There's loads of free things to do in Rotorua but here are the Rotorua activities & tours which are worth paying for. Rotorua is one of the strangest and most unique places in New Zealand. Located near the middle of New Zealand's North Island, Rotorua is the volcanic, cultural and egg smelling capital of the great Kiwi Land! Known for its geothermal activity, you will find bubbling mud pools, volcanic craters, thermal springs and geysers, finding what to do in Rotorua is not hard! The 'eggy' smell is due to the vast amounts of Sulphur in the area, hence the nickname 'Sulphur City.'
To put it simply, a visit to Rotorua is an absolute must when travelling around New Zealand. Here's the best of what to do in Rotorua.
Top 10 Rotorua Activities
1. Wai O Tapu Geothermal Wonderland
Prepare to have your mind blown. This volcanic wonderland is like nowhere else on the planet. Wai O Tapu Thermal Park is home to a number of bubbling and steaming volcanic crater lakes all with a distinct and downright weird colour - luminous greens, blues, yellows and oranges. There are a number of transport and park entry packages that can be organised from Rotorua - get your camera ready! On a budget? Right by Base Rotorua is Kuirau Park - a bubbling geothermal field of bubbling mud pools and steaming craters. You can even soak your feet in the free hot pools!
2. Get Cultural at Te Puia or Tamaki
There are so many cultural activities to take part in whilst visiting Rotorua. Tamaki Village will have you visiting a traditional Maori village, take part in the Haka and enjoying a Maori feast. Te Puia is a historical park that includes a traditional Maori greeting, cultural performance, Hangi Feast and a train ride through the Maori village through to the remarkable Pohutu Geyser. If you're on a budget, then a visit to the Ohinemutu is a must - a village home to the original Maori settlement of the Ngati Whakaue Tribe where you can see ancient Maori carvings and the historical church. Entry to Rotorua Museum is also free and a fantastic way to get a grasp on the geographical and historical significance of the town.
3. Visit Hobbiton
No visit to New Zealand is complete without a visit to the Hobbiton Movie Set. The movie set is located just a short drive from Rotorua, by a town called Matamata. Tours depart from Rotorua daily and will allow you to explore the movie set as featured in the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbiton films. The tour includes a visit to the Shire's Rest where you can Hobbit your way around The Green Dragon Inn, The Mill, Hobbit Holes and the double arched bridge - great NZ selfie opportunities!
4. Skyline Rotorua & Luge
This is a cheap half day activity that is well worth adding to your Rotorua bucket list. Take a cable car to the top of Skyline Rotorua which sits upon Mount Ngongotaha. You will be blown away with epic views over Rotorua and Lake Okataina. Make sure you purchase a Luge + Gondola Ride package so that you can whizz around the mountain on a toboggan. At the top there is also wine tasting, a restaurant and the must do Rotorua activity for adrenaline junkies - the Sky Swing!
5. Hell's Gate Mud Baths
This is the ultimate pamper sesh if you are on a backpacker budget. At Hell's Gate you can soak in a Sulphur Spa or bubbling hot Mud Pool in the middle of an active geothermal field. Europeans began soaking in these pools in the 1840s and the mud from Hell's Gate is sold worldwide. The Sulphur in the pools is said to provide many skin, anti ageing, rejuvenating and healing benefits. The pools are set at three different temperatures - 40 degrees being the hottest. Entry to Hell's Gate also includes a guided tour of the volcanic craters, native New Zealand bush lands and the southern hemisphere's hottest natural waterfall.
6. Polynesian Spa
If having a mud bath wasn't enough for you then a pamper session at the Polynesian Spa might be your thing. There are 28 hot mineral pools and the water is said to have healing properties which relieve aching muscles at the same time as nourishing the skin. The Polynesian Spa is all about relaxing the mind and body. Indulge yourself with a variety of spa treatments from geothermal mud body wraps, massages or facials.
7. White Water Rafting
if you're planning on doing any white water rafting during your world trip then my recommendation is to do it here! There are a number of world class water rapids throughout New Zealand but Rotorua tends to be the most popular location to heave yourself down waterfalls in an inflatable boat. Just a short drive away sits Kaituna River - home to Tutea Falls - the world's largest commercially rafted waterfalls which have you falling for 7 meters! Half day tours with Kaitiaki Adventures can be booked from Rotorua and the experience combines a little bit of Maori culture and history. Well worth it!
Imagine zooming down a hill in a giant inflatable ball! This is truly a fun, crazy and unique experience that won't cost you an arm or a leg! There are a number of Zorb options - including Zurfing - where you can test your balance on a board inside a ball filled with water. SO. MUCH. FUN!
9. Bungy Jump, Swoop, Schweeb, Freefall & Agrojet
If you're looking for an adrenalin fix then Agroventures Adventure Park is the ultimate place to tick off the bucket list. It's a great place to warm up with a crane Bungy Jump before heading to Queenstown. If that's a little beyond your comfort zone, then strap yourself into a human sized sack with a buddy and swing from the sky on the Swoop - loads of fun! There's also the Agrojet boat and a simulated Skydive Freefall experience as well as Schweeb which is a bit hard to describe.
10. Lady Knox Geyser
One of the most popular natural attractions in Rotorua is Lady Knox Geyser. Reaching heights of up to 20 meters, Lady Knox erupts every day between 10:15am and 10:30am. Entry is free and it sure is a sight to behold. Get in early to secure a good photo opp spot - it gets busy!
Bonus - Check out Eat Streat and the Night Markets
As you head on down to the lakefront - Rotorua's Eat Streat is buzzing with cafes, bars and restaurants where you can always find a great feed. Every Thursday night between 5pm - 9pm (weather permitting) you can check out the night markets. There's always something going on as Eat Streat becomes jam packed with live music, food stalls and entertainment.