20 Things To Do In Rotorua

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Rotorua is one of New Zealand’s most exciting cities. It’s nearly in the middle of the North Island, and while it’s only home to 77,300 people, what it lacks in size, it makes up for in excitement. Rotorua is the cultural capital of New Zealand, and there are plenty of things to do in Rotorua for all budgets. As well as the strongly celebrated Maori culture here, Rotorua is surrounded by beautiful forests and incredible lakes. Add that to the adrenaline sports you can take part in, and this is the perfect destination.

I’ve spent a lot of time in Rotorua and every time I visit, I find something new to do. This city is full of hidden treasures, and I promise you won’t be bored here. My favourite place to spend time is in the Whakarewarewa Forest, where you can find incredible hiking, biking, and even a secret coffee spot. There are so many other experiences to make the most of when you’re visiting, so here’s my list of the top things to do in Rotorua to help you plan your trip. Let’s go!

Rotorua, New Zealand

20 Things To Do In Rotorua

1- Roll Down A Hill In A Zorb

child zorbing down a green hill
Going zorbing is one of the fun things to do in Rotorua for families.

New Zealanders are known for their weird and wonderful inventions, and one of the strangest is the Zorb.

This weird activity was invented in Rotorua in 1994, and you can still do it there today.

To Zorb, you climb inside a giant plastic ball and then roll along a downhill track with great views and crazy corners.

Zorbing is a hilariously fun activity you won’t find anywhere else in New Zealand.

Try Zorbing at Zorb Rotorua, 525 Ngongotaha Road, Fairy Springs, Rotorua 3015. Find out more here

2- Travel To New Heights On The Skyline Gondola

cable cars above the city
Riding the cable car is one of the top things to do in Rotorua, NZ.

For a view across Rotorua City and out over the nearby lakes, travel up the Skyline Gondola.

On the city’s edges, you’ll find Skyline Park, home to several fun attractions, and the Gondola is the centre of it all.

It’s 900 metres long (2,952 feet) and gives you a scenic trip up the hill with great views.

It’s not a long ride, but the eight-seater cabins are comfortable and allow you to sit back and relax as you travel upwards.

Once you reach the top, enjoy a coffee or a glass of wine at the cafe, and drink in the view too.

The Skyline Gondola is at Skyline Park, 178 Fairy Springs Road, Fairy Springs, Rotorua 3015. 

3- Race Your Friends Down The Luge

aerial view of luge run and city in the background
Riding the luge is one of the exciting things to do with kids in Rotorua.

Once you’ve made it to the top of the Gondola and taken in the views from the top, there’s an exhilarating way to make it back down: Luging.

A Luge cart is described as “part go-kart, part toboggan”, and it’s a fun way to go down a hill, fast.

Head to Skyline Park in Rotorua and jump on one of the Luge carts there to experience the longest Luge track in the world.

There is more than 7km (4.3 miles) of tracks, and you can race your friends and family through tunnels, around corners, and straight down the hill to reach exciting speeds.

The Rotorua Luge is located at 178 Fairy Springs Road, Fairy Springs, Rotorua 3015.

4- Immerse Yourself In The Trees With Canopy Tours

Rotorua is known for its lush green forests and ancient native trees.

While you can experience forests like this from ground level anywhere in New Zealand, in Rotorua, you can head along on a canopy adventure and take part in ziplining, and cliff walking, all while being guided by a passionate local guide.

This is a very special way to immerse yourself in New Zealand’s flora and to understand the role this has played in New Zealand and Maori culture and development over the centuries. And, you’ll get your adrenaline hit while soaring among the treetops.

Rotorua Canopy Tours is located at 147 Fairy Springs Road, Fairy Springs, Rotorua 3015. Find out more here

5- Wander the Lakefront Boardwalk

Boardwalk around Rotorua lake
Strolling along the lakeside boardwalk or Lake Rotorua is one of the free things to do in Rotorua.

Rotorua City is built right on the shore of Lake Rotorua, and this beautiful, clear lake is a stunning focal point.

You can easily walk down to the lake’s edge and wander along the pathway.

This boardwalk was only completed in 2022, and it includes native planting areas, multiple walkways to choose from, playgrounds and sporting areas.

It’s easy to spend several hours relaxing here and a great spot to run, walk, or cycle. Or book yourself this relaxing Rotorua Lake: Deluxe Lake Spa Geothermal Hot Spring Bathing experience

The Rotorua Lakefront Boardwalk can be accessed from Lakefront Drive, Ohinemutu, Rotorua 3010.

6- Satisfy Your Cravings At Eat Street

If all this adventuring and exploring has made you hungry, head to Rotorua’s foodie heaven, Eat Street.

Eat Street is a collection of restaurants, bars, and pubs near the lakefront.

Whether you’re in the mood for fine dining or street food, you’ll find something to satisfy your taste buds here, including steaks, Italian food, ice cream and craft beer.

You’ll also be able to find something here to suit every budget.

The street is well-lit in bright colours, so it’s hard to miss and creates a great atmosphere and vibe.

You’ll find Eat Street on a map as Tutanekai Street, Rotorua 3010.

7- Hike The Tarawera Trail

Lake Tarawera jetty at sunset
Admiring the beautiful Lake Tarawera at sunset is one of the memorable things to do in Rotorua, New Zealand.

The name “Rotorua” means “Two Lakes” in Maori, but there are many more lakes in this area.

One of the most famous and scenic lakes is Lake Tarawera.

To get the best experience of this untouched area, lace up your shoes and hike the 15km (9.3 miles) one-way Tarawera Trail.

You’ll get incredible lake views as you hike and pass by several picnic and swimming spots. Near the end of the hike is a hot-water beach, where a spring of boiling thermal water meets the fresh lake water.

Once you’ve finished, to save the 15km return, catch the water taxi back to the car park. Or you can join the Tarawera and Lakes 2-Hour Duck Eco Tour.

The Tarawera Trail starts at the Te Wairoa Carpark, 1180 Tarawera Road, Lake Tarawera, Rotorua 3076.

8- Go Whitewater Rafting On The Kaituna River

Another way to experience Rotorua from a different angle is to get on top of the water with a whitewater rafting trip.

The Kaituna River is just outside Rotorua and offers thrilling Grade 5 rapids to explore.

Most rafting tours start from Okere Falls and offer knowledgeable, experienced, and professional guides to take you down the river.

On the way, you and your group will learn about New Zealand’s flora and fauna and take in the beautiful native forests.

It’s not all relaxing, though, as you’ll raft through rapids and over the seven-metre (21-foot) high Tutea Falls.

This is the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world, which will surely get your adrenaline pumping.

Whitewater rafting usually starts from Okere Falls, Rotorua. Book your spot here

9- See Incredible Thermal Activity At Wai-O-Tapu

bright colours in the geothermal springs
Exploring Wai-O-Tapu is one of the things to do in Rotorua you shouldn’t miss.

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland is a geothermal area full of geysers, bubbling pools, and brightly coloured mineral water.

Trip Advisor has described this place as “one of the most surreal places in the world”, with natural features full of supernatural blue, orange, and green colours, we can see why.

You can walk along an easy trail, taking in the different pools and listening to the bird calls as you do.

If you are visiting, get an early start and arrive at the Lady Knox geyser by 10:15 am, as that’s when it shoots, spraying water up to 20m (65 feet) in the air.

The Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland is at 201 Waiotapu Loop Road, RD 3, Rotorua 3073.

10- Learn About New Zealand Farming At The Agrodome

For an authentic New Zealand farming experience, the Agrodome is one of the best places to visit.

It’s a working farm, but it’s been open to the public since 1971, and you can visit it at any time of year to enjoy one of the three shows held daily.

The Agrodome is especially known for the Farm Show, highlighting sheep shearing and working dogs, horses, and other animals.

Besides the show, there’s a “Farm Nursery” at the Agrodome, where you can get your fix of cuddly, cute baby animals.

The Agrodome is at 141 Western Road, Ngongotahā, Rotorua 3010.

11- Explore the Government Gardens

Rotorua Museum lit up at night
You’ll find plenty of things to do in Rotorua at night too.

The Government Gardens are by the lakefront and a wonderful place to explore.

It’s easy to spot the gardens because the beautiful Tudor-style building built in 1908 is a Rotorua icon.

The gardens surrounding the building have been carefully curated, and you’ll find native and introduced trees here, including Japanese firs and Californian redwoods.

There are several statues and memorials in the gardens, and you’ll come across these as you wander around.

Government Gardens are at 9 Queens Drive, Rotorua 3010.

12- Experience Maori Culture At The Whakarewarewa Maori Living Village

Whakarewarewa Maori Living Village distant view of houses and steam
Visiting the Whakarewarewa Maori Village is one of the top things to do in Rotorua.

The Maori people were in New Zealand long before the British arrived and have a unique and interesting culture.

To experience this, visit the Whakarewarewa Maori Living Village, where you can take a guided tour and explore life as it used to be.

At the village, you can see how people lived, cooked, and bathed, all using natural geothermal activity.

As well as houses, and meeting houses, you can see churches, burial grounds, and other interesting landmarks.

Cultural performances are held daily, showcasing songs, dances, and stories that are all important to Maori culture.

The Whakarewarewa Village is at 17 Tryon Street, Whakarewarewa, Rotorua 3010.

If you’re keen on a cultural show, here are some options:

13- Be Enchanted By Glow Worms

You can see glow worms if you head out for a short walk at night in several secret spots around Rotorua.

These magical insects attach themselves to rocks and trees, and often number in the hundreds.

When glow worms surround you, they look just like stars in the night sky.

Several companies in Rotorua offer glow worm tours, either on foot or on a kayak.

However, if that’s not for you, you can ask some locals, who’ll point you toward one of the secret spots just outside the city.

Okere Falls, and Blue Lake, are two places you’re likely to encounter them. Book your spot on a Rotorua: Glow Worm Guided Kayaking Tour for an experience to remember. 

14- Experience Geothermal Activity At Kuirau Park

aerial view of Kuirau Park
Visiting Kuirau Park is one of the unique things to do in Rotorua, New Zealand.

Kuirau Park is right in the centre of Rotorua City, and it’s a wide-open park bubbling with geothermal activity.

Here, you’ll find hot pools of boiling mud and steam, which are free to access.

It’s easy to walk around the park and watch the pools, getting a good look at this geographical feature that makes Rotorua so unique.

As well as boardwalks and bridges, there is also a lot of native planting around, so you can see uniquely New Zealand trees and bushes at the same time.

To top it off, there’s a playground here for children and cafes near the outside to grab a coffee.

Kuirau Park is at 1371, Pukuatua Street, Ranolf Street, Rotorua 3010.

15- Visit The Wingspan National Bird of Prey Centre

falcon on ground frontal view
Seeing birds of prey is one of the fun things to do in Rotorua with kids.

New Zealand has many native birds, including the Karearea, a falcon.

This beautiful bird has long been threatened, and since the 1990s, Wingspan has been helping to protect them.

At the Bird of Prey Centre, you can see falcons and learn how they live in the wild.

There’s a fascinating show held daily, allowing you to watch falcons fly and hunt down their prey.

As well as providing an informative and exciting show for visitors, the Centre carries out vital conservation work, including breeding birds for release into the wild, and also cares for injured birds.

Wingspan National Bird of Prey Centre is at 1334 Paradise Valley Road, Ngongotahā, Ngongotahā Valley 3072.

16- Relax At The Polynesian Spa

woman soaking in the Polynesian spa enjoying the view
Soaking in the Polynesian Spa is one of the most relaxing things to do in New Zealand.

With geothermal activity all around Rotorua, this is the perfect city to find some natural hot pools to relax in.

This mineral-rich water is excellent for rejuvenating your skin, and one of the best places to enjoy it is the Polynesian Spa.

There are 28 different pools here, each with a unique temperature, water depth, and mineral properties.

You can choose from a dip in the public pools or arrange one of the private pool areas for a quieter experience.

Book a massage and spa therapy for even more relaxation and an excellent way to spend a few hours. You’ll leave feeling very refreshed. 

The Polynesian Spa is at 1000 Hinemoa Street, Lakeside, Rotorua 3010. Reserve your spot by booking the Geothermal Mineral Baths Experience: Pavilion Pools for 12+.

17- Mountain Bike Through the Forest

Yet another adrenaline activity, Rotorua is well known as being home to some of the best mountain biking in New Zealand.

The international Crankworx competition is held here, and bikers of all abilities travel to Rotorua to hit the trails.

The Whakarewarewa Mountain Bike Park is the best place to start, and whether you’re an experienced biker or a first-timer, there are trails here to suit you.

You can rent bikes (including e-bikes!) nearby, grab a map, and head off into the forest.

The Whakarewarewa Mountain Bike Park is at Waipa State Mill Road, Whakarewarewa, Rotorua 3074.

18- Visit the National Kiwi Hatchery

New Zealand has no native land mammals, but it’s a country full of unique and curious native birds.

One of the most interesting birds here is the Kiwi, and with its feathery round body and long thin beak, it’s a bird that’s internationally recognised as a symbol of New Zealand.

The National Kiwi Hatchery in Rotorua is one of the best places to learn about this endangered species and meet some newly hatched chicks.

The best time to visit is between September and March, which is the Kiwi hatching season.

During this time, you’ll see kiwi eggs being incubated and learn about how these birds hatch.

The National Kiwi Hatchery is at 192 Fairy Springs Road, Fairy Springs, Rotorua 3015. Don’t miss out on seeing this New Zealand icon and reserve your tickets here

For a weird and wonderful experience, Rotorua’s 3D Trick Art Gallery is a brilliant place to spend an afternoon.

It’s an art gallery, but it’s unlike any other one you’ve visited.

Here, all of the art installations are 3D and interactive.

You can touch, walk on, and experience every inch of them.

With over 50 art pieces and a range of themes, it will keep you interested for hours.

This gallery is exciting and fun, and it’s the perfect place to visit on a family trip, either with the young or the young at heart.

The 3D Trick Art Gallery’s address is 171 Fairy Springs Road, Fairy Springs, Rotorua 3015.

20- Experience Velocity Valley

Velocity Valley is an amusement park just outside of Rotorua City, and it’s another fantastic place to visit for an adrenaline-filled, hair-raising experience.

Here you can choose from many exciting experiences and rides, and each one will get your heart pumping.

You can do a bungy jump, ride in a jet boat, float and free fall in a vertical wind tunnel, and so much more.

Velocity Vally is described as the home of speed and adventure, with something for everyone to do here.

Velocity Valley is at 1335 Paradise Valley Road, Ngongotahā, Rotorua 3040.

For more things to do in New Zealand, read:

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Sarah Hyde was born and raised in Auckland, New Zealand. Now based in Innsbruck, Austria, she is getting out to experience Europe every chance she gets. When Sarah was in high school she spent a year living in Toronto, Canada, and hasn't stopped travelling since. She has explored India, Sri Lanka, Singapore, and spent several months of 2020 in Covid lockdown in the village of Sidi Kaouki, Morocco. After hiking Te Araroa, New Zealand, in 2022 she developed a love for solo-hiking and thinks it's one of the best ways to really get to know a new country! Since then, she has gone on to hike Rota Vicentina in Portugal, and Haute Route from Switzerland to France, two incredible adventures. When she's not travelling, you’ll find her writing or reading. Sarah has a Bachelor of Communication Studies from the University of Waikato in New Zealand, as well as a law degree.