Top things to do in Rotorua, New Zealand

Holly West

Holly West

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Nestled in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island lies Rotorua. A town built surrounding a huge beautiful lake, Rotorua is the perfect place to please all who visit. There is something for everyone, from adrenaline junkies to those who prefer a more relaxed pace of life. 

With so much to do, it is difficult to know where to start, but luckily you don’t have to think too hard! Here are my top things to do in and around Rotorua for you to enjoy!


Explore Whakarewarewa Forest 

Just a few minutes drive down from central Rotorua lies The Redwoods’ – with a huge 5600ha forest full of stunning trees, flora and fauna just waiting to be explored. It is the perfect playground for horse riders, mountain bikers and hikers to spend a few hours or a whole day! 


Redwood Forest TreeWalk | Picture Credits: @hollyamberwest

The forrest is completely free to access and has more than 70 trails of varying fitness levels to wander through. If you are looking to fully immerse yourself in the forest, book a Treewalk. The Redwoods Treewalk is a half-kilometre long walkway full of suspension bridges and viewing platforms in amongst the 100-year old trees. For an experience which is truly unique, try the Nightlights tour where you can walk 20 metres above the forest floor illuminated by stunning lights and lanterns.

Get your adrenaline pumping at Skyline 

Skyline is a hub of adrenaline fuelled activities in the heart of Rotorua. Race down the hills on a luge ride, mountain bike through the woods, zoom along a biplane or brave a sky swing reaching up to 150kph and a dizzying 50 metres. If you aren’t looking to get your heart racing quite that fast, you can always take a more relaxing gondola ride up the hill to gain access to the stunning panoramic views of Rotorua and its lake. Make the experience even more memorable by sampling some wine and fine cuisine at Dine@VH perched on the Mount Ngongotcha hilltop. 

Skyline Gondola | Picture Credits: @mamon.rsg

Go rafting at Kaituna 

Make a splash by white water rafting at Kaituna River. Rotorua Rafting is home to the largest commercially rafted waterfall in the world, which stands at a jaw-dropping 7 metres. It take a brave heart but the rush after is certainly worth it. Surrounded by beautiful scenery and warm water, the rapids are the best way to spend an afternoon in Rotorua. If you fancy something a little more low-key they also offer stand up paddle boarding so you can still get out on the water without the added fear!

Rotorua Rafting | Picture Credits: @rotoruarafting

Visit the night market 

After all of the rafting, mountain biking and luge riding you will have probably built up a healthy appetite. If you find yourself in Rotorua in a Thursday, head to their weekly night market on Tutanekai Street between 5pm-9pm. Eat your way around the world from Indian curries and handmade Italian pasta to French patisseries and traditional Kai food. It is the perfect way to refuel after a day packed with exciting activities, and you can do some boutique shopping at the same time. 

Burger from @ftpveganeats at the night market | Picture Credits: @rotoruanightmarket


See the thermal pools at Kuirau Park 

When you step into Kuirau Park the first thing you will notice is the smell. The park is quite literally alive, full of steaming, bubbling geothermal pools of water and mud which are famous for their distinctive sulphur scent. The park is free to enter and wander around and visitors can look into fenced off ‘hot spots’, where natural thermal activity takes place. The park itself is nice for children to run around in the playground and adults to enjoy a picnic (just make sure you set up on the further side of the park, unless you like the smell of sulphur!). Learn the history of Rotorua’s thermal activity and then dip your feet in one of their natural hot pools – you won’t believe just how hot they are. 

Kuirau Park | Picture Credits: @chloesbucketlists

Get steamy at a thermal spa

Once you have got to know Rotorua’s thermal history, it’s time to experience it yourself. There are plenty of places around Rotorua to go to get your fix of steamy pools. If you look hard enough you might be able to find some sneaky free spots, but if you are looking for the ultimate natural spa experience head to Polynesian Spa. 

Polynesian Spa view of the lake | Picture Credits: @twosometravellers

Here you have access to both acidic and alkaline natural mineral springs as well as traditional spa treatments. Hot springs have long been recognised as wonderful for blood circulation and muscle pain as well as being wonderfully relaxing, so it is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of this whilst in Rotorua. If you want something extra special, book one of their private lake view pools for a very reasonable $35 and sit back and relax in 38.5°C water with panoramic views over Lake Rotorua. 

Relax around the lake 

It would be wrong to miss our on the huge beautiful lake which Rotorua is built around.  This clear calm lake offers many activities such as kayaking, sailing and it is famous for good trout fishing. Alternatively, pick a nice sunny day, grab some snacks, wine and good friends and enjoy an afternoon picnic by the lake.

Lake Rotorua | Picture Credits: @bethtamayo21

So whether you decide to dive deep into the action packed lifestyle or get steamy in its natural hot pools, Rotorua has something for thrill seekers and pamper lovers alike.

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