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Relax in a natural hot spring, walk amongst towering redwoods, experience a traditional hāngī dinner, see geysers and bubbling mud pots, and roll downhill in an inflatable ball…these are all things to do in Rotorua, New Zealand.

Rotorua is well known for its geothermal activity. Geysers, hot springs, and mud pools are located in and around the city. But it is also home to an enormous Redwood forest and a host of cultural sites and historic villages.

On a visit to Rotorua, you can take your pick from relaxing walks in the woods and through the geothermal areas, educational tours of Māori villages and sites of cultural importance, or go white water rafting or zorbing.

Interesting Facts About Rotorua

The city of Rotorua sits on the southern shore of Lake Rotorua on the North Island of New Zealand. There are numerous geothermal areas located in and around Rotorua and these are one of the main tourist attractions in town. We’ll get to these a bit later in this guide.

We joke that Rotorua is New Zealand’s smelliest city. Sulphur rich air from the geothermal areas waft into town, giving it a smell similar to rotten eggs.

The city gets its name from the Māori language. The full name for the city and the lake is Te Rotorua-nui-a-Kahumatamomoe.

For those who want to learn more about the Maori history and culture, Rotorua is one of the best places to go. Tour the historic villages, visit the important natural sites (such as Te Puia), and experience a traditional hāngī dinner.

Best Things to Do in Rotorua

In no particular order, here are the best things to do in Rotorua. At the end of this section, you can see all of them on a map.

1. Te Puia

Te Puia has a little bit of everything: geothermal pools and geysers, kiwi birds, an arts and crafts institute, and cultural performances. It is one of Rotorua’s top experiences.

Te Puia

Pohutu Geyser | Best Things to do in Rotorua

Pōhutu Geyser | Best Things to do in Rotorua


Pohutu Geyser

Currently, you can only visit Te Puia on a guided tour. On a daytime tour, you can see Kiwi birds in the Kiwi Conservation Centre, see mud pools and steaming geysers on a short walk through the geothermal area, and see Māori-made sculptures and artwork. One of the highlights of the visit is seeing the Pōhutu geyser (the largest geyser in the Southern Hemisphere) which erupts twice an hour.

You can also take a nighttime tour to see the Pōhutu geyser at night, have a hāngī buffet lunch or dinner, or watch a cultural performance.

For a full list of experiences, plus pricing and hours, visit the official website.

2. Walk or Mountain Bike in Whakarewarewa Forest

In the early 20th century, coastal redwoods were planted on the outskirts of Rotorua, near the Whakarewarewa geothermal area. This was originally done as a test to see what species of tree could be grown, after many of the native trees in New Zealand were clear cut by the end of the 19th century.

As it turns out, the redwoods grow faster here than in their native habitat in California. Some trees are now 75 meters tall.

Now, the redwood forest is a protected area and it opened to the public in 1970. Visitors can walk the forest trails, go mountain biking, or experience the Redwoods Treewalk (mentioned next).

Whakarewarewa Forest | Best Things to do in Rotorua

Whakarewarewa Forest | Best Things to do in Rotorua


Whakarewarewa Redwood Forest

One of the best things to do in Rotorua is go mountain biking in the redwood forest. 150 km of mountain bike trails weave through the forest. In 2006, the UCI Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships were held here. Learn more about the trails here.

Entry into the forest is free. You can walk or bike in at any time. The main gates for the parking areas open early in the morning and stay open until late.

3. Redwoods Treewalk

This is one of our favorite experiences in Rotorua.

The Redwoods Treewalk is located in Whakarewarewa Forest. A series of 28 suspension bridges hover 20 meters above the forest floor. These bridges form a 700-meter loop and along this walk you get an incredible view of the Redwood trees.

This walkway was designed to preserve the trees and natural environment while allowing visitors to get a unique view of the forest.

Redwoods Treewalk New Zealand | Best Things to do in Rotorua

Tim at Treewalk Rotorua | Best Things to do in Rotorua

We did the walk during the daytime, which was very nice. But for an even more memorable experience, you can also do the treewalk in the evening, when the forest is illuminated, creating a magical experience.

The walk takes about 30 minutes. Get pricing and hours on the official website.

4. Go Ziplining

On the outskirts of Rotorua, go soaring through a native New Zealand forest. With Rotorua Canopy Tours, travel on six ziplines and two swing bridges and view the forest from a number of tree top platforms.

Rotorua Canopy Tours has been working to restore the native forest in the Dansey Road Scenic Reserve. They have been trapping pests so native birds can return to this forest. A portion of the ziplining tour fee is used to fund this conservation project.

Tours range from 3 to 3.5 hours. Get pricing and hours on the official website and learn more about the conservation project.

5. Whakarewarewa – The Living Maori Village

This village is located just outside of the geothermal valley. On a tour of Whakarewarewa, you will learn about the history and culture of the Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao people who live here.

Guided tours are offered several times a day and do sell out in advance. You can also take a self-guided walk on the geothermal walking trails. Get hours, pricing, and make your reservation on the official website.

Living Maori Village | Best Things to do in Rotorua

Entrance to the Living Maori Village


Living Maori Village Photo

Living Maori Village | Best Things to do in Rotorua

6. Mitai Maori Village

For an authentic Māori experience, watch a cultural performance and take part in the hāngī, a traditional Māori meal.

The hāngī is traditionally cooked Māori food. Chicken, meat and kumara are cooked in an earth oven and then served in a buffet.

This 3-hour experience has several different parts to it: a welcoming ceremony, where you watch as warriors paddle a canoe on the Wai-o-Whiro stream, a buffet hangi dinner, and a cultural performance.

If you have been to a luau in Hawaii, this is a similar experience.

Mitai Maori Village | Best Things to do in Rotorua

Overall, we had a good experience. The cultural performance was the highlight for us. The dinner was mediocre. They must have overflow seating in a temporary tent, because that’s where we sat, which wasn’t the nicest setting. But if you want to experience a hāngī dinner and cultural performance, this is one of the best in New Zealand.

Learn more and make your reservation in advance on the official website.

7. Waimangu Volcanic Valley

On June 10, 1886, a volcanic eruption of Mount Tarewera created the world’s youngest geothermal valley.

On a visit here, take a guided or self-guided walk through the geothermal valley, with the option to add on boat cruises or kayaking tours.

This long, narrow valley is home to Frying Pan Lake (the world’s largest hot spring), the Inferno Crater (a brilliantly blue lake), and Lake Rotomahana.

Waimangu Volcanic Valley | Best Things to do in Rotorua

Inferno Crater | Best Things to do in Rotorua


Waimangu Volcanic Valley

Waimangu Volcanic Valley Thermal Pool

Lake Rotomahana | Best Things to do in Rotorua

Lake Rotomahana

A walking trail and a shuttle bus route connect the visitor center (on one end of the valley) to Lake Rotomahana at the other end of the valley. You can do the entire walk (about 4 km/2.5 miles) or use the shuttle bus to skip over some sections.

Waimangu Volcanic Valley Bus Stop

Tim at one of the bus stops along the road that runs through Waimangu Volcanic Valley

We recommend walking from the visitor center to the Inferno Crater and then to bus stop #1. The most interesting sights are located along this 1.5 km walk. Then, take the shuttle bus from bus stop #1 to bus stop #3 and see Lake Rotomahana. Return to the visitor center on the shuttle bus. This should take around 2 hours and allows you to see the highlights of the valley.

Those with more time can add on the hike from Inferno Crater to bus stop #2 on the Mount Haszard Hiking Trail (an additional 1.8 km/1 hour walk).

When you pay your entrance fee, you will be given a map with a walking route with points of interest. This map provides a lot of interesting facts about Waimangu Volcanic Valley.

Waimangu Volcanic Valley is located 25km south of Rotorua, about a 20-minute drive. Get hours and pricing on the official website.

8. Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

This geothermal area is located south of Waimangu Volcanic Valley, about 30 km south of Rotorua. It is often called New Zealand’s most colorful geothermal area.

Watch as Lady Knox Geyser erupts (usually around 10:15 am daily), walk the boardwalk trails to see steaming thermal pools and colorful hot springs, and see the largest mud pool in New Zealand.

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland Mud Pool | Best Things to do in Rotorua

Mud pools at Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

The mud pool sits just before the main entrance into Wai-O-Tapu. It is free to visit.

To walk the boardwalk trails and see Lady Knox Geyser, you’ll have to pay an entrance fee. Get pricing and hours here.

9. The National Kiwi Hatchery

If you want to see a kiwi bird and learn more about kiwi conservation projects, this is one of the best places in New Zealand to do so.

The National Kiwi Hatchery is one of the largest and most successful kiwi hatcheries in the world. When you visit the hatchery, 100% of your entrance fee is put back into their program.

The only way to visit the hatchery is on a guided tour. This is a very popular thing to do and tours sell out days in advance. Learn more about the National Kiwi Hatchery and make your reservation on the official website. If tickets are sold out for your visit, you can also check GetYourGuide.

10. Ride the Skyline Luge

If you have been to or have plans to visit Queenstown, Skyline Rotorua is a very similar experience to Skyline Queenstown.

The gondola transports riders from the city of Rotorua up to Skyline Rotorua. Once here, there are several things you can do, and the most popular is to ride the luge.

Rotovegas New Zealand

Skyline Rotorua | Best Things to do in Rotorua

Skyline Luge Rotorua

The Skyline Luge track | Best Things to do in Rotorua

The Skyline Rotorua Luge is the longest in the world, with 7.3 km of tracks. There are multiple routes to choose from, with corkscrews, tunnels, and lots of twists and turns. At night, the luge tracks are illuminated with colorful LED lights.

This is fun for all ages and one of the best things to do in Rotorua with kids.

Learn more on the official website.

11. Volcanic Hills Winery

At Volcanic Hills Winery, go wine tasting with panoramic views of Lake Rotorua.

The Volcanic Hills Winery tasting room is located at Skyline Rotorua. The Volcanic Hills grapes are grown in Central Otago, Marlborough, and Hawkes Bay and then the wine is produced in Rotorua. Sample Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, and Pinot Noir.

Make your reservation in advance here.

New Zealand Guide

12. Skyswing

Riding the Skyswing is one of the most thrilling, exhilarating things to do in Rotorua.

While seated on a giant swing, you will be slowly hoisted high into the sky. Once you pull the release, the swing will drop, and you will hit speeds up to 150 kph as you swing through the sky.

The Skyswing holds three riders. It is located at Skyline Rotorua. Learn more here.

13. ZORB Rotorua

Step inside a giant inflatable ball and bounce and roll downhill.

Rotorua is the only place in New Zealand where you can go zorbing. At ZORB Rotorua, there are several different rolling tracks to choose from.

ZORB Rotorua

Zorbing is similar to sliding down a water slide. The inside of the zorb is filled with a thin layer of water. You sit inside the ball, in your swimsuit, and as the zorb rolls downhill, you slide on the bottom of the ball, bouncing around a bit, but never tumbling upside down.

For full details, visit the official website.

14. Go White Water Rafting

Another thrilling thing to do in Rotorua is to raft the Kaituna River, home to the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world, the 7 meters high Tutea Falls.

The Kaituna River is located 25 minutes north of Rotorua. White water rafting tours usually last 2 to 3 hours and some can include your transportation to and from Rotorua.

15. Agrodome

The Agrodome is New Zealand’s premier farming experience.

On the Farm Show, you’ll learn about 19 breeds of sheep, watch a live sheep shearing demonstration, watch farm dogs in action, and have the opportunity to hand feed baby lambs.

On the Farm Tour, you’ll get up close with deer, llamas, sheep, cows, pigs, ostrich, and alpaca.

The Agrodome sits just to the north of Rotorua. Tours typically take about an hour. If you want to do both tours, budget half of a day for this experience. Learn more here.

16. Wingspan National Bird of Prey Centre

The mission of Wingspan National Bird of Prey Centre is to restore New Zealand birds of prey back to their original numbers. Wingspan rehabilitates injured wild birds and releases captive bred falcons into the wild.

Visitors can see the birds of prey up close and watch flying displays. The money raised from visitors to the centre is then used in their conservation projects.

Learn how you can visit Wingspan, or make a donation, here.

17. Secret Spot Hot Tubs

Relax in a secluded cedar hot tub with views of the Whakarewarewa Forest. There is no shortage of hot springs and spas throughout New Zealand and this is one of the best.

Secret Spot Hot Tubs

Tim and I did this on a rainy day in Rotorua. Each hot tub is tucked away behind ferns, shrubs, and small trees, making each one relatively secluded (although you can hear and sometimes see your neighbors). The views of the forest from this spot are incredible.

You can order food and drinks to enjoy while in the hot tub.

Make your reservation in advance on the official website.

18. Hell’s Gate Geothermal Reserve and Mud Spa

At Hell’s Gate Geothermal Reserve and Mud Spa, take a geothermal walk and then bathe in the healing geothermal mud and sulfur waters. It’s one of the most unique “hot pool” experiences in New Zealand.

Hell’s Gate is located outside of Rotorua, about a 20-minute drive from town. Get hours, pricing, and list of experiences on the official website.

19. Have Dinner and Drinks on Eat Streat

On the “lake end” of Tutanekai Street is a collection of bars and restaurants. You can hop from pub to pub, sampling cuisine from around the world, or have a pre-dinner drink at one of the bars.

Eat Street Rotorua

Eat Street | Best Things to do in Rotorua

We really liked Cocktail Library and Dessert Bar, getting a drink here before later going out to dinner. Atticus Finch also gets good reviews as does BREW | Craft Beer Pub.

For a really good dinner, walk one block to Poco Tapas and Wine, to dine on small plates and pair them with wine.

20. Government Gardens

This public park sits on Lake Rotorua. This area was used as a bird snaring ground and as a site of battles for the Māori people. The Māori gave 50 acres of the land to the British Crown and it became the Government Gardens. A Tudor-style bath house was opened and later it was converted into a museum.

Visitors can tour the museum, go on a walk through the gardens, and soak in the healing waters at the Blue Baths.

Government Gardens

Government Gardens | Stargrass/shutterstock.com

Best Things to Do in Rotorua: On a Map

How to Use This Map: Click the icons on the map to get more information about each point of interest. Click the star next to the title of the map to add this map to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.

How Much Time Do You Need in Rotorua?

One day is sufficient for Rotorua, in our opinion. There is a lot to do here, but there are also a lot of nearby sites and towns that are worthwhile to visit (such as Taupō, Waitomo Caves, Hobbiton, and the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, just to name a few).

Things not to miss in Rotorua are the Whakarewarewa Redwood Forest and Treewalk, a visit to a geothermal area, and learning more about the Māori culture, either by attending a hāngī buffet meal or touring the Living Maori Village.

Those with an interest in animals should save time to visit Wingspan National Bird of Prey Centre, the Agrodome, or the National Kiwi Hatchery. If you are traveling with kids, don’t miss Skyline Rotorua and the Redwoods Treewalk.

Whakarewarewa Forest

Whakarewarewa Forest | Best Things to do in Rotorua

Where to Eat in Rotorua

Mentioned earlier, Eat Streat has a great collection of restaurants conveniently clustered together on one street.

We had an amazing dinner at Poco Tapas and Wine and highly recommend it (make a reservation in advance). El Mexicano Zapata Cantina, Ali Baba’s Tunisian Cuisine, Sabroso, and Stratosfare Rotorua (at Skyline Rotorua) all get excellent reviews.

Poco Tapas and Wine | Best Things to do in Rotorua

Poco Tapas and Wine

Where to Stay in Rotorua

We stayed at Kings on Peace and had a decent experience. The photos online look a little nicer than real life and it’s listed as a 5-star property but it is more like a 3-star property. However, it is one of the top reviewed properties on Booking.com.

If we did it again, Karanda B&B looks wonderful. It is located just outside of town, gets wonderful reviews, and has several different room types.

Gemini Lodge has chalets with multiple bedrooms, making it a great pick for families.

Regal Palms Resort also gets good reviews. Fairway Cottages has 2-bedroom apartments and is located outside of Rotorua, so you can escape the smell of rotten eggs but still be close enough to town that you won’t do a lot of driving.

Tours of Rotorua

Here are a few more interesting things to do in and around Rotorua.



If you have any questions about the best things to do in Rotorua or how to plan your time, let us know in the comment section below.

More Information for Your Trip to New Zealand

NORTH ISLAND: Top experiences on the North Island include the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (one of the best day hikes in the world), spending a day or two in Auckland, visiting Waiheke Island on a day trip from Auckland, touring Hobbiton, visiting Rotorua and Taupō, spending a day or two in Wellington, and journeying to Northland, the far north of New Zealand. For the full list, read our article about the Best Things to Do on the North Island.

NORTH ISLAND ITINERARY: In our New Zealand North Island Itinerary, we list 5 different ways to plan your trip, ranging from 5 days to 2 weeks.

AUCKLAND: Get started with our article Best Things to Do in Auckland, which also has hotel and restaurant recommendations. Learn how to plan your time with our Auckland Itinerary. And don’t miss our guide to Waiheke Island, an amazing day trip from Auckland.

SOUTH ISLAND: On the South Island of New Zealand, visit Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound, hike the Hooker Valley Track, visit Akaroa and Banks Peninsula, go on a helicopter flight to see Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers from the sky, and learn about the best things to do in Queenstown. For the full list, read our article Best Things to Do on the South Island.

We have TONS more information about New Zealand in our New Zealand Travel Guide, including Auckland, Queenstown, Wanaka, Aoraki/Mount Cook, Franz Josef, Christchurch, Wellington, Taupō, and the Milford Sound.


Rotorua New Zealand


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