Rotorua is a volcanic region, with volcanic craters, geysers and lots of bubbling geothermal activity. There are tons of things to do in the area, including biking, hiking, rafting and pampering yourself amidst hot pools and therapeutic volcanic mud. Rotorua is packed full of activities, and many of the things to do won’t cost you much at all. If you’re looking for some activities to pack in that are going to work within your budget, then read on.
Visit Kuirau Park
Credit, Wiki Commons
It doesn’t cost anything to enter Kuirau Park, a hotbed of geothermal activity. You’ll enjoy bubbling lakes and mud pools, and you can even walk through some of the cooler pools and enjoy the warmth on your feet. Every Saturday morning, there is a market, ideal to wander through and window shop. Kuirau Park is fun and you can take a picnic along to keep everyone fed and happy.
Amble through the Whakarewarewa Forest
Whakarewarewa forest is around 55,000 hectares and has around 100 kilometres of trails and tracks. If you enjoy mountain biking, then this is the place for you, and you can hire bikes for around $45 for half a day — which isn’t bad for that much entertainment, adventure and fun. The walking tracks on Long Mile Road in the Redwoods are another great place to go. There are Californian Redwoods that were planted over 100 years ago that are a sight to behold, they are massive!
Take a trip to Sulphur Bay
Sulphur Bay is close to the government gardens at the corner of Eruera Street and Queens Drive. This is another free place to visit with lots of geothermal activity. Sulphur deposits cause the lake to be milky in colour and you’ll see silica flats, boiling mud pools and steaming vents. There are over 60 species of indigenous birds, so it’s a great place for birdwatching enthusiasts as well.
Ohinemutu Māori Village
The Ohinemutu Māori Village is situated on the shores of Rotorua Lake. It’s great fun to take a stroll around and doesn’t cost anything. You can see superb artwork by native artisans and learn about the indigenous people of New Zealand, their customs, culture, and how they cooked their food in Rotorua.
The Blue Baths
This 1930s building is styled in a Mediterranean architectural fashion and has two spa pools and one huge swimming pool. As at June 2019, the Blue Baths are experiencing ‘geothermal issues’, so please check before you visit.
Visit the Waimangu Volcanic Valley
Waimangu Volcanic Valley. Credit
At the Waimangu Volcanic Valley, you’ll see vibrant lakes, geysers, hot springs and steaming vents of geothermal activity. The walking trails tend to be around one to two hours, and are absolutely stunning. This is an affordable place to go and you have incredible mountain and lake scenery, and lots of geothermal features to take your breath away.
The Rotorua Museum
Visitors of the Rotorua museum. Credit
Every list of affordable or free activities needs a museum on it. While the museum in Rotorua is currently closed for earthquake repairs (as at June 2019), when it reopens, it’s worth the visit. There is loads of artwork and architecture, and you’ll learn about the fascinating history of the region.
Take the Canopy Trail
Canopy Tours Beautiful Forest Zipline Tour. Credit
Walking amidst the canopy of gorgeous trees and zip high above the treetops in this high-rise adventure. Expert local guides can tell you about the local flora and fauna. Over 150,000 people have done a Canopy Tour, many of them coming back for a second– or third– experience. This is an amazing experience, and is the ‘splurge’ activity on this list. It’s worth it, with up to 1200m of ziplines, three swing bridges and a cliff walk, and a sky-high adventure that sees you up to 22m above the forest floor. With your head in the clouds (and your heart pounding from excitement), this is an experience like nothing else on (or above) earth.
Kayakers on Ōkere falls. Credit
Ōkere scenic reserve is around 50 minutes from Rotorua. It’s a white-water rafting destination that is famous in the region and has waterfalls and superb walks to enjoy. If you want to raft, you’ll have to pay, but you can enjoy the trails and experience the scenery as a bystander, absolutely free.
Rainbow Mountain, also known as Maunga Kakaramea in Te Reo Māori, has loads of walks and is a magical environment. The trails are easily followed with each track graded, depending on steepness so that you can pick one that is right for the level of walk you want. If you are walking with young children, you’ll want an easy graded track. There are tremendous views of the mountain and you’ll be passing emerald lakes and lush foliage.
Rotorua is a superb geothermal base, with loads to do, and much of it affordable or free. There are lots of premium activities as well, but you can fill your time with some of the activities above and have loads of fun, great experiences, and opportunity to wonder at the beauty and majesty of nature.