Rotorua is a cultural, adventure & geological wonderland and possibly the strangest place I have ever visited. Rotorua sits within a volcanic crater and as you walk through the streets you can literally see holes in the ground that are bubbling and steaming with geothermal activity! There are lots of free things to do in Rotorua involving the geothermal activity as well as other attractions like: Rafting, Biking, Hiking, Hobbits, Scenic Gondola, Luging, Bungy Jumping, Zorb, Adventure Activities... you get the idea.
Check out these Rotorua Activities if you're after some adventure that'll cost you a bit of money! But if you're on a budget carry on reading...
Free or Cheap Things To Do in Rotorua
1. Kuirau Park
Kuirau Park is a free to enter geothermal park in Rotorua itself. Explore the mud pools and bubbling lakes, you can even soak your feet in the free foot pools which are often lovely and warm. If that's not your thing you might enjoy the local flea market every Saturday morning.
Kuirau Park is a great place to relax, have a picnic and just enjoy the surroundings.
Ohinemutu is the village of the original Maori settlement of the Ngati Whakaue tribe. You can visit the Marae and the historic Church which has the most amazing Maori Carvings.
3. Okere Falls
If you have a car, or make friends with another backpacker who has a car, Okere Falls is a lovely little town 20kms from Rotorua. If you have money to spend then we highly recommend going white water rafting here on the Kaituna River. For those of us on a budget, check out the Okere Falls Track. It's a really good walk with some excellent viewing points to check out the rafters going over the falls.
4. Lakefront Geothermal Activity
Take a walk along the lakeside of Rotorua and continue along the footpath, past the golf course until you reach stunning lakes that are surrounded by bubbling, geothermal activity.
5. Kerosene Creek & Hot and Cold Pools
These are non commercial geothermally hot pools that are known by locals as a secret spot, and just a short drive from Rotorua. The freshwater stream meets a hot spring and there are a lot of little hot pools formed by people piling up small rocks.
6. Rainbow Mountain & Crater Lake
Head to Rainbow Mountain for walking & mountain biking trails that offer 360 degree views of the region. You will need a car to get here but you can choose a long walk up to the summit or check out Crater Lake if you have less time.
7. Rotorua Museum & Government Gardens
A beautiful building in itself and located in the Government gardens - which is a beautiful setting. Wingspan has recently released 3 baby falcons in the gardens and you can spot these young ones flying around.
Please note that the Museum is currently being earthquake proofed and so may be closed for a while. Check with the staff at Base hostel to find out if it's open when you visit.
8. Whakarewarewa Forest - The Redwoods
If cycling is a passion of yours - then you must have heard of 'The Redwoods' in Whakarewarewa Forest which is famous for its mountain biking tracks as well as it's massive trees. There are also many hiking trails and even wineries that can offer great cycling tours – just ask the girls at reception.
9. Rotorua Night Market
The Rotorua Night Market is on every Thursday night from 5pm until 9pm, unless the weather has other ideas. There's a variety of stalls to explore: arts, crafts, local produce and plenty of food stalls. All this and live music from local musicians to keep you entertained.
Rotorua is a Maori term that means 'two lakes.' The name was given before early tribes discovered that there are in fact 18 lakes in the region. The town has so many activities and once in a lifetime opportunities that I definitely recommend at least 5 days here when travelling or backpacking through New Zealand.