24 December 2019 | Written by Stephanie Rendall

Our Top 8 things to do in Rotorua

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What to do in Rotorua

While travelling around New Zealand, there is nearly always a tale tell sign you are approaching one of the country’s top destinations. Whether that be the snow capped peaks rising from the horizon in Queenstown, the cityscape emerging from the clouds in Wellington or the sound of the waves brushing the shore in the Coromandel. However when it comes to Rotorua, its not your eyes or ears that give the game away, but rather your nose! When your inner bloodhound detects a whiff of sulphur in the air, you know this unique city is just around the corner. 

This is a city which is bubbling (quite literally) with an array of activities, from kayaking beautiful lakes and hiking various nature trails to simply relaxing in its unbeatable thermal spas. It is also a popular cultural hub with a fascinating Maori history. With so much to do, it can be hard to choose. So we’ve created the ultimate list of things to do in Rotorua to make it just that little bit easier! Take a look below…

1. Enjoy a ride on the Skyline Luge Rotorua

what to do in rotorua - luging

Originating in Switzerland the luge has proved popular in Scandinavia since the first the first World Championships in the sport were held in Oslo in 1955. Its slow growing popularity eventually spread outside of Europe, yet it remained very much a winter sport due to its need for snow. Thats where the Rotorua Skyline Luge came in. Morphing a traditional luge with what is essentially an engineless go-cart in 1985, the world’s first year-round luge was born! This is one of the most popular adventure attractions in Rotorua, and Skyline Luge now operate all over the world. It’s a great hit for people of all ages due to the brilliant views seen as you descend down the mountain. Yet it’s especially loved by the kids, making it the perfect family activity. First you will enjoy a gondola ride up the mountain. Once you’ve reached the top you’ll be kitted out with a helmet before being given a brief safety tutorial. Next is the exhilarating race to the bottom. At the end of the track, simply ride the chairlift back to the start-line, and enjoy it all over again!

2. Soak away the day at the Polynesian Spa

things to do in rotorua - spa

The Polynesian Spa’s natural hot springs are a must do while you’re in the area. There is a range of hot water pools here all with varying pH levels. Those which are slightly more acidic are particularly good for treating deep muscle pain while the alkaline hot pools are better for nourishing and cleansing the skin. There’s also an extensive menu of spa treatments which will have you feeling utterly pampered and refreshed. The Spa is truly the perfect place for a romantic getaway.

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3. Visit the famous Wai-O-Tapu

activities to do in rotorua - geyser

Wai-O-Tapu is arguably the most famous activity in Rotorua. Known all over the world as a geothermal wonderland. A natural spectacle of both vibrant colour and unique geological elements which have been carved out by thousands of years of volcanic activity. The best hot pools found here is the beautiful Champagne Pool pictured above, while the Lady Knox Geyser is the true show stopper – erupting daily and forcing water to shoot 20 metres up into the air, sometimes for nearly an hour.

3. Kayak Lake Rotoehu

kayaking in rotorua

The smallest of the lakes found to the northeast of Lake Rotorua, Lake Rotoehu is naturally more secluded. With less people and less noise you can enjoy more lake to yourselves – and what better way to enjoy the lake than by kayak! Glide through the blue waters and absorb the tranquility of the area. Because of its comparative seclusion, this lake makes a great setting for a digital detox. Yet you’ll still be within convenient riving distance to the other adventurous activities of the Rotorua Lakes region when you feel like increasing the tempo.

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4. Discover New Zealand’s national birds of prey

Head over to New Zealand’s national bird of prey centre, Wingspan. A top Rotorua attraction, here you can take a tour around the breeding and research centre to discover a fascinating range of birds. One such bird – the New Zealand Falcon, a national bird which is sadly even more endangered than the Kiwi – is undoubtedly the star of the show. Every day at 2pm they perform tricks in return for treats in the bird show, alongside other birds of prey. This is a fun and exhilarating show where falcons famously swoop over your heads, just when you least expect it!

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5. Enjoy water activities on Lake Rotoiti

Lake Rotoiti

Found next to Lake Rotorua, Lake Rotoiti has plentiful activities on offer making this fresh-water lake an ideal place to visit on your holiday to Rotorua. Here you can enjoy some water-skiing, biscuiting and fishing. Although, if you prefer to remain on land, there is always the incredible Okere Falls track nearby. Book a lakeside bach to wake up to unbeatable views before heading out onto the water.

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6. Discover Maori culture at Te Puia

Te Puia rotorua

Te Puia is home to the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute, which was founded in the 1920s with the aim to encourage the protection and development of traditional Maori culture in New Zealand. Here you can discover traditional art such as carving and weaving, as well as cultural performances made not only to entertain but to educate. Performances include traditional dance and song as well as story telling. While those with an interest in architecture are sure to find the contemporary structure Heketanga-ā-Rangi a fascinating find.

7. Visit bubbling mud pools

bubbling mud - rotorua

There are two famous mud pools to visit on your trip to Rotorua, one is found nearby the famous Wai-O-Tapu, while one is found in Te Puia. Both of these mud pools are a fascinating find. Walk through the eery mist made from the mud pool’s steam and watch patiently as the pools simmer away. You’ll soon witness the mud dramatically shooting out of the ground as geothermal heat beneath them builds. For keen photographers these pools prove quite a challenge to keep up with. The unpredictable nature of the explosive pools may leave you with one too many photos of plain old mud – but thats all part of the fun!

8. Walk the Lake Tarawera Trail

Lake Tarawera Trail

One of the biggest lakes in the country, Lake Tarawera is well known for the great sightseeing and bush walk adventures it offers. The lake is found close to the Pink and White Terraces, a geological phenomenon which were once considered one of the eight wonders of the world. However the best activity here is undoubtedly the Tarawera Trail, which is probably best known for the Tarawera Trail Marathon that is held in November each year. This trail stretches around the lake’s edge making a 15 kilometre walk that takes approximately 5 hours to complete. Filled with pristine lake views for its entirety, for those who love getting stuck into the great outdoors, this is not one to be missed!

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Over to You…

Do you have any favourite Rotorua activities? Any secret spots or memorable experiences? Let us know in the comments section, we’d love to hear it!

View our other “things to do” blog posts:

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