There are so many things to do and see in Rotorua with your family, it’s hard to know where to start. We recently spent a weekend in Rotorua, checking out the things to do there, with accomodation and activities kindly provided by Destination Rotorua. Find out more about what to do in Rotorua with your family these holidays.
7 things to do in Rotorua with your family
For many years, Rotorua was somewhere we blasted through on our way north or south to somewhere else and until recently, it had been many years since I’d visited. We had a taste of the city late last year and when we had the opportunity to return for a weekend, we were quick to take up the opportunity.
1. Redwoods Treewalk Rotorua
After arriving on a miserable, wet Friday night (to a lovely, warm motel – more on that soon), our first visit on Saturday morning was to Redwoods Treewalk Rotorua. The morning was grey and drizzly but it only made the Redwoods more magical. It’s a beautiful spot and totally accessible in the rain.
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 Schmids, originally from Germany, first saw the forest as tourists five years ago. Since then, the project has been a labour of love, with the Treewalk opening in December 2015.
The walkway is constructed using a specially designed sling, which is suspended from the redwood trees. I’d have to say that watching my three year old walk along the bridges gave me heart palpitations. There was no way she could fall but it did make me feel a little nervous!
My five and seven year old children were fine but the cavalier abandon of a three year old was tough on the nerves. For safety reasons, you’re not allowed to carry children on the walk (including front packs) so I reckon best to just leave the little ones (say, under 4ish) down on terra firma.
From the kids: Miss 7: “I liked it that the walk didn’t harm the trees”. Miss 5: “I liked that some were small and some were big and the bridges were wobbly, which was fun!”
2. Rotorua Duck Tours
Next on our weekend adventure was Rotorua Duck Tours. I love a good city tour and the Duck Tour was an excellent way to see some of Rotorua city as well as the surrounding area.
The Ducks themselves are authentic amphibious WWII landing craft and they’re a quirky way to see the sights. The tour itself is a fantastic mixture of local history and quirky facts and a big shout out to Marcus, our tour guide, whose bad jokes and hilarious sound track made the trip ‘quacking good’ fun from beginning to end.
The trip out onto the lakes was a particular highlight, there is something amazing about this huge truck floating so peacefully on the water.
From the kids: Miss 7: “It was AWESOME when I got to drive the Duck!”
3. Rainbow Springs Nature Park
Sunday was sunny and bright and we headed to one of our favourite spots in Rotorua – Rainbow Springs Nature Park. It’s the kind of place you can easily spend the whole day and your ticket will let you come and go as you please during their opening hours (including the evening).
Rainbow Springs impressed me on our last visit and this time was no different. The park is immaculately kept and the staff are so friendly and helpful. You can get some good snippets about New Zealand flora and fauna and there are plenty of interactive opportunities.
My kids would ride ‘The Big Splash’ all day if they were allowed, and fortunately, the park was relatively quiet on the day we visited so they got a good number of rides in!
We made good use of our all-day tickets and returned to the park after dark to see the kiwi. Visiting in the dark was captivating and it was a totally different experience to visiting in the day time. Rainbow Springs does amazing kiwi conservation work and we thoroughly enjoyed our ‘Kiwi Encounter’, where we were able to learn more about both kiwi and the work that Rainbow Springs does to protect them. The kids loved seeing the laboratories / nursery and the size of the eggs were amazing.
4. Multi Day Adventures Rotorua
Our family is nuts about mountain biking and, for us, a trip to Rotorua wouldn’t be complete without a blast on the bikes. We were fortunate enough to get a tour of Whakarewarewa (another part of the Redwoods forest) from Lisa at Multi Day Adventures.
Rotorua has become New Zealand’s premier mountain biking destination and a guided tour is an excellent way to get to know some of the many tracks in the forest. Riding behind a child whooping with joy as they negotiate the tracks is a fantastic feeling.
With over 140 km of purpose built mountain biking trails in just a 5 minute drive from the city centre, you would struggle to find anywhere better in the world! Lisa was great with the kids, especially with keeping an eye on everyone while helping the kids challenge themselves.
Multi Day Adventures has bikes for all ages and stages and if you’re keen to give mountain biking a try, I’d highly recommend this as a great way to start.
5. Stratosfare Rotorua Restaurant
After all that adventure, we were stoked to take the gondola up to Stratosfare Rotorua Restaurant. We’d worked up a good appetite and were rewarded with the superb buffet at Stratosfare. There is delicious food for everyone, including our extremely fussy five year old. There’s even additional treats, such as crayfish, Morton Bay bugs and Angus steak that you can purchase to supplement the already great food on offer. But don’t overdo it on dinner because the dessert buffet is a sight to behold!
We went up the gondola at dusk and it was magic watching the sun set over Rotorua from our window table. Stratosphere’s a busy place and the maître d’ noted they often serve 400+ people at lunch. You’d be well advised to book if you don’t want to miss out on this treat.
6. Skyline Gondola
The Skyline Gondola is a fantastic way to view Rotorua from above and we were thrilled to discover that our evening pass also gave us the opportunity to return the next day.
A trip up the Gondola not only takes you to Stratosfare but also to the top of the Luge, some pretty hairy looking downhill mountain bike tracks, Stargazing, Skyswing, some lovely looking walks AND best of all (as far as the children were concerned) Jelly Bean Store – New Zealand’s first Jelly Belly Concept Store and Art Gallery! The store has around 100 flavours to choose from and we each chose a little pile to munch on our way back down the gondola.
7. Amazeme maze
As we were leaving town we took the opportunity to try our navigation skills in the Amazeme maze.
It’s fantastic someone had the vision to plant the shrubs that grew up into a maze. The maze is beautiful and challenging. With the exception of the gates the maze looked the same everywhere and it makes finding the centre pretty tricky but ultimately satisfying.
There’s also a great bunch of kids’ games, bikes, trikes and pedal cars to keep everyone entertained while waiting for people to find their way out of the maze!
I’m totally converted to Rotorua as a family holiday destination. There are plenty of opportunities to part with your cash; but also a number of low cost options for keeping the budget under control. There are just so many things to do in Rotorua with the family. We’ve taken 2 trips in the last year, and sampled a fair number of attractions, and there’s still plenty of things to try next time – we’ll definitely be back!
Rotorua Top 10 Holiday Park
We stayed at the Rotorua Top 10 Holiday Park. It’s right in the middle of town and was only 5 – 10 minutes from everything. We stayed in one of the motel units, and it was clean, modern, and extremely comfortable. A kind staff member even turn the heater on in our room each night, which meant we always came back to a warm room.
The holiday park itself has both an outdoor swimming pool and thermal pools; a playground for the kids; and a whole range of accommodation options. The kitchens are well equipped and there’s even BBQs available for use.
Or check out our Family travel section for more great advice.