On the hunt for the best things to do in Rotorua? This is the only guide you’ll need!
New Zealand is a stunning country to travel around, and one of the highlights of my trip to the North Island was Rotorua.
There are so many awesome places to visit in Rotorua, cool activities to try, and must-see Rotorua attractions that cater to all types of travelers.
In this guide, discover all you need to know about Rotorua including how to get here, where to stay, and a list of the best Rotorua activities to consider during your visit.
THINGS TO DO IN ROTORUA NEW ZEALAND – OVERVIEW
Before starting this guide to the best Rotorua activities, let’s discuss some of the basic information you should know when visiting, from how to get here, the best time to visit, and more.
WHERE IS ROTORUA?
Rotorua is located in the heart of New Zealand’s North Island.
This gem of a destination lies approximately 230 km southeast of Auckland, a scenic 2.5-hour drive through picturesque farmland.
Click here for the exact location on Google Maps.
HOW TO GET TO ROTORUA?
The best way to get to Rotorua is by driving your own vehicle from Auckland, which is only a 2.5-hour drive away.
Alternatively, you can fly into Auckland International Airport and then take a domestic flight to Rotorua Airport.
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HOW LONG TO STAY IN ROTORUA NEW ZEALAND?
Most visitors spend 3 to 4 days in Rotorua as this is enough time to explore around, take a day trip to Hobbiton and Taupo, as well as visiting Te Puia.
I only spent one night in Rotorua as my time on New Zealand’s North Island was limited, but if you have more time, then 3 days are enough to explore the town and its surrounding attractions.
BEST TIME TO VISIT ROTORUA?
If you’re looking for a nice summer holiday, then the best time to visit Rotorua is from October to March.
Temperatures are mild and days are long and sunny, however, this is the peak season, so be sure to book your accommodation in advance.
On the other hand, for a more relaxed atmosphere and fewer crowds, March to May or September to November are ideal times to visit Rotorua.
The weather during these months is still pleasant but not as hot as during the peak season.
IS IT WORTH VISITING ROTORUA NEW ZEALAND?
Absolutely! Rotorua has become a popular destination for tourists due to its unique geothermal features and rich Maori cultural heritage.
In addition to its geothermal attractions, Rotorua offers a wide range of outdoor activities catering to anyone, such as white water rafting, horseback riding, and ziplining, to name a few.
25 THINGS TO DO IN ROTORUA NEW ZEALAND
Rotorua is a beautiful destination in New Zealand known for its geothermal activity and unique natural landscapes.
From hot springs to white water rafting, these are the 25 BEST places to visit in Rotorua and things to do to keep you entertained.
RIDE THE SKYLINE GONDOLA & LUGE
Kicking off this list with one of the absolute best things to do in Rotorua – the Skyline Gondola up to Mount Ngongotaha is not to be missed on your itinerary!
As you ascend Mt Ngongotaha, you’ll be treated to stunning views of Rotorua City and the surrounding geothermal areas and lakes.
The panoramic view from the top of the mountain is simply breathtaking, with photo opportunities that are second to none.
Once you reach the top, you can indulge in a fresh, delicious lunch at the Stratosfare restaurant. This renowned eatery sources its ingredients locally, ensuring everything is fresh and delicious.
And don’t forget about the Skyline Luge, a thrilling ride down the mountainside that is perfect for all ages.
Book your tickets now and brace yourself for an unforgettable experience at the Rotorua Skyline Gondola and its array of activities!
VISIT HOBBITON VILLAGE
Next up is one of the most iconic things to do in Rotorua – the Hobbiton Village.
Located just outside of the city, this movie set from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films is a magical place that will transport you to Middle-earth.
You’ll be able to explore the village and its attractions such as the Green Dragon Inn, and Bag End, and even take a guided tour of the entire set!
The village itself is full of charm and beauty, with lush green hillsides and cobblestone pathways. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into another world as you wander through the village and take in all its sights.
The best way to visit Hobbiton is by taking a tour from Rotorua, which lets you understand the site better with a local guide and enjoy a tasty lunch at the restaurant.
The tour lasts 6.5 hours which makes it the perfect day trip, and you’ll still have some time in the afternoon to enjoy Rotorua – how convenient!
JOIN A MAORI CULTURAL EXPERIENCE WITH DINNER
Looking to immerse yourself in the local culture and up for a unique experience? Then the Tamaki Māori Village is the place to be!
At Te Pa Tu Maori Cultural Experience, you can learn about the history and traditions of the Ngati Whakaue people, who have lived in Rotorua for centuries.
During your visit, you’ll be greeted with a traditional powhiri ceremony and given an introduction to Maori customs and beliefs.
You will also get to participate in activities like poi dancing, haka performances, and weaving demonstrations.
At the end of your tour, you will be treated to a delicious hangi dinner cooked using traditional methods over hot stones.
The meal usually consists of pork or chicken cooked with vegetables and served with kumara (sweet potato) and stuffing.
This is a great way to sample some local cuisine while learning about Maori culture at the same time!
VISIT ROTORUA CITY CENTRE
Of course, one destination that simply cannot be missed is the vibrant and bustling Rotorua City Centre.
This lively hub of culture, entertainment, and gastronomy offers everything to leave a lasting impression.
Filled with a mix of contemporary architecture and historic buildings, you can’t help but feel the energy coming from every corner of Rotorua!
Begin your exploration at the heart of the city, where you’ll find the iconic Government Gardens.
This stunning oasis is a perfect blend of natural beauty and rich history, home to beautifully manicured lawns, fragrant flower beds, and the striking Rotorua Museum.
Take a leisurely stroll through the gardens, and don’t forget to snap a few photos of the enchanting Elizabethan-style bathhouse that’s sure to transport you back in time.
Once you’ve soaked up the history and culture of Rotorua, it’s time to indulge in some retail therapy, and the Rotorua Shopping Centre is the right place to go!
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JET BOAT ON LAKE ROTORUA
Get ready for an adrenaline-pumping, heart-thumping adventure like no other as you take the ride of your life with the Katoa Jet Boat on Lake Rotorua!
This incredible boat trip is one that will leave you breathless and entertained for a while.
This 30-minute jet boat tour on Lake Rotorua combines high-speed thrills and breathtaking scenery, and you simply can’t skip it!
Apart from that fun part, as you zoom across the lake, you’ll notice iconic landmarks such as Mokoia Island, Sulphur Bay, and Kawaha Point.
What else to say, it’s just one of the fun things to do in Rotorua for couples and families!
GLOW WORM KAYAKING
The Glow Worm Kayaking tour is one of the most top-rated Rotorua activities to try during your visit.
On this tour, you will be taken to some of the hidden glow worm caves around Rotorua and witness the incredible sight of thousands of tiny glow worms lighting up the night sky.
Start the trip in the city where you’ll get picked up by your guide and go straight to Lake Okareka where you’ll be provided with all the necessary kayaking gear for your journey.
Along with seeing the glow worms, you can also enjoy star gazing (if clear skies) and relax in Manupirua Thermal Hot Pools after your tour.
This is an unforgettable experience that you definitely don’t want to miss!
HAVE LUNCH AT ATTICUS FINCH
Taking tours around Rotorua is an amazing choice, but what makes it even better is a delicious lunch, and Atticus Finch has got you covered.
Located on Tutanekai Street, this restaurant offers flavorsome and innovative food using fresh and seasonal ingredients that are sourced locally.
With dishes starting at only $7, Atticus Finch is the perfect spot for foodies and lovers of great vibes.
The menu includes ginger sesame fried chicken, dry smoked aubergine curry, and even Chicken Tikka!
With its convenient location close to the lake and downtown shopping malls, Atticus Finch is the ideal spot for lunch with friends or family.
VISIT KEROSENE CREEK
Nestled in New Zealand’s Rotorua region, Kerosene Creek is an enchanting destination known for its geothermal hot springs.
While on my North Island New Zealand road trip, I visited these therapeutic springs that have long been cherished for their calming properties.
The creek features three pools of varying temperatures, with the downstream pool featuring a waterfall that you can swim in.
Kerosene Creek has been popular for years with locals, and today it’s a famous tourist attraction in the area that you definitely want to see for yourself!
Full Blog Post: Kerosene Creek New Zealand
POLYNESIAN SPA EXPERIENCE
As we go through all the amazing Rotorua attractions, one of the most relaxing and enjoyable experiences you can have is at the Polynesian Spa.
Nestled on the shores of Lake Rotorua, this spa offers a range of treatments from traditional Maori healing therapies to modern-day spa treatments.
The hot mineral pools are perfect for soaking away worries and stress, while the private thermal cabins provide a tranquil atmosphere for relaxation.
I recommend booking your entrance ticket in advance as it gets crowded and sells out pretty quickly.
Here’s everything you get when booking online:
- 3 Acidic mineral hot pools at 39°C – 41°C
- 3 Alkaline mineral hot pools at 38°C – 40°C
- Alkaline stand-up pool to stretch out or for light activity at 38°C
- Alkaline mineral hot pool overlooking Lake Rotorua at 40°C
- Reflexology walk to stimulate pressure points in your feet
Whether you want to unwind with a massage, a facial, or soak in the warm waters, the Polynesian Spa is sure to provide an unforgettable experience.
ZIPLINE IN ROTORUA FOREST
Be prepared to unleash your inner Tarzan and embark on a high-flying adventure through the lush canopy of Rotorua’s native forests!
Ziplining in Rotorua is an exhilarating experience that combines heart-pounding thrills with breathtaking natural beauty, creating memories that will last a lifetime.
The Rotorua Canopy Tours take place in the Rotorua Forest where you’ll be taken with your tour guide.
Experience the thrill of soaring across 1200m of ziplines in New Zealand.
You’ll also get to walk along the cliff 50m above the forest floor, cross impressive swing bridges, and even enjoy a 400m-long tandem zipline!
Apart from the fun part, part of the entrance ticket goes to the conservation work at the Rotorua forest, and I personally loved it.
Don’t miss out on this experience, it’s one of the Rotorua activities you’ll never forget!
WANDER AROUND WHAKAREWAREWA FOREST
Whakarewarewa Forest, also called the Redwoods, is a giant redwood forest unlike anywhere else in the world, offering stunning views of Lake Rotorua and the surrounding area.
The forest is home to some of the tallest trees on Earth, and it’s a great place for hiking, mountain biking, and exploring nature.
There are plenty of trails to explore, so you can take your time wandering around this beautiful natural wonderland.
The best way you can explore the forest is on a self-guided mountain bike tour, and you can rent one at the forest.
This will give you plenty of time to explore, see the top trail networks in the region, and have an epic time.
SEE WAIMANGU VALLEY & GEYSERS AT TE PUIA
Another one of the top things to do in Rotorua is to visit the Waimangu Valley and Te Puia to explore the amazing geothermal wonders.
Waimangu Volcanic Valley is a must-see attraction that boasts stunning geological features such as geysers, hot springs, and unique rock formations.
Take a walk along the scenic trails to witness the beauty of the valley, and discover the history of the volcanic eruption.
Another highlight of Rotorua is Te Puia, a geothermal reserve that showcases the Maori culture and traditions.
Get ready to be amazed by the impressive Pōhutu geyser, a striking resemblance to the Geysers in Iceland, which sprays water up to 30 meters high and erupts several times a day.
You can also see the traditional Maori carving and weaving techniques or enjoy a cultural performance at the marae.
Of course, you won’t want to forget your camera to capture the views – some of the best memories you’ll take back home.
The best way to see all the highlights is to book a small-group tour from Rotorua which lasts 8 hours and allows you to visit all the Rotorua attractions listed above.
VISIT ROTORUA FARM
Traveling to the North Island as a family? Then you have to check out Heritage Farm, one of the best things to do in Rotorua for families.
This authentic experience offers a glimpse into the heart and soul of the country, where you’ll meet farm animals, witness traditional farming practices, and immerse yourself in the idyllic countryside.
As you explore the picturesque landscape, you’ll encounter adorable sheep, cows, goats, ostriches, and alpacas, ready to greet you full of curiosity.
You can buy food to feed the animals, and have a delicious lunch for yourself, which makes it the perfect place to spend a few hours!
JOIN A DAY TRIP TO TAUPO
When I visited New Zealand, my time was relatively limited and I couldn’t visit all the spots I wanted.
And if you’re in a similar situation and don’t have time to spend a few days in Taupo, then taking a day tour from Rotorua is your best option!
As you journey through the picturesque landscape, you’ll be greeted by the stunning sight of Lake Taupo – the largest freshwater lake in Australasia, and one of the top things to do in Taupo.
Apart from that, you’ll get to visit the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, some of the most geothermal areas in New Zealand, and spend a couple of hours at the Orakei Korako Cave & Thermal Park.
That’s not all, a day trip also includes a stop at the incredible Huka Falls.
TAKE A SCENIC FLIGHT OVER MOUNT TARAWERA
Prepare to be swept off your feet on the adventure of a lifetime – a scenic flight over Mount Tarawera!
This exhilarating experience offers a unique perspective on Rotorua’s stunning landscape, showcasing its beauty from high above.
The flight is your opportunity to photograph the scenery around Rotorua, and the pilot will also share fascinating stories about the region, making it one incredible trip to take!
This Scenic Flight is approximately 40 minutes long and suitable for all ages, and I couldn’t recommend it enough.
HAVE A BREAK AT LE CAFE DE PARIS
Rotorua is home to many excellent cafes, but one I personally recommend for a day break is Le Cafe De Paris.
This charming French-style cafe offers a delightful atmosphere and delicious food. The menu features classic French dishes such as crepes, croissants, macarons, and great hot drinks.
Relax with a cup of coffee or tea while enjoying the cafe’s cozy atmosphere. Or grab a bite to eat before heading out for more sightseeing!
GO CRAZY AT VELOCITY VALLEY ADRENALINE PARK
Calling all adrenaline lovers – the Velocity Valley Adrenaline Park is exactly where you should be going!
The Velocity Valley Adrenaline Park is a thrilling adventure park that offers endless activities for all ages.
The park features the world’s first Shweeb racing system, where you can race against your friends in an aerodynamic pod suspended from a monorail track. Doesn’t it sound epic?
You can also take on the challenge of Agrojet – a jet boat ride that will take your breath away with its speed and spins.
Alternatively, try out Freefall Xtreme – a vertical wind tunnel that allows you to experience what it feels like to fly!
To sum up, I can’t think of a better activity in Rotorua if you love adrenaline! Make sure to book your tickets ahead of time here below to secure your spot.
ROLL DOWN MOUNT NGONGOTAHA IN A ZORB BALL
Rolling down the slopes of Mount Ngongotaha in a Zorb ball is an experience like no other.
You’ll be able to choose between 4 different courses, which range from straight downhill to crazy, with a zig-zag path that you’ll love!
As you get inside the transparent sphere, feel the anticipation build before you’re sent hurtling down the hillside, tumbling and bouncing along the way.
Apart from the fun part, after bouncing around the hills, you’ll get to relax in a hot tub while taking in the views over Lake Rotorua and Mokoia Island.
Zorbing is more than just an exciting activity – it’s a chance to let go, embrace your inner child, and create memories that will last a lifetime.
A word of caution: The Zorb experience gets very busy during the summertime, and you’ll want to book your ticket ahead of time to secure your spot!
RELAX AT HELL’S GATE GEOTHERMAL PARK
After an action-packed day exploring all the things to do in Rotorua, it’s time to unwind at the Hell’s Gate Geothermal Park.
This unique oasis offers a soothing retreat amidst a striking landscape of steaming fumaroles, bubbling mud pools, and colorful mineral deposits.
As you meander through the park, indulge your senses in the therapeutic properties of the hot springs, harnessing the Earth’s natural energy to melt away stress and tension.
But Hell’s Gate is more than just a haven for relaxation and exploration – it’s also a place steeped in Maori history and culture, adding depth and meaning to your experience.
And the best part is that you’ll be able to visit the site with a guide before or after relaxing, which is excellent.
Take a moment to pause, breathe, and reconnect with nature at this enchanting geothermal haven – your body and soul will thank you!
WHITEWATER RAFTING ON KAITUNA RIVER
Another one of the best outdoor and adrenaline-filled Rotorua activities is Whitewater rafting on Kaituna River!
This is an experience you don’t want to miss, with an incredible ride through stunning native forests, deep canyons, and waterfalls.
Feel the rush of excitement as you navigate your way down the river, tackling Grade 5 rapids and the world-famous 7-meter Okere Falls – the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world.
The whitewater rafting tour lasts for 3 hours, including 1 hour on the water, transportation from your hotel, and the cliff diving experience.
If I had to choose only a few activities in Rotorua, this would definitely be on top of my list!
RIDE A HORSE AT MT NGONGOTAHA
Looking for an unforgettable adventure in Rotorua? Why not saddle up and explore the stunning scenery on horseback at Mount Ngongotaha?
Climb onto your horse and head into the foothills of Mt Ngongotaha with a guide.
Follow winding trails over working farmland and through native bush, and see the incredible views over Lake Rotorua. Trust me, you don’t see such stunning landscapes every day!
The best part is that the horse trek is suitable for all levels, so you can join even if you’ve never done it before.
TAKE PHOTOS AT OKERE FALLS
During my trip, one of the places to visit in Rotorua that particularly struck me was Okere Falls.
Nestled only 20 minutes away from Rotorua town, Okere Falls is home to the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world at 7 meters.
The Okere Falls Track is a 700-meter (1.3 miles) loop trail that takes about 45 minutes to complete.
Once you reach the falls, you can take photos from the viewing deck and watch rafters take the plunge over the falls, so make sure to bring your camera along.
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CHECK OUT THE 3D TRICK ART GALLERY
When searching for some indoor activities in Rotorua, the best one that I recommend is by far the 3D Trick Art Gallery.
This interactive art gallery is full of optical illusions and 3D artworks that will leave you feeling like you’ve stepped into another world.
The gallery features various scenes from around the world, including a tropical beach scene, an underwater scene, and even a dinosaur-filled jungle!
You can take photos with your friends and family to capture the moment and create some amazing memories.
The 3D Trick Art Gallery is perfect for all ages and sure to be a hit with everyone who visits Rotorua.
GO SHOPPING AT ROTORUA CENTRAL
Going shopping may not sound like the most authentic activity, but it’s nice to have a break after driving for days or weeks.
Rotorua Central hosts endless stores, including Farmers, Uncle Bills, Noel Leeming, and more.
You’ll also find a great selection of boutique crafts shops, perfect for souvenir searchers or lovers of North Island culture.
In addition to the main mall, there are two other shopping centers in Rotorua – Te Ngae Shopping Centre and Te Manawa The Heart of the City.
So if you’re looking for a great shopping experience in Rotorua then head down to one (or all!) of these fantastic shopping centers.
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BIRD WATCHING AT WINGSPAN BIRD OF PREY CENTRE
Last but not least on this list of things to do in Rotorua is something for bird-watching enthusiasts.
The Wingspan Bird of Prey Centre is home to New Zealand’s only native birds of prey, including the majestic kārearea (NZ falcon) and the ruru (morepork).
Here, you can learn about the fascinating lives of these birds through interactive displays, talks, and guided walks.
You can also watch them in flight during their daily flying demonstrations.
It’s a great way to get up close and personal with some of New Zealand’s most incredible birds.
WHERE TO STAY IN ROTORUA
Rotorua has countless hotels on offer so I have narrowed it down to a few of the best places to stay during your visit.
Below you’ll find properties suitable for luxury travelers, budget backpackers, and everyone in between.
LUXURY: REGAL PALMS RESORT
MID RANGE: BEST WESTERN BRAESIDE ROTORUA
BUDGET: ROCK SOLID BACKPACKERS
FOR MORE OPTIONS IN ROTORUA, SEARCH ON BOOKING.COM
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WHAT TO PACK FOR NEW ZEALAND
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SUMMARY – ROTORUA ACTIVITIES
I hope you enjoyed reading this article about what to do in Rotorua New Zealand, and if you have any questions, please drop me a comment below this post and I will get back to you as soon as I can.
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THANKS FOR READING
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