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33 EXCITING Things to do in Rotorua, New Zealand (2024 Guide!)

33 EXCITING Things to do in Rotorua, New Zealand (2024 Guide!)

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Nestled in the heart of the North Island, the small city of Rotorua packs a punch when it comes to things to do and see. It’s a hotbed for geothermal activity like amazing hot springs and geysers, and the incredible landscape boasts a whopping 18 lakes nearby! On top of that, it’s also one of the best spots to experience the amazing Māori culture of New Zealand.

After my first visit, I was blown away by how many activities and tours in Rotorua there were. I recently returned for another visit, and there was even more to do with new attractions popping up all over the place! I relaxed in a private hot pool surrounded by the lush forest, I went ziplining over a waterfall, and I even visited a 3D art museum when the weather took a turn for the worst.

You could easily spend a week in Rotorua and not run out of things to do!

But let’s be honest, not many people have more than a few days to spend in Rorotua. So, I’ve put together this guide to Rotorua so you can plan your own getaway regardless of how much time you have. There are 33 things to do on this list of things to do in Rotorua and you can just pick and choose what catches your eye.

About Rotorua, New Zealand

Bailey walks amoung the red woods at Whakarewarewa Forest near Rotorua, New Zealand
Whakarewarewa Forest!
Bailey at Eat Street in Rotorua
Eat Street!

The city of Rotorua is located in 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 (it’s known as the Thermal Explorer Highway – a suitable name, if you ask me).

The geothermic activity around Rotorua has always been a draw for tourists 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. I mean, who doesn’t want to relax in hot springs while on vacation – I visited no less than three different hot pools when I last was in Rotorua!

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 whitewater rafting and boating. There are also great bike trails, forests to e,xplore 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!

Rotorua FAQs

Bailey inside Okere Falls Scenic Reserve, Rotorua
Okere Falls Scenic Reserve, Rotorua

The BEST Things to do in Rotorua

1. Whitewater rafting (the famous 7-meter drop!)

Whitewater rafting on the Caituna river in Rotorua, New Zealand
What a crazy ride!

The whitewater rafting in Rotorua is somewhat famous, and for good reason – here you’ll find the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world! The 7-meter (23-foot) drop of Tutea Falls is definitely one that gets your heart racing. It’s easily one of the best whitewater rafting experiences in all of New Zealand.

While there are a few different companies that offer whitewater rafting in Rotorua, this particular tour comes with the best reviews. It starts with some easier rapids on the Kaituna River before you’ll reach the famous drop! 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 tour starts only about 20 minutes from Rotorua and 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.

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.

You’ll spend about an hour out on the river and the cost is $115 NZD per person. You can book this thrilling whitewater rafting tour online here!

Tip: Wear a swimsuit and bring a change of clothes for afterward!

2. Māori cultural experience

The Maori Experience in Rotorua, New Zealand
Learning about this amazing culture should be at the top of your bucket list!

With a large Māori population and a few different cultural experiences on offer, Rotorua is the perfect place to learn about Māori people and their culture. You can completely immerse yourself here by visiting a Māori village or taking part in a traditional feast.

I opted to spend an evening at Te Pā Tū, a Maori village just outside of Rotorua. I was welcomed to the village with a Powhiri (welcome ceremony). Then the warriors (all dressed traditionally) showed many tools and demonstrated ways of life including games. They also performed a Haka for us before heading to dinner for a Hāngī feast (cooked in an underground oven) with slow-cooked meat and vegetables – it was a delicious 3-course meal!

Honestly, it was such an interesting experience and one I would recommend to anybody visiting Rorotua. Nowhere else in New Zealand can you have a cultural experience quite like this! Tour prices begin at around $250 NZD per visitor, but are worth every penny if you ask me. You can book your spot online here.

This isn’t your only choice when it comes to Maori experiences in Rotorua, though. Instead, you can choose to spend a night at the Mitai Maori Village cultural experience.

Here, you’ll get introduced to the Maori culture with performances including weaponry displays and a traditional Hāngī feast. 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 – so it’s a great deal! You can book your spot online here!

3. Visit one of the thermal parks

Sulfur lake at Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland in Rotorua, New Zealand
This place is unreal!

Instead of amusement parks, Rotorua has “geothermal parks!” These parks are huge and full of activities and attractions centered around geothermal activity. They are all paid parks, and if I’m being honest they aren’t the cheapest either, which I why I suggest visiting just one of them during your time in Rotorua.

Below is some info about the three main geothermal parks in Rotorua so you can choose the one that’s right for you:

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland is located on the north side of a collapsed volcano crater. It’s the cheapest of the thermal parks in Rotorua at only $32.50 NZD per adult and $11 NZD per child, but it also has the fewest attractions to offer.

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. You can also do a walk around the park and take in the landscape that is full of sulfur lakes, geysers, naturally-colored hot springs, bubbling mud, steaming ground, and giant volcanic craters.

There are guided tour options or you can walk through on your own along one of three different paths. When you visit, make sure you’re here for 10:15 am when the Lady Knox Geyser erupts as part of a daily presentation.

The park is located about 20 minutes from Rotorua along the Thermal Explorer Highway (SH 5).

Te Puia

Te Puia Pōhutu Geyser in Rotorua, New Zealand
Geysers are cool but never get too close!

Discover one of only two geyser fields in the world still in its natural state at Te Puia Thermal Wonderland. 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!

Te Puia located only 5 minutes from Rotorua. You must join a guided tour once you arrive to learn all about the history and heritage of Te Puia.

Guided tours are $70 NZD for adults and $35 NZD for kids. You can also choose to add on other experiences including a Haka performance or traditional Hāngī meal, too. There is also a Kiwi Conseration Center onsite, as well.

Te Puia is open daily during the busy season and closed Mondays and Tuesdays in the winter.

Hell’s Gate

Hell's Gate Geothermal Reserve in Rotorua,  New Zealand
Is that the moon?

While the name “Hell’s Gate” might be a little off-putting there’s nothing scary about visiting this thermal park. The name was coined by Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw who visited the baths in 1934 and declared that it must be the gateway to hell. Whether he was freaked out by the bubbling mud or just really hated the sulfur smell is anyone’s guess, but the Maori landowners liked the nickname and it stuck. 

This is one of the most unique geothermal reserves that was once used by Māori warriors to help heal their wounds. Nowadays, visitors can take a dip in the mineral-rich waters to feel relaxed and rejuvenated. That’s right – at this thermal park you can swim!

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! The experience costs $105 NZD and includes all of the experiences mentioned.

4. Day trip to Hobbiton

Bailey sits in the door of a red Hobbit home at Hobbiton, NZ
Welcome to Middle Earth!
Bailey checks the mail at a Hobbit house at Hobbiton, NZ
I was here for party business!

As you probably already know, the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies were filmed here in New Zealand. So, why not step into Middle-earth and see where movie magic came to life! There are over 150 filming locations scattered across the North and South Islands, but one of the best is the amazing Hobbiton Movie Set not far from Rotorua.

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.

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 including transport.

If you visit on your own, expect to pay $89 NZD per person to enter the movie set on a required guided tour. The price includes your guide, a 2-hour long tour, and a drink at the end at the Green Dragon Inn. You should book your spot online in advance because it does often sell out (especially in the summer months.) You can also book different, more expensive experience, but the $89 one is the most popular.

Alternatively, you can choose to join this small-group Hobbiton tour. The tour departs from Rotorua and takes you to explore the movie set and visit Bilbo’s hobbit hole as you hear behind-the-scenes stories. A lunch at Hobbiton is also included! This 6.5-hour experience including transportation and all admission fees is $179 NZD.

Hobbiton is easily one of the most popular attractions in all of New Zealand, so you should add it to your ‘to-do’ list.

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

Duck boat tour in Rotorua, New Zealand
Photo credit: Rotorua Duck Tours

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. Honestly, it’s so funny watching them drive from the road right into the lake!

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 one of the most unique modes of transport for a city tour I’ve ever seen!

The Duck Boat is such a fun experience for kids to join too! The tour guides are awesome at giving lots of great information while also making you laugh. This is one of those unexpected tours in Rotorua you’ll be talking about once you get home!

Tickets are $85 NZD per adult and $50 NZD per child, and can be bought online in advance here.

6. Rotorua Museum and Government Gardens

Bailey with the beautiful Rotorua Museum Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa in Rotorua
Such a beautiful place to take a walk even in the rain!
Bailey at the Government Gardens in Rotorua, NZ
The best part is, enjoying the gardens is free!

Take a walk through the beautiful Government Gardens right on the edge of the lake in Rotorua’s downtown area. The flowers here are stunning and it’s a nice place to stroll around and take photos.

This land here was actually gifted by the Māori people to the government back in the late 1800s.

The reserve includes a geothermal area with some amazing therapeutic hot pools. The Blue Baths were built here as a space where people were encouraged to relax and socialize like glamorous movie stars, although sadly you can’t swim in any of the springs here anymore.

Still, I think it’s worth visiting the gardens because it’s nice to see the springs and you can learn more about Rotorua’s history from the info boards dotted around. Plus, it’s free!

The Gardens themselves are also really pretty, and between November and June you should definitely head to the rose garden while the flowers are in bloom. 

Note: The gardens are home to the Rotorua Museum and art gallery. However, it 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. See glow worms

The glowworms at Waitomo caves in Rotorua, New Zealand
This is a totally unique activity!

Imagine entering a cave with twinkling blue lights that look almost like stars in the night sky. This amazing phenomenon is created by a species of glow worm that can only be found in New Zealand and select 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. Glow worms are typically found in caves or forests and while you can try to find them on your own, joining a tour is one of the best ways to guarentee seeing them.

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 on foot, this nocturnal glow worm tour guides you through the bush on a night walk before exploring the Waitomo Caves. You’ll turn off your flashlight as the glow worms light up the world around you. 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!

8. Ziplining

Bailey on the Okere Falls Zipline Experience ziplining over Okere Falls
Ziplining over the waterfall!
Bailey takes a selfie on the Ziplining Forest Adventure in Rotorua, New Zealand
So much fun!

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 and time to take in the views. There are also suspension bridges to walk across along the way.

It’s easily the most popular tour in Rotorua. Seriously, this zipline tour has over 3,000 5-star reviews – it that doesn’t tell you how much fun it is then nothing will!

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 $169 NZD and due to its popularity, should be booked online in advance here.

9. Farm Tour at the Agrodome

Bailey with the huge sheep at the Farm Tour at the Agrodome in Rotorua
That’s a big sheep!
Bailey watches the Farm Tour at the Agrodome in Rotorua
They are so cute!

New Zealand famously has more sheep than people, and you can learn all about these gentle, wooly creatures at the Agrodome in Rotorua. It’s a massive working farm that’s home to 26 different breeds of sheep (who knew there were that many?!) as well as llamas, alpacas, ostriches, goats, and more.

When you visit the Agrodome, you’ll get to learn all about New Zealand’s farming culture from an actual Kiwi farmer, who will drive you around the farm. You’ll have plenty of chances to interact with the animals, and you can even hand feed the sheep if you want, although this is optional (be warned: they lick your hand A LOT). 

You’ll also watch the famous Farm Show, which is a lot of fun. You’ll leave knowing more about sheep than you probably ever thought you would, and you’ll get to watch a live sheep shearing and even a mock auction. 

Obviously, a visit to the Agrodome is great for kids but it’s definitely not just for families. It’s a fun and lighthearted insight into New Zealand’s agriculture, and we had a really good time! Plus, it’s only 10 kilometers (6 miles) from Rotorua, so it would be a shame to miss this experience when you’re so close by. 

Tickets to the Agrodome farm show and tour cost $40 NZD for adults, $20.50 NZD for kids, and are free for kids under 4. You can choose to start your experience at either 9:30 am, 11 am, or 2:30 pm, and it lasts for around 2.5 hours. You can book tickets online here.

10. Ride the Skyline Gondola and Luge

Panoramic view of Skyline Gondola in Rotorua, New Zealand
Most don’t even know Rotorua has a gondola!

Another one of the most popular attractions in Rotorua is aboard the Skyline Gondola. These gondolas fit 8 people inside and offer spectacular views of Lake Rotorua and the city.

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 $40 NZD, but you can add on a luge ride for an additional $17 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. I recommend at least two rides, as on the first ride you’re just getting the hang of it, so then on the second you can go fast!

The Skyline Gondola is open 7 days a week from 10 am to 6 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.

11. Explore Tutanekai Street and Eat Streat

Bailey enjoys a cocktail at Eat Streat at Atticus Finch
Cocktails at Atticus Finch!
food at Atticus Finch in Rotorua
The food at Atticus Finch in Rotorua!

Tutanekai Street and the iconic ‘Eat Streat‘ are the main streets you simply must visit while in Rotorua. On Tutanekai Street 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. This is one of the finer dining places on Eat Street, but a place I really enjoy (I love the tapas-style of dining!)

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.

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.

12. Walk in the Whakarewarewa Forest

Bailey poses for a photo with the huge red woods in Rotorua
The redwoods in Rotorua are huge!
Bailey walks a path at the Whakarewarewa Forest amoung the huge red wood trees in Rotorua, New Zealand
It’s the best place to see old growth trees!

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 (they are HUGE!), 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.

There are lots of free paths to explore in the forest, so walking among the redwoods is a very budget-friendly Rotorua activity.

The Redwood Memorial Grove Track is one of the best short walks, as it takes you across a thermal pond and through some European larch trees. The trail is so-named because it’s dedicated to New Zealand Forest Servicemen who died in the Second World War, and at just 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) long, you can walk it in under 30 minutes.

For a longer walk, you could try the Tokorangi Pa Track, which takes you through the forest and then you steadily climb to about 500 meters above sea level for beautiful views of Mt Ngongotaha and Lake Rotorua, as well as the city of Rotorua and the surrounding countryside. It’s 11.5 kilometers (7.1 miles) long in total and should take you around 3.5 hours.

The tree walk at the Whakarewarewa Forest, Rotorua, NZ
The tree walk at the Whakarewarewa Forest, Rotorua, NZ

Or if you want to take things (quite literally) to the next level, you can do the Treewalk. It’s a course situated 20 meters above the treetops that’s made up of walkways and 28 different suspension bridges. It was specially designed not to interfere with the natural environment and it’s really stunning to walk up here while you admire the majestic redwoods from above.

There are also lots of information boards around, so it’s a good chance to learn more about the forest and the local myths and legends that surround it.

It takes about 40 minutes to complete the tree walk, and you can either go during the day or at night. Going at night can be an extra special experience as the treewalk is enhanced by 34 floating lanterns, although for this reason it does get pretty busy. If you want to go at night, we recommend buying your tickets in advance to avoid a long wait in the summer months! 

Ticket prices are the same whatever time of day you go: $39 NZD for adults, $24 NZD for kids, $79 NZD for a one-adult family pass, and $109 NZD for a two-adult family pass.

The treewalk opens at 9 am daily and the last ticket sold time is 9:30 pm, except for Saturdays when it’s 10 pm instead. As long as you arrive at the walk before the “last sold” time, it’s guaranteed that you’ll get to do it.

13. Roll around in a Zorb

Zorb rolling on a downhill tracks in Rotorua, New Zealand
This was so much fun!

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!

Here you’ll find four different downhill tracks to offer lots of laughs as you go down in a giant Zorb. You’ll be inside the inflatable ball as you roll down the hill – it’s definitely unique!

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.

In between rides, you can have a relaxing dip in hot tubs, or you can make use of the complimentary Wi-FI.

ZORB Rotorua is open from 10 am to 4 pm on weekdays, and 10 am to 5 pm during weekends. This wild ride is $90 NZD per person and tickets can be purchased online in advance here.

14. Secret Spot Hot Tubs

Bailey relaxes in the Secret Spot Hot Tubs in Rotorua
Such a relaxing place!
Close up of Bailey in the Secret Spot Hot Tubs in Rotorua
I love how private they are!

Secret Spot Hot Tubs is my absolute favorite out of all the different hot pools in New Zealand (a huge statement, I know – but it’s true!). As the name suggests, the place offers hot tubs hidden away in the forest overlooking Waipa Stream.

What I love about these hot pools is that they are all private cedar tubs, so you won’t be sharing a pool with anybody but yourself or your group. The private hot tubs each fit up to 6 people and the water comes from a hidden stream in the Whakarewarewa Fores – how cool!

Sitting in your cedar tub surrounded by trees is so relaxing. After a busy day of exploring, this is the perfect way to wind down for the evening (my favorite time to go is in the evening when it’s cooler.) Of course, when I went I ordered a glass of wine to enjoy during my soak – they have a full bar and snack service and will deliver right to your hot tub!

The price is only $39 NZD per person. For this price, you’ll get your private tub for a 45 minute soak. They also have onsite changerooms and showers as well as the restaurant/cafe in case you’re hungry or thirsty. Lockers are also included in the entrance price.

Because they are only 6 hot tubs and they are all private, this place is often fully booked. You need to secure your tub online in advance here to avoid missing out! You can reserve your hot pool online here!

Secret Spot Hot Tubs is open every day between 9 am and 10 pm. Hot tub prices range

Hot Tip: 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!

15. Relax at the Polynesian Spa

Bailey relaxes in a hot pool in the Polynesian Spa in Rotorua
On a beautiful day, the views would be so amazing!
Bailey at the Polynesian Spa in Rotorua
I never want to leave!

If booking an entire hot pool to yourself isn’t exactly what you were looking for, you can find a more traditional hot pool/hot springs experience at the Polynesian Spa in Rotorua. This is a huge a facility that has a whopping 28 different pools!

The water here comes from two different springs that is said to have healing properties. 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. You can book a more intimate experience in the private pools, or just opt for the general entry. I particularly like the mineral pools that overlook Lake Rotorua in the adults-only section (The Pavilion Pools).

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.

The Polynesian Spa is open seven days a week from 9 am to 10 pm. Pool prices start at $26.95 NZD and go up depending on the pools that you want to book. The Pavilion Pools, the ones I always go to for people aged 12 and over, costs $39.95 NZD per person. Rates for spa treatments are from $164 NZD. You don’t need to book in advance for the public pools, but you should for any of the private pools or spa treatments.

16. Have a geothermal Mud Bath

Hell's Gate Geothermal Reserve and Mud Spa  in New Zealand
Photo credit: Hells Gate

Given all of the geothermal activity in New Zealand, you might be surprised to learn that there’s actually only ONE outdoor mud bath you can soak in in the whole country – and it’s right here in Rotorua!

Located between lakes Rotorua and Rotoiti, the geothermal mud baths are located in the thermal park that I mentioned earlier called Hell’s Gate.

Despite the ominous name, a mud bath at Hells Gate can do wonders for your skin and it’s super relaxing, although you might smell like rotten eggs for a while afterwards. Still, we think that it’s worth it for this one-of-a-kind experience!

The Hells Gate mud baths are located 16.7 kilometers (10.3 miles) from Rotorua, and there’s plenty of parking on site. You can go between 10 am and 6 pm daily, although it sometimes stays open until 8 pm on public holidays. Most people bring their own swimsuits and towels, but you can rent both for $5 NZD per item or even buy a swimsuit on site if you’re in need of a new one.

Tickets for Hell’s Gate cost $85 NZD for adults and $42.50 NZD for kids aged 4-15. Under 4s can go for free, but the baths do have a minimum age limit of 2.5 years so you can’t bring infants in here. Your soak will last for an hour, which is plenty of time to absorb all the fabulous mineral benefits of the mud. 

You can also combine your mud bath with an exciting walk around the Hell’s Gate geothermal park with this tour. You can take either a guided or self-guided walk around the field, which is actually the most active one in New Zealand. There’s a ton of activity to see and some interactive exhibits that can help you learn more about Hells Gate, and you can even go into the forest for a bush walk. It costs $105 NZD per person, so if you’re interested in learning more about New Zealand’s geothermal landscape then we really recommend this option!

Of course, you might not want to take a mud bath at all, in which case you can just do the geothermal walk by itself for $42 NZD. I get it – as much as we love a good mud bath, the smell of rotten eggs definitely isn’t for everyone!

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17. Explore Kuirau Park

Bailey at the free hot springs at Kuirau Park in Rotorua, NZ
Just warming my feet up!
Bailey at a thermal attraction at Kuirau Park in Rotorua
There’s lots of thermal activity to see!

It’s not that often that you get to visit a geothermal park for free, so take advantage of the opportunity while you’re in Rotorua! Kuirau Park is actually the only free geothermal public park in New Zealand! It features a variety of naturally bubbling, steaming, and boiling geothermal activity.

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. There are lots of walkways over the water, so you can get right up close and take some awesome photos as it bubbles and hisses. You can also see boiling mud and bathe your feet in the thermal foot bath. It’s basically a free foot spa!

The 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 for the weekly Farmer’s Market.

Kuirau Park is located walking distance from the city center and is accessible from Pukuatua and Ranolf streets. There is also plenty of free parking available.

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!

18. Night Tour at Te Puia 

Te Puia Night Tour Rotorua
Photo credit: Te Puia

Visiting Te Puia is one of the best things to do in Rotorua, but did you know that you can also go at night time? Te Puia is often described as a geothermal wonderland – and since it’s one of only two geyser fields in the entire world, we’d say that description is pretty accurate! 

While Te Puia is great to visit during the day, I think that going at night really adds an extra layer of magic to the experience. At 6:30 pm, you’ll meet your guide and begin your torchlight tour of the geothermal valley, hearing Maori myths and legends as you examine carvings and admire the hot springs and silica formations. It’s super atmospheric and you might even hear some kiwis singing, since there’s also a sanctuary at Te Puia. 

On the nighttime tour, you also get to sample a traditional Maori dessert in front of a thermal cooking pool, which is still used to this day! 

The tour ends with a visit to Pohutu, the biggest geyser in the southern hemisphere. It erupts roughly 20 times a day at heights of up to 30 meters (100 feet), so it’s safe to say that this geyser is super active. 

Visiting Te Puia is always awesome, but I think that going at night makes the experience even more special. Hearing ancient Maori myths and being guided around by torchlight really adds a sense of adventure. 

Night tours of Te Puia cost $90 NZD per adult, $45 NZD per child, or $243 NZD for a family pass including 2 adults and 2 children. There are limited spaces available and the tour often is fully booked, so be sure to save your spot by booking online in advance here!

19. Eat the BEST food

Bailey sips a coffee at Ciabatta Cafe and Bakery in Rotorua
Ciabatta Cafe and Bakery!
Sandwich at Ciabatta Cafe and Bakery in Rotorua
The Ruben sandwich at Ciabatta Cafe and Bakery!

I know that I already mentioned a few great places to eat on Eat Street in the city center of Rotorua, but there are a couple of other places I feel obligated to mention. These are “hidden gems” or local hot spots located away from the bustling tourist areas, but well worth visiting when your in Rotorua (especially if you’re a foodies, like me!)

Ciabatta Cafe and Bakery is a super busy local spot, and it’s clear why. The sandwiches are absolutely amazing, and they even have hot dogs in ciabatta buns. We also like the decor and the cute, cozy booths, but the real start of the show here are the donuts, which are made with Tahitian vanilla custard! Definitely stop here for a treat and lunch one day – you won’t be disappointed.

We also really like BREW, which is a craft beer pub that also offers delicious burgers, slow cooked pork belly, and steak sandwiches. It’s no secret that I love craft beer, but I go to BREW as much for the food as for the beer!

20. Okere Falls Scenic Reserve

Bailey at the viewpoint for Tutea Falls in Okere Falls Scenic Reserve
Bailey at the viewpoint for Tutea Falls in Okere Falls Scenic Reserve
Bailey inside the Tutea Cave at Okere Falls Scenic Reserve
The Tutea Cave at Okere Falls Scenic Reserve

Okere Falls Scenic Reserve is a beautiful reserve that’s 21.4 kilometers (13.3 miles) from Rotorua. It’s a popular place to go ziplining and white water rafting – in fact, it’s actually home to Tutea Falls which are the highest commercially rafted falls in the world that we mentioned earlier. 

I did the Okere Falls Track when I last visited the reserve, and it was absolutely beautiful. It’s a 2.4 kilometer (1.5 mile) return hike that can be done in under an hour, but you’ll still get to visit multiple waterfalls despite the short distance, including the famous Tutea Falls. You can watch the rafters enjoying themselves here from the viewpoint above Himemoa’s steps, which are named after the beautiful daughter of a Maori chief who swam across a great lake to marry a man who was considered to be beneath her. 

You’ll also get to visit Tutea’s cave, which is named after a local chief. It’s believed that women and children used to hide here during conflicts, using a rope to make their way in and out of the cave.

This is a great hike and you can see a lot over a short space of time. Plus, it’s easy enough for children to complete, so this is something the whole family can do together. 

21. Explore Lake Rotoiti

Katoa Jet hot springs and jet boat tour in Rotorua
Photo credit: Katoa Jet
Katoa Jet boating-2
Photo credit: Katoa Jet

Lake Rotoiti is located 25.2 kilometers (15.7 miles) from Rotorua, right near Okere Falls. It’s a scenic lake with a dock on the northern shore that’s perfect for jumping off. 

The Manupirua Thermal Springs are nestled on the southern shore of the lake, and they’re definitely worth a visit, not only for the beautifying benefits of the mineral-rich water, but also because they’re so pretty. They basically look like a series of infinity pools overlooking the lake!

So although Lake Rotoiti is not as famous as Lake Rotorua, it’s definitely worth visiting this lake because there are some really cool things to do here.

For one thing, you can go on this kayaking tour which takes you to soak in the hot springs and explore the mysterious glow worm caves before you head back to the shore as the sun sets to enjoy BBQ dinner. It lasts for around 7 hours in total, so you get plenty of time to explore and chill out in the hot pools. Sounds like an ideal afternoon, if you ask us! Plus, hotel pickup and dropoff is included in the $189 NZD price tag. 

If you want to save a few bucks, you can also do this guided kayaking tour of Rotoiti which still allows you to kayak across the lake to the hot pools, but without the glowworm caves and barbecue dinner. It costs $159 NZD per person including return transport from Rotorua.

Or you can always eschew the paddling in favor of a jet boat ride to the hot springs, followed by a dip in Lake Rotoiti to cool off afterwards. You’ll be picked up at the edge of Lake Rotorua and transported by boat to the hot springs, so the boat ride lasts about 45 minutes. The tour costs $165 NZD for adults and $115 NZD for kids aged 5-14.

22. Hike on Mt Tarawera

Sign at red volcanic crater of Mt. Tarawera in Rotorua, New Zealand
Check out that view!

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!

23. Go horseback riding

horseback riding in Rotorua, New Zealand
Photo credit: Adventure Playground

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. It comes with tons of rave reviews so you really can’t go wrong!

24. Scenic flight

Volcanic Air view over the lakes near Rotorua NZ
Photo credit: Volcanic Air

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 – it’s one of the top helicopter rides in all of NZ!

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 $330 NZD per visitor.

25. Velocity Valley

Bungy Jumpping at Velocity Valley in Rotorua, New Zealand
Photo credit: Velocity Valley

Located just outside of Rotorua is a place called Velocity Valley, where you can choose from a few different adrenaline-pumping activities. A couple of the most popular activities are the bungy jump and giant swing, which I’ve detailed below:

Bungy Jump

Your visit here won’t be complete without trying bungy jumping in New Zealand! Commercial bungy jumping was invented in NZ, and it’s a popular activity for locals and tourists … if you’re brave enough!

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 online here.

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?

Giant swing experience

Velocity Valley Swing in Rotorua, New Zealand
Photo credit: Velocity Valley Swing

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. Tickets can be booked online in advance here.

26. Visit the 3D Trick Art Gallery

Bailey inside a painting at the 3D Trick Art Gallery in Rotorua
This one was so good!
3D Trick Art Gallery Rotorua
It’s a great activity that kids love!

For some of the most creative and interactive photos you’ll take on your trip, step inside the 3D Trick Art Gallery. I like popping in while driving from Tauranga to Rotorua as it’s a fun way to mark the road trip!

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 also very reasonable at $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. 

27. Mountain biking

mountain biking trail Rotorua, New Zealand
Photo credit: Mountain Bike Rotorua

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 Mountain Bike Park, Western Okataina Walkway, Moerangi Track, and Whirinaki Forest.

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.

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 toto $129 NZD depending on how long you rent for. They are open daily from 9 am to 4 pm. 

28. Golf

mini golf course with rabbit in Rotorua, New Zealand
Photo credit: Mini Golf Rotorua

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.

Related read: Make sure to explore ano

29. Visit a winery

A photo of Bailey from My Queenstown Diary at a winery in Queenstown
Wine tasting is one of my favorite hobbies!

Spending an afternoon in a winery is a must-do in Rotorua. New Zealand is well-known for its premium quality fine wines, but what you might not know is that there is actually one winery in Rotorua, 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!

30. See a Kiwi Bird

A kiwi bird at the West Coast Wildlife Center
Kiwi’s are so cute!

You’ve come all the way to New Zealand, don’t leave without seeing a kiwi bird! 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.

The National Kiwi Hatchery in Rotorua is the top place in the world for hatching and raising kiwi chicks and lets visitors see them up close. 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 $50 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 $230 NZD.

You must book a tour at least 48 hours in advance and the hatchery is open from 8:30 am to 2 pm.

31. Jet boating

Katoa Jet boating in Rotorua
Photo credit: Katoa Jet!

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.

32. 4WD Safari Tour

A 4WD on a tour with Off Road NZ in Rotorua
Photo credit: Off Road NZ in Rotorua

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 $114 NZD per person. Tickets can be purchased online in advance here!

33. Day trip to Taupo

Bailey on a cruise to the Maori Rock Carvings in Lake Taupo
Taupo rock carvings!
Bailey at the Wairakei Terraces & Thermal Health Spa in Tuapo
Wairakei Terraces & Thermal Health Spa in Tuapo

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. 

Where to Stay in Rotorua

Room with a great view at Rydges Rotorua, New Zealand
Photo credit: Rydges 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.

Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand

Bailey stands in front of a right green JUCY campervan
JUCY is one of my favorite campervan rental companies (read below for a discount code!)
Bailey stands behind her Mad Campers campervan cooking in the kitchen at Piha Beach
I also really like Mad Campers!

Let’s face it, you’re going to need wheels to get around New Zealand. Although a small country, buses between destinations are infrequent and expensive. Plus, some of the best experiences you can have in NZ are on road trips!

You have three options when it comes to getting wheels in New Zealand; a car, a campervan, or a motorhome. Here’s what you need to know about each and where to get them:

  • Car – A normal car is the cheapest rental vehicle you can get in New Zealand. It’ll get you around to all of the best destinations with ease. The only downside to a car is that you will need to stay in hotels or Airbnbs during your travels (no camping.) The easiest place to rent a car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare cars, companies, prices, features, and more very easily.
  • Campervan – A Campervan is a large van that has a bed and a small kitchen in the back. It’s what most budget travelers use for traveling around New Zealand since it allows you to camp comfortably and for free (most) nights. Campervans are best for couples or solo travelers who are happy to live in a small space. You should also love the outdoors and camping…and be prepared for an adventure of a lifetime! My favorite campervan rental company is JUCY because they have a huge selection of campervans to choose from, plus multiple pick-up/drop-off locations. You can browse JUCY’s campervan selection online here. Alternatively, you can easily compare all campervans available in NZ on Motorhome Republic here.

EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT CODE: I’ve managed to snag a discount code for 5% off for my readers if you book your JUCY or Star RV campervan or motorhome before the end of June 2024! Simply click here to select your JUCY campervan, or click here to select your Star RV motorhome, and then use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off – it’s that easy! One thing to note is that this code is only valid for travel before Dec 21, 2024.

Thanks for reading!

Bailey at the Rotorua Maori experience.
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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!

13 BEST Stops on the Drive from Auckland to Rotorua

8 BEST Cafes and Coffee Shops in Christchurch, New Zealand