdoor swimming pool. You can also drop by the hotel’s award-winning restaurant and bar that offers modern New Zealand cuisine. Then, spend the day exploring the mountains by bike. If you brought your own mountain bike, they have secure storage for it inside the hotel and a bike washing station.
Anything for the little ones? Yes! Rydges Rotorua houses a Play Zone with various games for children of all ages, including table tennis, foosball, Nintendo Switch, air hockey, and more.
Thanks for reading!
As you can see, Rotorua is a fantastic place to base yourself for a few days to explore everything this part of the North Island has to offer. Whether you’re touring a movie set, seeing baby kiwis, rolling around in a Zorb, or exploring the geothermal wonders around here, you definitely can’t get bored.
If you enjoyed this post about all the great things to do in Rotorua, be sure to look around at some of my other posts for more ideas on the amazing things to do and see in New Zealand:
30 FUN Things to do in Paihia, New Zealand
Where to Stay in Auckland: The BEST Auckland Hotels for all budgets!