The Best Things to do in Rotorua

This page may contain affiliate links.
Learn more in our disclaimer.

Rotorua is a unique city to say the least: it’s sitting right on top of a geothermal area. Steam is coming out of the ground everywhere, and a sulphuric (rotten egg) smell hangs in the air constantly. Pretty obvious why it’s nicknamed Sulphur City. That doesn’t keep it from being an awesome place to visit though. There sure are a bunch of fascinating and fun things to do in Rotorua. The geothermal activity brings out scenes and colours you don’t see that often, and produces natural hot springs for anyone to relax in. Besides that Rotorua is known for their Maori tradition. You’ll be fascinated for sure!

Here are some of the best things to do in Rotorua.

Explore the geothermal side of Rotorua

Rotorua is best known for its geothermal activity. Below, we’ll list the most interesting spots to marvel at the effects of that geothermal activity in Rotorua.

Visit Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

THE spot to witness Rotorua’s geothermal activity at its best is Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. Not surprisingly the most popular tourist attraction in the city, but definitely worth the entrance fee. The park lives up to its name and is indeed a land of natural wonders. We saw oddly coloured lakes, deep craters, beautiful mineral terraces, bubbling Mud Pools, all the while steam is rising everywhere you look. In one word: fascinating!

Champagne Pool at Wai-O-TapuChampagne Pool at Wai-O-Tapu

Keep reading: A visit to Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland in Rotorua. Here you can find more photos, some practical information, and the highlights of our visit.

Walk the Te Manaroa Spring Eco Trail

Another fascinating display of geothermal activity is the  Te Manaroa Boiling Spring. This spa complex is a 30 minute drive from Rotorua, and only 10 minutes away from Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. It even has a small campground if you wish to spend the night.

For NZ$16.50 per person you can soak in the Waikite Valley Thermal Pools, filled with water from the Te Manaroa Boiling Spring. The pools are drained and refilled daily, so you’ll be bathing in the purest 100% natural thermal water in New Zealand. It all looked and sounded awesome, but we chose to save some money and go bathe in the natural hot pools at Kerosene Creek instead. More about that in the next section.

Te Manaroa Boiling SpringTe Manaroa Boiling Spring
Cascades to Cool the WaterCascades to Cool the Water

We did walk the Eco Trail to the Te Manaroa Boiling Spring, which cost us NZ$3 per person. Did you know the Te Manaroa Boiling Spring is the largest single source of boiling water in New Zealand, discharging boiling water at a rate of 40-50 liters per second? The 98°C water flows into the Otamakokore River, and will undergo some cooling procedures before supplying the hot pools. The series of cascades you see when entering the grounds is one of them. It’s only a 5 minute walk to the spring and the scenery is pretty impressive. Feel free to skip the viewing point on your right at the start of the walk though, as the cascades are more beautiful from below.

Find more information on the Waikite Valley Thermal Pools website.

Soak in the natural hot pools at Kerosene Creek

If you prefer free natural hot pools over fancy paid ones, the hot pools at  Kerosene Creek are the place to be. Chances are you won’t have the hot pools to yourself, but that doesn’t change the beauty of this secluded little natural spa. It’s a bit of a challenge to get in the water when you’re scared of slipping and falling, but once you’re in the knee-deep water, it’s perfect. Enjoy and relax, there’s nothing but jungle around you.

Natural Hot Pools at Kerosene CreekNatural Hot Pools at Kerosene Creek

These hot pools are about a 700m walk away from the car park, but you can find detailed directions in the NZ Frenzy guidebook. The last part of road to get to the car park is unsealed. Note that car break-ins happened there more than once, so best take all your valuables to the creek.

Wander through Rotorua

If you don’t have the budget or willingness to pay for displays of geothermal activity, there are some free things to do in Rotorua as well. Head to Sulphur Bay for a miniature, unfortunately less spectacular, version of Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. We parked our campervan at the Rotorua Energy Events Centre and walked north along the shores of Lake Rotorua. It was pretty fascinating, but smelly as well. We’d already visited Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, so were a bit spoilt and turned back before reaching the end of the walk.

Kuirau ParkKuirau Park
Not Your Everyday City ParkNot Your Everyday City Park

Rotorua has a city park with gardens and a children’s playground, just like most cities.  Kuirau Park isn’t your average city park though, with hot pools, mud pools, and steam coming out of the ground. The thermal areas are fenced for your safety, but make for a weird looking park. There are two footbaths as well, where you can soak your feet in the natural hot water. Enjoy wandering through New Zealand’s only geothermal public park.

Discover the Maori side of Rotorua

Besides the geothermal activity in Rotorua, the city is well known for its Maori tradition. You can attend shows with ceremonial rituals, a hangi feast, and a haka (you know, that war dance?). A popular touristy thing to do in Rotorua. There are a bunch of tours as well, all filled with information on Maori culture. We did none of those, but instead wandered through  Ohinemutu, a living Maori village. Ohinemutu is a suburb of Rotorua, located on the shores of Lake Rotorua. The Ngāti Whakaue tribe that still lives here once chose this spot because of its lakeside setting and geothermal energy, which they used for cooking, bathing, and heating.

St Faith's ChurchSt Faith's Church
Maori Culture in RotoruaMaori Culture in Rotorua
Could have been a scene from a ThrillerCould have been a scene from a Thriller

We parked our campervan at the St Faith's Church while we were out exploring. Apparently there’s a window etched with the image of Jesus wearing a Maori cloak, but we didn’t know at the time. We wandered around searching for some geocaches and marvelled at the scenery. It’s is so mysterious, almost creepy. It looks right out of a murder mystery!

Some other fun things to do in Rotorua

Of course there are a couple of things to literally do in Rotorua as well. I’m talking about activities that give you a little bit of a kick, where having fun is a guarantee. Let us walk you through a couple of them.

Go zorbing with OGO Rotorua

Zorbing is the perfect adventure activity for wannabe thrill seekers. It’s a lot of fun, but you don’t need the amount of bravery that’s required for something like bungy jumping. Zorbing comes down to this: rolling down a hill in a transparant plastic ball. I know, it sounds pretty lame, but it really is a lot of fun! We did the H2OGO Sidewinder with OGO Rotorua and had a blast!

Zorbing with OGO in RotoruaZorbing with OGO in Rotorua

Keep reading: A Unique Zorb Adventure with OGO in RotoruaHere you can find more photos, some practical information, and an elaborate explanation about how awesome it is.

Go white water rafting with Kaituna Cascades

Ever been white water rafting? This was our first time as well. As if I’m the bravest daredevil in the world, we immediately booked a white water rafting expedition that goes down the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world: Tutea Falls. We nearly drowned (I’m exaggerating only a little bit), but had a blast. Our guide from  Kaituna Cascades Rafting was pretty awesome, doing all of these cool tricks and safely getting us through our first white water rafting experience. This was definitely Brecht’s favourite thing to do in Rotorua!

White Water Rafting in RotoruaWhite Water Rafting in Rotorua

Keep reading: How to Survive some Epic White Water Rafting in RotoruaHere you can find more photos, some practical information, and a detailed report of our nearly-drowned-experience.

Walk the Okere Falls Track

Not that much of a water person? You can just watch from the sidelines as well. Walk the Okere Falls Track, starting right where we started our white water rafting trip. The path follows the Kaituna River all the way to where we came out of the water again, right before the Okere Falls. We didn’t raft these falls, because they are sloping, not vertical, which is quite dangerous apparently. Follow the signs to the Trout Pool to check it out.

The Okere Falls Track is no loop track, so you’ll have to retrace your steps to get back to your vehicle. It’s a 30 minute walk one way, covering about 1.2 km. If you come back at night, there are supposed to be glow worms too.

Try to spot some rafters from the Okere Falls TrackTry to spot some rafters from the Okere Falls Track

Somewhere along the Okere Falls Track you’ll pass Tutea Falls, where you can stay and watch kayaks and rafts come down the 7 meter drop. We walked over to the viewpoint, hoping to spot another group of white water rafters taking the Tutea Falls, but no such luck. Maybe it was for the best that I hadn’t seen beforehand how a raft comes down these falls. Brecht did see a couple of kayakers coming down. They did manage to stay in their kayaks.

You can find some more information on the Okere Falls Track on the Department of Conservation website.

Do the Skyline Luge Rotorua

Skyline Luge Rotorua is the perfect family activity. Sitting in a luge, part go-cart and part toboggan, you’ll race each other down one of three tracks. These luge trails have different skill levels: scenic, intermediate, and advanced. Unfortunately the advanced track was closed for maintenance at the time of our visit. Bummer! We raced down the scenic track once and the intermediate track thrice. Would have loved to try out the advanced track as well.

Taking a Gondola Ride in RotoruaTaking a Gondola Ride in Rotorua
The View on a Cloudy DayThe View on a Cloudy Day
Skyline Luge RotoruaSkyline Luge Rotorua

We booked our tickets for the Skyline Luge Rotorua through BookMe beforehand. For NZ$35 per person we were allowed 1 gondola ride and 4 luge rides. When booking through the Skyline Rotorua website 1 gondola ride and 3 luge rides will cost you NZ$50. They have a bunch of deals and combination packages as well, where you can combine the gondola, luge, sky swing and/or zipline. If you have some extra cash to spend, you can buy the photos that are taken before you take the gondola and while you’re speeding down the luge trails. They’re quite expensive though, so we kindly passed up the offer and took some photos of our own. You can hire a GoPro as well.

The Skyline Luge Rotorua – Our experience

It was a cloudy morning when we were on our way to the  Skyline Luge Rotorua. We took the gondola up to the  Skyline Rotorua complex, providing pretty awesome views over Rotorua. We picked up a helmet (obligated to wear at all times), hopped in a luge cart and headed down the hill on the scenic track to get a feel of how this thing works.

It’s quite simple really. The luge is fuelled by gravity and you have full control over speed and direction. Pull back on the bars to stop, push forward to speed up. We took the (wet) chair lift back up and were ready to take it to the next level: the intermediate track. We did this one three times, because the advanced track was closed. It was autumn back then and not busy at all. There was one other couple on the tracks with us and when we left two other families were just getting started.

Welcome to RotoVegasWelcome to RotoVegas
Birthe Luging down the HillBirthe Luging down the Hill
Brecht Luging down the HillBrecht Luging down the Hill
Once Is Never EnoughOnce Is Never Enough

It takes a while for the chair lift to bring you back to the top, but you can count the fallen helmets below your feet to pass the time. The luge rides are awesome though, we had a blast! The Skyline Luge Rotorua slogan hits the nail right on the head: once is never enough.

Walk to the Te Hamurana Springs

Had enough of all the action and want to enjoy some peace and quiet in a natural setting? Head to the Hamurana Springs Recreation Reserve for a walk through the redwood grove. It’s only about 20 minutes outside of Rotorua. The  Hamurana Springs Track is not that popular, but definitely worth the 30 minute walk. The towering Hamurana coastal redwood trees are pretty impressive and the Te Puna-A-Hangarue spring has the clearest water you’ve ever seen. You can almost see the bottom of this 15 m deep spring. Not mucroturoh further you’ll see the aptly named Dancing Sands Spring. We never saw anything like it before. Don’t miss out!

Te Hamurana Springs Track Redwood GroveTe Hamurana Springs Track Redwood Grove
Te Puna-A-Hangarue SpringTe Puna-A-Hangarue Spring

Go on a day trip to Taupo

Taupo is only a day trip away from Rotorua, and absolutely worth the 1 hour drive. It’s all about nature here. Witness the power of the light blue water from the Waikato River blasting over the edge into the Huka Falls. You won’t be the only one snapping photos here, but it’s still worth a stop. Want a more private display of the power of water? Head to a secret viewpoint to see the Aratiatia Rapids come to life. This was probably our favourite spot, it’s really impressive! If you aren’t tired of geothermal activity after a couple of days in Rotorua, you should definitely check out the Craters of the Moon Geothermal Walk as well. It takes you through a unique landscape of bubbling craters and steaming vents for only NZ$8 per person.

Craters of the Moon in TaupoCraters of the Moon in Taupo

Keep reading: The 4 best things to do in TaupoHere you can find more photos and some practical information on the best things to do in Taupo, all fitting in one day trip.

There’s a lot of fascinating and fun things to do in Rotorua, don’t you agree? If we have to name something you can’t miss when visiting Rotorua it’s Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. However, the hot pools at Kerosene Creek and our white water rafting expedition were awesome too. Tough decision. But hey, you don’t have to choose, you can just do them all! We spent a great couple of days in Rotorua and hope you will enjoy it too.

Have you been to Rotorua? Did we miss something awesome? We would love to hear about your experience in the comments! We can always use a reason to go back.

Tip: You can find all these activities and more in the NZ Frenzy Guidebook, our favourite guidebook to New Zealand.


Like it? Pin it!
Did you find this post helpful? Help us spread the word by sharing this post or pinning the following image.

Best Things to do in RotoruaBest Things to do in Rotorua