There are so many things to do in Rotorua. Rotorua has got to be one of the most popular places to visit in New Zealand - and for good reason! Known for its active geothermal landscape, exciting outdoor adventures, and Māori culture, Rotorua really is a NZ ‘must see’. Take all the opportunities you can to explore the amazing city in the heart of the North Island.
Exploring Rotorua’s Great Outdoors
Set on the shore of Lake Rotorua and surrounded by forests, rivers and mountains, Rotorua is heaven for lovers of the outdoors. There are so many things to do in Rotorua that will take you exploring outdoors…
Explore Rotorua on foot
One of the best ways to see the area is by exploring some of the top walks you can do locally. Our favourite take place in the awe-inspiring Redwoods Forest, through the towering Canadian redwood trees which are seriously impressive. If you are looking to explore native New Zealand, there are also a number of walks that will allow you to see the amazing landscapes you will not see anywhere else in the world. So, if you are looking for things to do in Rotorua, why not head outdoors and explore some of these amazing walks:
Photo: Redwood forest
Whakarewarewa circuit: 34km return
Wondering where to go in the Redwoods? Well it's very popular for its walking tracks. The Whakarewarewa circuit trail is one of our favourites and it follows forestry roads and exciting tracks.
Rainbow Mountain Summit Track: 5km return
Rainbow Mountain summit track has amazing 360 degree views out over the Rotorua region. Either at the beginning or end of the walk make a turn onto the Crater Lake track where you will find two amazing, emerald coloured lakes which are definitely worth the extra 10-minute walk.
Sulphur Point walk:
One of the top walks to do is the Sulphur Point walk. It starts right on the edge of town and has no entry course. The entire track takes about two hours. You’ll see amazing steaming vents and bubbling mud pools as you walk along the boardwalk.
Mount Ngongotaha Scenic Reserve: 4.8km return
Mount Ngongotaha is a volcanic dome that looks out over Rotorua city - 757m above sea level. Native forest surrounds the track that is rooty and at times can be very steep. It is home to one of the largest rata trees in New Zealand.
Things to do in Rotorua on your bike
If walking seems a bit slow for your action-packed holiday, then see why Rotorua is known as a biking heaven. There are multiple places you can experience all types of biking, from mountain biking through forests to biking exploring the city on Rotorua’s cycleway.
Photo: Redwood forest
Rotorua City Cycleway
Through the city is the main cycleway which is one of the best ways to see the city. Miss the traffic and the parking and head out to explore. The cycleway allows the entire family to cycle in a safe environment. If you don’t have a bike – don’t worry, there are plenty of places around Rotorua where you can hire bikes to use.
Explore the Redwood forest by bike. The amazing Californian redwood forest has so many biking options that suit everyone’s skill levels. Bike through the towering trees and enjoy the stunning surroundings. With trails for beginners to pros, everyone will have a blast out on the tracks!
Check out our top redwood forest biking trails
Mountain Biking is so well catered for in Rotorua that it has become home to the Crankworx Bike Festival. This annual festival celebrates mountain biking and draws international talent to the city - if you’re here in April, make sure you soak up some of the action!
Things to do in Rotorua - On the water
If after all this you need a day to chill out and catch up, head out and enjoy one of Rotorua’s many lakes or rivers. There are lots of different activities on the lakes from swimming, kayaking, boating and white-water rafting.
Photo: Lake Rotorua
Lake Rotoiti is a lake you won’t want to miss. Shallow beaches warm up around the edge of the lake in the summer, perfect for a swim. Or on the cooler days head over to the Manupiria Hot Springs, accessible only by boat.
Our must visit lake is Lake Tikitapu, or the Blue lake as the locals call it. The Blue lake is the perfect swimming spot, safe to take the family for an afternoon of entertainment. This beautiful lake is surrounded by native bush, so don’t forget to take your camera!
Another to visit, Lake Tarawera is one of the largest lakes in New Zealand. Known for catching large rainbow trout here, Lake Tarawera is the perfect spot if you want to try your hand out trout fishing.
Guided tours and experiences
Rotorua is well known for some of the best guided experiences in New Zealand! Sometimes it’s better to get out with the locals and let them take you to see their backyard and hear about the history of the area. These guided adventures are in fact three of the best things to do in Rotorua:
Photo: Rotorua Canopy Tours
Rotorua Canopy Tours
Rotorua Canopy Tour is the #1 outdoor activity on TripAdvisor, so if you are looking for an outdoor adventure you can’t go past it. Rotorua Canopy Tours offers two experiences, one 3 hour and one 3.5 hour guided adventure that takes you deep into native forest on a network of ziplines and swing bridges. Each group is small, max 10 and you have two expert guides who look after all your safety along the way. The best thing about this guided tour is that some of the fare paid to go on the tour goes straight back into the conservation of the forest Canopy Tours operates in.
Rafting is an activity that will get your heart rate going. Try the Kaituna river trip at River Rats and raft a 7m waterfall! The tour goes for 2 hours and takes you over 3 waterfalls and through 14 rapids.
Stand-up Paddle boarding
Head out at twilight with Paddle Board Rotorua and they will guide to on an evening adventure on the lake where you will get to venture into caves full of glow worms!