If you’re wondering what to do in Rotorua with your family, we’ve compiled a list of things to do under 7 different types of activity. There should be something in here to suit everyone in the family!
Rotorua really is the best family holiday destination, with a wealth of activity providers who save you time and effort and provide you with a dazzling array of entertainment experiences — from peaceful tours through to adrenalin-pumping action, in the air, on the lake, river, or land.
In fact, there is such a mind-boggling array of wonderful attractions and distractions, that we have divided them up into themes to help you plan your holiday. The themes include:
- Take Flight — get a bird’s eye view of the Rotorua district
- Geothermal — Rotorua’s very distinctive sights and smells
- Swimming — let the kids blow off some steam
- Action Aplenty — for the speed & adventure freaks
- Relaxing — for a calmer experience
- Guided Tours — access local knowledge of expert guides
- On a Budget — free and very low cost activities
Ever had a burning desire or dream to soar high up in the sky? Ever been up in a single engine aeroplane or a helicopter? Now is the chance of a lifetime to go flying, and to marvel at the absolutely stunning views — the beautiful landscapes and lakes of Rotorua and the surrounding region.
HELiPRO Helicopter Adventures
HELiPRO has experienced pilots who have an intimate knowledge of the region — powerful volcanoes and thermal reserves, tranquil and relaxing wilderness areas, and local lakes and coastlines.
walk through the active steaming crater floor of the renowned Island volcano of White Island; or
stand on the rugged, awe-inspiring summit of Mt Tarawera volcano, site of the largest eruption in New Zealand ‘s living memory; or
experience walking among a number of New Zealand ‘s most endangered birds on sacred Mokoia Island; or
access the region’s remote wilderness areas for fly-fishing in a private paradise.
Rotorua is THE geothermal wonderland of New Zealand, and is easily accessible for young and old both within Rotorua and in the surrounding districts.
Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland
Just 27km south of Rotorua on SH5 is the visually spectacular geothermal experience of Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. This is New Zealand’s most colourful geothermal area. View the internationally famous Champagne Pool — 65m wide bubbling mud, steaming ground, hot springs, expansive vistas, huge volcanic craters and sinter terrace formations.
Arrive around 10am to be amazed by eruption of the Lady Knox Geyser at 10:15am. While you’re there don’t miss other attractions — the Rainbow Crater, the Sulphur Cave, the Silica Terraces, Artists Palette, and view of Lake Ngakoro.
Open 365 days (half day Christmas day) 8.30am – 5.00pm. Last admission 3.45pm.
You and your family are spoilt for choice on where to go in Rotorua for a swim. There are many different types of swimming complexes, with different features, so explore the options below to find what suits.
The Blue Baths
Situated amidst the beautiful Government Gardens, the elegant 1930s Art Deco architecture makes the Blue Baths a highly distinctive historic destination, and provides not only thermally heated swimming pools (the main Juvenile Pool and two adjoining soak pools), but also a swimming museum and a theatre company.
The Blue Baths are open every day from 10am onward. There is no lifeguard service at the Blue Baths, so parents must accompany preschool children in the pools and supervise children 5 – 14 years old. Refreshments are available from the tearooms or the Bath House cafe. Discount deal is available combining the Blue Baths and the Rotorua Museum.
For the adrenalin-junkies in the family, you are indeed spoilt for choice! There are action attractions aplenty in Rotorua, for all ages and stages, and across a wide variety of entertainment types — mountain bikes, 4-wheel motorbikes, kayaks, white-water rafts, sledges, fishing boats, jet boats, horses, … the list goes on!
Planet Bike Mountain Biking
Just 5 minutes from Rotorua central, lies hidden the spectacular Whakarewarewa Forest, with 40km of the best purpose built mountain biking trails on the planet. This is a mountain biker’s paradise, and the volcanic soil offers superb all weather riding!
First timers can try the 2-hour ride on flat to undulating terrain, through beautiful forest with lots of fun and excitement. Planet Bike provides quality bikes and equipment, expert guides, courtesy transport, munchie bar and post ride refreshment.
Redwoods Treewalk Rotorua
The Schmids, originally from Germany, first saw the Redwoods forest as tourists five years ago. Since then, the project has been a labour of love, with the Treewalk opening in December 2015.
The dream of Alex and Andrea Schmid, Redwoods Treewalk takes you 12 metres up into the canopy of the Redwood forest on 23 suspension bridges slung between 22 giant Redwood trees. The walkway is constructed using a specially designed sling, which is suspended from the redwood trees.
There is a tremendous range of more “relaxing” places to go in Rotorua — places that don’t involve lots of exercise or risky adventure.
Rainbow Springs Nature Park
Feast your eyes on the numerous wild trout swimming in the clear cold water springs, and enhance your self-guided experience with their informative audio commentary via good quality earphones. The kids will love controlling “their own” MP3 player, and touring around at their own pace.
Other major attractions include:
- Kiwi, our national icon, on display in the nocturnal house by day and in the outdoor walk-through enclosure at night – unique to Rotorua and New Zealand.
- Native plants and native trees along pathways, including botanical information signs.
- Tuatara, New Zealand’s ancient “dinosaur”, both adults and juveniles.
- Native birds — a wide range of endangered and protected birds in free flight aviaries including kaka, kea, kereru, kakariki, weka, pukeko, tui and white-faced heron.
- Night viewing — your ticket is valid for 24 hours so return with the kids in the evening to view Rainbow Springs in an entirely “new light” (actually under spectacularly coloured lights!)
If you’d prefer to sit back and allow a local expert to show you the highlights of Rotorua, then you have a wide array of tour types from which to choose.
Rotorua Duck Tours
Discover Rotorua on a unique 90 minute sightseeing adventure onboard a WWII amphibious “Duck” vehicle which is able to travel on land and water! Tour highlights include Lake Rotorua, Mokoia Island, Geothermal Sulphur Point, Government Gardens, The Museum, Blue Baths, and then “SPLASHDOWN” into Lakes Tikitapu (Blue Lake) and Okareka, a small lakeside community where the Duck’s elevation affords magnificent views of Mt Tarawera. Great fun for young and old!
Sometimes you may like to do things just by yourselves and without having to outlay much cash. There are many free or low budget family activities to explore in the Rotorua district, including:
- Walks — many beautiful native bush and lakeside easy walks of less than one hour; check them out at DOC’s excellent website — www.doc.govt.nz— including:
- Rainbow Mountain-Crater Lake Walk — enjoy the fantastic views over two crater lakes; just a 30 minute round trip.
- Lake Okataina tracks — 5 different easy walks around the Scenic Reserve, a pristine area of abundant native bush and many different native birds.
- Hamurana Springs Track — a crystal clear water spring and rich birdlife make this a splendid picnic spot
- Isthmus Track — the track links Lakes Tarawera and Rotomahana, providing superb views of Mt Tarawera
- Forest walks — try an awe-inspiring walk amongst the giant Redwood trees, within the Whakarewarewa Forest Park. Set on the edge of Rotorua this area covers around 288 hectares. Access via Long Mile Rd.
- Government Gardens – located toward the end of Arawa St, a beautiful sight in the spring season; a lovely spot for a picnic.
- Orchid Gardens – located close to the Blue Baths, again visually spectacular in the Spring.
- Lakes — 13 major lakes in the district; check out the excellent DOC website — www.doc.govt.nz— including:
- Blue Lake: also known as Lake Tikitapu; has clear blue waters popular with water skiers, swimmers and boaties; water slide for the kids; popular picnic spot (and toilets) on grass reserve and beach
- Lake Rotoiti — a very popular lake for fishing and water sports
- Trout fishing — permitted on 11 of the 16 lakes; license required per angler
- Boating — check the local regulations with DOC, 99 Sala StreetRotorua, phone 07 348 3610
- Geothermal activity —
- at the Waiotapu Thermal Track, view the bubbling hot mud pools; just a 5 minute round trip from the car.
- Kuirau Park — located close to the CBD, Kairau Park features free viewing of active thermal pools; a Miniature Railway; a Playground; and Aquatic Centre.
- Playground — the Lakefront Volcanic Playground, located beside Lake Rotorua
- Swimming — the Council owned Rotorua Aquatic Centre has been revamped, with a spray park, water canons and bikes, lazy river, inflatable toys, outdoor spas, lap pools, steam cave, splash pad, grass volleyball court, playground, BBQ/picnic areas, and … free parking!
- Mountain Biking Trails — try some outstanding biking trails amongst the mighty Redwoods in Whakarewarewa Forest. Pick up a superb waterproof $5 map from either Rotorua i-SITE or Redwoods Gift Shop and Visitor Centre or via the Rotorua District Council at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Now that you’ve got the low down on what to do in Rotorua with your family these holidays, check out more expert travel tips in our Grown ups: Family travel section.