Destination Guide: Rotorua

Created in partnership with Tourism New Zealand

Rotorua is a hub of activity that is perfect for a fun family getaway. From thrill seeking adventures to stunning geothermal walks and cultural influences throughout the city, you’ll want to come back over and over again.

Whether you’re planning to head away over the school holidays or just want to escape on a mini-break, we’ve put together some of our favourite places to stay, eat and play so you can create some lasting memories with your family.

Please note: Venue information was correct at the time of publication. Please check with individual venues for the latest opening dates, times, prices, etc, before making plans.

Free family activities

Even if you’re travelling on a budget, there are still so many experiences you can enjoy with your family.

Kuirau Park – an easy walk from the city centre, this public park has geothermal pools and mud, footpools and a kids playground. Also home to the council pools for a budget friendly swim.

Blue Lake Track – in the carpark there is a viewing point at which you can see both the Blue and Green Lakes either side of you. The lake is popular in the summer for swimming and picnics.

The Redwoods – Whakarewarewa Forest – walk or cycle amongst the majestic redwoods. There are many tracks including family-friendly short walks.

Rotorua Lakeside Trail – see birdlife and geothermal activity on this scenice lakeside trail beginning in the centre of the city.

Okere Falls Walk – a delightful walk to see the magnificent waterfalls, plus keep an eye out for intrepid whitewater rafters and kayakers.

 

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Government Gardens – beautiful gardens surround the stunning Tudor-style spa bath house that graces so many postcards from Rotorua.

Kerosene Creek – just over half an hour south of Rotorua, Kerosene Creek is where a geothermal hot spring and fresh creek water meet for you to bathe and relax beside a waterfall and native bush.

Fun family experiences

Whether you’re looking for a fun family activity or cultural immersion, Rotorua caters for families with a huge range of of activities.

Skyline Rotorua

Skyline Rotorua

Fun for the whole family set high on the side of Mount Ngongotaha with extensive views. Relax as you glide to the top in the Gondola, take on the Luge track, ride the Zoom Ziplines, tempt the tastebuds in the Jelly Belly Store and more.

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Polynesian Spa

Polynesian Spa

Unwind in the geothermal hot mineral pools or splash about in the warm water of the family pool. The geothermally heated recliners are a must as is the chance to watch the sunset across Lake Rotorua.

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Rotorua Duck Tours

Rotorua Duck Tours

View some of Rotorua’s most spectacular scenery as you travel on land and lake in genuine WW2 amphibious landing crafts while enjoying the informative and entertaining commentary.

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Redwoods Treewalk

Redwoods Treewalk

Discover Rotorua’s peaceful, ecological hideaway! Traverse the suspension bridges and platforms among the majestic trees of the Redwood Forest. Visit at night for a magical wonderland of colour and light.

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Rotorua Canopy Tours

Rotorua Canopy Tours

Explore the canopy of a prehistoric native forest as you travel on a network of ziplines, swing bridges, cliff-walks, tree top platforms and more. Experienced guides will keep you safe, make you laugh and welcome you into this forest conservaton journey.

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The Buried Village of Te Wairoa

The Buried Village of Te Wairoa

Discover stories of the 1886 Mt Tarawera Eruption which buried the Te Wairoa village and nearby Pink and White Terraces. Walk the archaeological site and waterfall trial. Kids can grab a clue from reception and go on the hunt for more clues and even treasure!

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Te Puia

Te Puia

See the powerful Pōhutu geyser and other geothermal wonders, then seek out Aotearoa’s national treasure in the Kiwi Conservation Centre. Learn about Māori history and culture as you watch master carvers and weavers from the NZ Māori Arts and Crafts Institute.

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3D Trick Art Gallery

3D Trick Art Gallery

This is the place to get kids into art! Step right into the art itself and take those weird and wonderful photos that will have everyone scratching their heads.
Part of the Heritage Farm Experience and the first of its kind in New Zealand, this is family fun dialed up.

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Hell's Gate Geothermal Reserve

Hell’s Gate Geothermal Reserve

Take an interactive tour of New Zealand’s most active geothermal reserve including an active mud volcano and a hot waterfall. You can also indulge by bathing in geothermal mud baths and sulphur spas to experience the healing properties.

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ZORB Rotorua

ZORB Rotorua

Dive into a giant inflatable ball and roll down Mt Ngongotaha for an experience like no other! Four different tracks and add water for more hilarity, then relax in the hot tubs. Home to the world’s first ever ZORB site.

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Family friendly eateries

All the action that Rotorua has to offer can lead to growling tummies but there’s plenty of restaurants and cafes to choose from.

Cobb and Co – the iconic family restaurant has something for every member of the family. The special kids area features a large fish tank, toys and games consoles and the kids menu caters for all ages (and includes those famous Traffic Lights drinks!).

Abracadabra Cafe & Bar – just five minutes walk from Kuirau Park and serving from breakfast to dinner. The menu is influenced by Mexican and Moroccan flavours and there’s tapas after 5pm. The kids menu includes options for the littlest ones too.

Gengy’s Mongolian BBQ Buffet – make up your own meal with Gengy’s buffet-style selection of meat, seafood, vegetables, sauces and spices, then have the chefs cook your combination right in front of you. Finish off with freshly made pancakes and ice cream with toppings.

 

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Capers Cafe – open from 7am to 7pm, eat in or take out from the menu or the droolworthy ready-to-go cabinet food. Vegan, gluten-free and keto options available.

Lady Janes Ice Cream Parlour – sundaes, cones, shakes, smoothies and yum! Dozens of ice cream flavours to choose from. Just across the road from the Village Green.

Lakeland Queen Lunch/Dinner Cruise – dining with a changing view! Cruise the lake as you dine from the buffet selection including dessert, then the kids for a tour of the wheelhouse.

Where to stay

For family friendly stays, we recommend checking out the below. Or search here for holiday parks and campgrounds.

Holiday Inn Rotorua

Holiday Inn Rotorua – comfortable and modern accommodation for families. After an adventurous day out, enjoy a soak in the geothermally heated outdoor pool which is open year round. The locally famous Chapmans Restaurant with its extensive buffet and a la carte options is on site and kids stay and eat free (T&Cs apply).

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Lake Rotorua Hotel

Lake Rotorua Hotel – ideally situated for easy access to the attractions in Fairy Springs and the city centre, this contemporary hotel is the ideal base for exploring. Variety of guest rooms including family suites that sleep up to six, plus swimming pool and spa pool onsite.

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Distinction Hotel Rotorua

Distinction Rotorua Hotel & Conference Centre – minutes from the city centre and adjacent to the Whakarewarewa Forest. The hotel offers free WiFi, mountain bike facilities, a heated outdoor swimming pool, plus underground private grotto spas and four restaurants and cafes for delicious dining options. Family rooms and interconnecting rooms available.

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Jet Park Hotel Rotorua

Jet Park Hotel Rotorua – bring the whole family including the dog to this pet-friendly family hotel. Kids will love the play area, swimming pool and free WiFi and you will love that kids stay free with complimentary continental breakfasts for all. The family suites sleep up to four with children’s soft furnishings and toys for a home away from home.

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Copthorn Hotel Rotorua

Copthorne Hotel Rotorua – near to Te Puia and Whakarewarewa – The Living Māori Village, this hotel has 110 spacious rooms and suites. With a heated outdoor pool, gym, outdoor spas, and Jimmy Cook’s Kiwi Kitchen restaurant on site, plus Māori Concert & Feast nights, there’s plenty for the family to enjoy.

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BK's Rotorua Motor Lodge

BK’s Rotorua Motor Lodge – quality, affordable accommodation located a short walk to the lake in a quiet street near to shops and restaurants. All suites have kitchen facilities and there’s a range of rooms including interconnecting suites and a large 3-bedroom apartment style family suite.

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Main photo credit: Vaughan Brookfield

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Written by Kidspot New Zealand for Tourism New Zealand.

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