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Things to Do in Rotorua | The Top 12 Rotorua Activities

If you’re in search of the best things to do in Rotorua, New Zealand, then this is the article for you! Our recent trip to this North Island town was awesome, and we created this guide so you can make the most of your visit. 

Many Rotorua activities centre on the fact that this town is famous for two major things. One is the area’s natural geothermal properties, and the other is traditional Māori culture. To cap all that, the area is also known for crystal clear lakes and ancient forests.

Though it’s hard to tear yourself away from the fascinating geothermal zone around the town, there are other Rotorua attractions you really need to add to your list. These include the famous Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley, the National Kiwi Hatchery, the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute and the Polynesian Spa.

You can also enjoy adrenaline-filled adventures, cultural experiences and wildlife encounters. 

Read on to discover 12 of the Rotorua tourist attractions you don’t want to miss!

12 of the best things to do in Rotorua

Te Puia 

Te Puia in Rotorua.
Te Puia in Rotorua.
  • Where: Hemo Road, Tihiotonga, Rotorua 3010
  • When: 9 am to 4 pm daily
  • Why: 500 geothermal marvels within a 70 hectare geothermal zone

Te Puia is what many people come to Rotorua for. This 70-hectare geothermal zone – the Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley – can be found just outside town. With around 500 thermal wonders to see during your visit, it’s easy to spend a whole day exploring the site. Of all the places to visit in Rotorua, this is number one. 

In fact you can also visit Te Puia after dark to gain a unique and very different perspective. The Geyser by Night experience allows you to explore the Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley after dusk, and even enjoy a dessert prepared at the natural cooking pool here. 

At Te Puia you’ll also find Pātaka Kai restaurant and a kiwi conservation centre. The former offers Indigenous Evening Experiences centred on Te Ao Māori traditions, while the latter is another local sanctuary dedicated to conserving this indigenous species. 

⭐️ Click here to book your tour of Te Puia and the Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley

Te Puia in Rotorua.
With Kahu our tour guide

New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute

New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute in Rotorua.
New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute in Rotorua.
  • Where: Hemo Road, Tihiotonga, Rotorua 3010
  • When: 9 am to 4 pm daily
  • Why: Traditional Māori arts school and gallery

The New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute is also situated at Te Puia, but is well worthy of a separate section. This traditional Māori cultural centre operates three schools devoted to indigenous arts.

These are dedicated to the crafts of wood carving, weaving and stone or bone carving. The schools educate about these artisan skills, as well as teaching them to new generations of Māori people. Preserving the culture and artistic pieces for future generations is also key. 

You can take a guided tour of the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute, meet the artists and wander around the Ahua Gallery. 

⭐️ Click here to book your tour of Te Puia and the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute

The National Kiwi Hatchery

The National Kiwi Hatchery sign.
The National Kiwi Hatchery a stuffed Kiwi.
The National Kiwi Hatchery stuffed Kiwis and an egg.
  • Where: 192 Fairy Springs Road, Fairy Springs, Rotorua 3015
  • When: 9 am to 3 pm daily
  • Why: Breeding, hatching and rearing New Zealand’s national bird

This is the pick of the Rotorua activities for families. What child could resist some super cute kiwi chicks? The long-beaked, flightless kiwi is a national symbol of New Zealand, and by visiting the National Kiwi Hatchery you can enjoy some close encounters with these adorable creatures. 

More than 2,000 kiwis have been born at the National Kiwi Hatchery so far. As you might expect, this is the world’s leading kiwi hatchery centre, and you can meet rare, juvenile and mature birds here. 

Established in 1995, the centre teaches all about the rearing of the birds, allows you to see them in their special nocturnal enclosure and even has a giant kiwi egg and human-sized burrow to see and sit in. 

⭐️ Click here to book your tour of The National Kiwi Hatchery

Mitai village Māori culture and dinner

Mitai village Māori culture and dinner.
Mitai village Māori culture and dinner.
Tracy at the Mitai village Māori culture and dinner.
  • Where: 196 Fairy Springs Road, Fairy Springs, Rotorua 3015
  • When: Departs between 5.15 pm and 6.15 pm and lasts for 3 hours
  • Why: Māori village and warriors, hangi dinner and glow worms

If you want to get under the skin of traditional Māori culture, then booking this Mitai Māori village dinner and cultural experience is a no-brainer. It includes various cultural experiences, not least the famous haka as performed by the All Blacks before a rugby match. 

A traditional hangi dinner cooked within the earth is also included, and you can also witness warriors chanting as they paddle up and down the stream. During a guided nature walk you can also see glow worms and the local sacred spring. 

Your hangi feast is guaranteed to fill your belly and includes meat, vegetables and salads followed by a range of delicious sweet treats. One of the most fun things to do in Rotorua for sure!

⭐️ Click here to book your Mitai Māori village cultural experience and dinner buffet

There are other Māori cultural experiences available to book in Rotorua. We enjoyed the Mitai Māori experience. Others available include the highly recommended.

Polynesian Spa at Rotorua Lake

Tracy at the Polynesian Spa at Rotorua Lake.
Tracy at the Polynesian Spa at Rotorua Lake.
  • Where: 1000 Hinemoa Street, Lakeside, Rotorua 3010
  • When: 9 am to 11 pm daily
  • Why: Natural geothermal springs at a lakeside day spa

At Rotorua Lake, the Polynesian Spa offers you the opportunity to make the most of this area’s natural geothermal activity. The spa has 28 mineral pools filled with hot water, and this is all sourced from two natural springs. 

The water from these two springs has unique properties. Rachel Spring’s waters are said to have therapeutic benefits for the skin, while the waters of Priest Spring are more acidic and reputed to relieve pain. 

There’s also a gift shop and day spa here. All sorts of treatments are offered at the latter, including mud wraps, body polishes and a broad range of facials and massages. These make good use of natural ingredients such as waterlily, manuka honey and rose oil. 

This is the perfect way to end a day of sightseeing and one of our favourite Rotorua activities.

⭐️ Click here to book your ticket to the Polynesian Spa at Rotorua Lake

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland.
Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland.
Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland.
  • Where: 201 Waiotapu Loop Road, Rotorua 3073
  • When: 8.30 am to 4.30 pm daily
  • Why: Incredible colourful thermal areas and the dramatic Lady Knox geyser

Around 17 miles (or 27 kilometres) from Rotorua, Wai-O-Tapu is also part of New Zealand’s Taupo Volcanic Zone. This one includes some particularly colourful elements, so is ideal for photography fans. The Lady Knox geyser erupting here is also a sight not to be missed.

As with all of the thermal zones in and around Rotorua, Wai-O-Tapu is the result of thousands of years of geothermal activity.

When you’re here, for goodness sake don’t do as we did, and miss the Lady Knox geyser erupting due to having another attraction booked for 10 am!

Click here to book your Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland ticket

Redwoods Tree Walk (Day and Night)

Redwoods Tree Walk (Day)
Redwoods Tree Walk (Night)
Redwoods Tree Walk (Night)
  • Where: 1 Long Mile Road, Tītokorangi Drive, Whakarewarewa, Rotorua 3010
  • When: 9 am to 9.30 pm Sunday to Friday, 9 am to 10 pm Saturday
  • Why: Award-winning attraction with birds-eye views, suspension bridges and platforms

The Redwoods Tree Walk in Rotorua takes around 35 minutes to complete. There are 27 platforms connected by 28 suspension bridges, at a height of between nine and 20 metres.

The forest walk gives those who participate magnificent views over redwood trees that are more than 120 years old. Archetypal New Zealand silver ferns can also be seen from the lofty heights of the Redwoods Tree walk. 

Hells Gate Geothermal Reserve

  • Where: 351 State Highway 30, Tikitere, Rotorua 3010
  • When: 10 am to 6 pm Sunday to Thursday, 10 am to 8 pm Friday and Saturday
  • Why: Mud baths, hot pools and a sulphur spa

If you want to find top things to do in Rotorua for couples, Hells Gate Geothermal Reserve is a great choice. It also offers an alternative to Te Puia – or an extra if you can’t get enough of those thermal zones!

Hells Gate is just a quarter of an hour from central Rotorua and offers mud baths and a mud foot spa, sulphur spas, hot pools and Māori carvings.

Book a tour and a map is also supplied so you can follow the geothermal walking route. 

⭐️ Click here to book your tour of Hells Gate Geothermal Reserve

Guided glow worm tour

  • Where: Fenton Street, Rotorua 3007
  • When: Varies – lasts for 3 hours 
  • Why: Glow worms and other nocturnal creatures among native New Zealand forest

Another one to add to your Rotorua to do list is a glow worm walk through the native forest by night. As the stars shine above, you can pass tall trees, waterfalls and huge ferns while gazing at the spectacle of thousands of glow worms.

Your tour includes all equipment such as a torch, wet weather gear and boots. As well as glow worms, you can also look out for and photograph other native, nocturnal creatures. 

⭐️ Click here to book your guided glow worm tour

Rotorua zipline adventure tour

  • Where: 147 Fairy Springs Road, Fairy Springs, Rotorua 3015
  • When: Varies – lasts for 3 hours 
  • Why: A zipline adventure with wildlife in the New Zealand forest canopy

If you want to experience a thrill while ‘flying’ through the canopy of a New Zealand forest, book this zipline adventure tour near Rotorua. You can see local flora and fauna such as blue mushrooms, geckos and birdlife along the way.

All transport and safety equipment is supplied, so you can enjoy the experience of zipping along, more than 70 metres above ground level. There are six different zip lines to experience, plus two 20-metre swing bridges. This one makes a change from all the usual Rotorua thermal attractions. 

⭐️ Click here to book your zipline adventure tour

Kaituna River rafting tour

  • Where: Okere Falls, 3074
  • When: Varies – lasts for 2 hours 
  • Why: A thrilling white water rafting tour on the Kaituna River

Venture just 20 minutes from central Rotorua to take part in an adrenaline-inducing white-water rafting adventure. The warm waters of the Kaituna River reach 25°C in summer, making this the warmest river in the entire country! For thrilling activities to do in Rotorua, this cannot surely be beaten!

Three waterfalls and 14 rapids await here. The pinnacle of the experience is the world’s highest commercially rafted waterfall. All equipment and instruction is provided, and the adventure is even suitable for non-swimmers as well as inexperienced rafters. 

⭐️ Click here to book your Kaituna River white water rafting tour 

Whakarewarewa Village

  • Where: 17 Tryon Street, Whakarewarewa, Rotorua 3010
  • When: Varies – lasts for 1 hour 
  • Why: Living Maori village and Whakarewarewa geothermal area

Head to Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley and village for some Rotorua sightseeing and you can combine Māori culture with the natural thermal activity of the area. Here you can see spouting geysers, a Māori community and boiling-hot, bubbling pools. 

Your guide to the living village will be a direct descendant of New Zealand’s earliest Māori guides. They will share with you how indigenous people cook, bathe and even heat their living spaces by using the local geothermal resources. You’ll also see key local buildings and landmarks. 

⭐️ Click here to book your Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley and village tour

Things to do in Rotorua FAQs

Tracy Collins standing at the sign for Waiotapu Thermal Park.

How many days are enough in Rotorua?

Three days – or a long weekend – is just enough time to get acquainted with Rotorua. Then you can discover the area’s famous geothermal valleys, get to grips with traditional Māori culture, enjoy an adrenaline-filled adventure and soak at the spas fed by natural thermal springs.

We spent 2 days in Rotorua during our North Island New Zealand road trip which we easily filled with activities – next time we will stay for longer as 3 days would be our recommended minimum time.

Is it worth visiting Rotorua?

Rotorua is definitely worth visiting. Here you can expect natural hot spring spas, adrenaline activities, geothermal valleys, Māori culture and much more. 

What is Rotorua famous for?

Rotorua is renowned for the geothermal activity of the area. Gushing geysers, steaming pools and more can be seen at some of the thermal valleys of the area, which include Te Puia, Hells Gate and Whakarewarewa. 

Which Rotorua attractions will you visit?

From indoor activities in Rotorua to stuff to do in Rotorua that will get your adrenaline pumping, this part of New Zealand’s North Island really does have lots to offer.

Whether it’s daytime or Rotorua night activities you seek, this town has so much to keep you occupied from dawn until dusk!

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