Top 10 things to do in Rotorua

Get an all-round view of amazing Rotorua with these highly-recommended places to go, things to do and landscapes to see.

As New Zealand's first-ever tourist destination, Rotorua has a head start in the 'best things to do' department. From hot pools in the wilderness to zooming down ziplines, the range of activities is immense. Check out this list to see what grabs you.

1. Relax at Polynesian Spa, Rotorua

Whether you've got cash to splash or the budget's a bit tight, Polynesian Spa has your sort of hot water relaxation. The most cost-effective option here is the Family Pools, where the whole whanau gets in for one low price. At the luxury end of the spectrum, the Retreat Day Spa can pamper you into a state of bliss with mud wraps, massages, facials and Aix therapies.

2. Explore Te Puia

A day pass for Te Puia lets you explore the geothermal wonders of Whakarewarewa, with or without a local guide. You can also see kiwi in the noctarium, watch Māori carvers and weavers at work, and take a look around a pre-European Māori Village. 

3. Find some thrills at Skyline Rotorua

You'll discover all kinds of fun up Mt Ngongotaha, a volcanic mountain overlooking Rotorua. It all starts with a gondola trip up, then you can choose to ride the luge track, fly into the sky on the Skyswing or zoom downhill on the ziplines. Skyline Rotorua also has eating places with huge views, wine tasting and a network of mountain biking trails.

4. Get into hot water at Kerosene Creek, Rotorua

Kerosene Creek, just off Old Waiotapu Road between Rotorua and Taupō, is a geothermally-heated stream that flows through native forest. The ultimate Instagram shot here involves sitting on or under the hot waterfall. A rustic corrugated iron shed provides a handy place to change.

5. Go hiking and boating around Rotorua's lakes

There are 18 beautiful lakes in the Rotorua region for hiking and boating. Here are just a few of them:

Lake Rotorua

This lake is unmissable, because Rotorua city is built around its southern shore. The second largest lake in the North Island, Lake Rotorua is shallow and has many geothermal vents under its surface and around its edges. To appreciate this lake, take a walk around Sulphur Point, catch a cruise on the Lakeland Queen or visit the magical Mokoia Island with Katoa Lake Rotorua.

Lake Tarawera

An exceptional location for photography and fishing, Lake Tarawera has two main walking tracks - one runs from Tarawera Outlet to Humphries Bay; the other links Tarawera Outlet to Falls Track.

Lake Tikitapu

Usually known as 'the Blue Lake', Tikitapu has an easy walking circuit that takes about two hours to complete. The track takes you to a low ridge between the Blue and Green Lakes - from here you can appreciate the striking difference in the lakes' colours.

6. Hike into the crater of Mt Tarawera

Massive Mount Tarawera dominates many of Rotorua's landscapes and its rift crater has to be seen to be believed. To appreciate the history and geology of this spectacular volcanic mountain, team up with Kaitiaki Tours for a guided hiking experience. The half-day Mt Tarawera Crater Walk is legendary.

7. Have a high time with Rotorua Canopy Tours

Between Mt Ngongotaha and the city, Rotorua Canopy Tours is where you can launch a forest adventure with an amazing twist. There will be some walking, some swing bridges and a lot of zooming through the air on a zipline. It's an awesome way to explore the forest and get acquainted with native birds. The photo opportunities are larger than life.

8. Bike or hike through Redwoods Whakarewarewa Forest

Just five minutes south from downtown Rotorua, the Redwoods (aka Whakarewarewa Forest) was established in 1901 as an experiment to test the suitability of different tree species for commercial planting. Today it's one of Rotorua's top locations for outdoor fun. There's a network of mountain biking and walking tracks through the towering trees and admission is free. There's also a Treewalk attraction that's open day and night.

9. Watch the rafters at Okere Falls

Okere Falls Scenic Reserve, just 20 minutes from downtown Rotorua, has a beautiful forest walk that leads to the Okere River and a series of waterfalls. Highlights include seeing Tutea Caves and Hinemoa's Steps. During the rafting season, you can watch rafters pour over the highest commercially-rafted waterfall in the world - an 11-metre plunge into the pool below. If you want to experience this thrill for yourself, get in touch with Kaitiaki Adventures.

10. Explore Whakarewarewa, the Living Māori Village

For hundreds of years the Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao people have been living harmoniously with Rotorua's volcanic activity. Their homes and community buildings are right in amongst the geothermal features of Whakarewarewa Valley, one of the most volcanically-active areas of Rotorua. On a guided tour, you can discover how underground heat is used for cooking, home heating and bathing. You can also wander nature trails around Whakarewarewa's bubbling mud pools and steaming craters.

Keep exploring Rotorua