If there is a popular place among NZ locals and visitors to the country, it is Rotorua. This city sits in the north of the islands and is well known for its geothermal activity.
This opens up the chance to visit some of the best spas you can imagine, yet there is much more to the region than this.
The area is packed full of Maori tradition and culture, as well as the chance to indulge in many other activities that will thrill every member of the family.
Here we will look at some of the best things to do in Rotorua you can add to your travel itinerary when visiting New Zealand.
In This Guide
Top Ten Places to Visit in Rotorua
1. Skyline Rotorua
If you want to get a good glimpse of the surrounding areas, then this is the way to do it. Kids will love taking a trip up the Skyline Rotorua in one of the gondolas.
As you climb up the side of Mount Ngongotaha, you will find yourself in the Skyline complex.
You can have 180-degree views of the surrounding area, including the lake, Mokoia Island, and further on a clear day.
Once you reach the top, you and the kids can have a go at the Skyline luge, here you have a scenic route or the speedier version.
Add to this the Sky Swing, where you ride 50 meters above the ground. This takes you at an eye water 120km per hour.
Children above 3ft 7 inches can go on with parents, so all the family can feel the thrill on this day trip.
2. Lakeland Queen Cruise
One of the most sedate ways to enjoy all that Lake Rotorua has to offer is on board the Lakeland Queen.
The lake is shallow at ten meters, and very different than other natural lakes thanks to the volcanic rocks.
The large paddleboat delivers the best sightseeing and dining experience on the lake you can have. You can even make use of either of the two bars as you take a chance to relax with a refreshing beer.
3. Mount Tarawera
Here you can pay a visit to the volcano that created all you see around you. Mount Tarawera has lots to do for all the family, and there are many ways you can experience the wonders that surround it.
There are guided tours around the crate, which takes half a day on foot, or you can double up with the Mt Tarawera and Te Puia combo. This takes a full day, or you can split the tour over two.
Here you get to meet the indigenous people of Ngati Tuhourangi, who were affected by the eruption back in 1886. Kids who wish to tag along need to be over seven years old.
There are also fly-drive combos with a helicopter, but the best way to experience the mountain has to be the rafting combo.
4. Government Gardens
Unfortunately, the Rotorua museum faces closure while it undergoes earthquake strengthening.
However, being resilient, the museum holds various exhibitions in other areas, and twice per day, they offer the Rotorua Museum Government Garden Tours.
These are free, and visitors can learn about the building’s history, any battles that took place, and all the other historical areas around the Government Gardens.
There are sculptures scattered around, and the gardens are home to several endangered species of New Zealand falcons.
From the city center, it takes just ten minutes to reach the Agrodome. Sat in the middle of 350 acres; this farming experience attracts visitors from around the world.
For the younger member s of the family, there is the Farmyard Nursery, where all the new additions to the farm are seen.
There are a Wool mill and shearing museum, and you can learn how the process of taking wool from a sheep’s back came about.
There is a farm tour to see all the farm has to offer, and there are rides like the Big Splash that can help keep you fresh when it is on the warm side.
To be sure kids don’t get bored, there is a new water play area and playscape.
6. Visit the Hot Springs
A trip to Rotorua wouldn’t be complete without some rest and relaxation. What better way than to dip into one of the pools or mud baths at Polynesian Spa.
Here you will find the original iconic bathing experience with all the geothermic power rising underneath you.
There are acidic, alkaline baths to try, countless therapies for those aches and pains. There are 28 pools you can choose from, so no matter how much you ache, you will leave feeling relaxed and on top of the world.
7. Whakarewarewa Forest
Here you can see the massive redwood trees that tower up to the sky. The forest has plenty to do from merely hiking to biking or exploring on horseback.
The area is also home to some traditional families so that you can make the quick journey to Whakarewarewa – The Living Maori Village.
These are not reproductions; these are authentic families living day-to-day. There are guided tours where you can see a cultural performance with dances, eat some of the traditional foods, or take any nature walks around the boiling mud pools.
This can be one of the most eye-opening Rotorua attractions any member of the family can partake in.
If you look up, you may even see the odd zip line you can have a go at before you head off back toward the city center and hotel.
8. Rotorua Rafting
Most of the water is on the lake, yet some of the most exciting is on the Kaituna River. You can spend all day making your way up the mountain to then climb in a white water raft in the Okere section of the river.
From here, you tackle 14 rapids along your way, and then you will compete with the world’s highest commercially rafter waterfall.
Although safe, the seven meters height will be enough to get anyone’s adrenaline pumping.
You will find full transport is included, yet food and drinks are not. Children do need to be over 13 to enjoy this thrill.
9. Ride a Rotorua Duck
Rotorua tourism wouldn’t expect to say riding a duck was a great experience. However, these tours make use of genuine WW2 landing craft to deliver two different trips.
You can venture out on the Tarawera and Lakes Eco Tour or the Rotorua City and Lakes Tour.
You see the best on land, yet once these vehicles begin driving into the water, it is a shock to the system when they float, and the driver makes his way around the lake.
If you have a family, then this is the tour to end all tours. It isn’t often you get the chance to drive through a lake, never mind riding a large duck in the process.
10. Go Geothermal
If there is to be any display of power, then it has to be the Lady Knox Geyser. Every day at 10.15 am, this natural spectacular erupts and shows off the forces deep in the earth.
Visitors gather in the amphitheater and wait patiently. Deep in the Wai-O-Tapu thermal wonderland, the geyser erupts up to 20 meters in height. Watching the geyser spew her innards into the air can be a fantastic start to the exploration of this geothermal park.
With over 18 square kilometers, there are lots to explore, and more than enough to keep all members of the family excited for what lays around the next corner.
You can walk along the raised path that sits across the top of the largest mud pool in New Zealand. It was home to a mud volcano, which itself was destroyed by erosion in the 1920s.
Rotorua may appear sleepy in comparison to other New Zealand cities, yet the best things to see and do are away from any built-up areas.
The above things don’t include the zip lines, the “Shweeb Racer” (world’s first human-powered monorail racer), or the jet boats that power their way around the lake.
Underneath the tranquility is a layer of extreme sports, or at least the region where many of them were created and where they can be best exploited.
No trip to either part of New Zealand would be complete without spending a day or two in this area.
While it may not be possible to experience everything, there is no way any family member won’t remember the place and have a massive smile on their face.