Mini Itinerary: 4 Days In Rotorua & Taupō

Created in partnership with Tourism New Zealand

Rotorua and Taupō are two of the favourite getaway spots for Kiwis with a multitude of thrilling adventures, fun activities, amazing geothermal attractions, cultural influences and water-based experiences. Discover all there is to see and do with our four day itinerary for family fun.

Whether you’re escaping on a mini-break for a long weekend or looking for a getaway during the school holidays, our itinerary will give you inspiration for an amazing family trip. Do as many or as few of the suggestions as you please.

Refer to our Rotorua and Taupō Destination Guides for more information on many of the attractions and activities. Our itinerary starts in Rotorua but you can easily flip the itinerary if you wish to begin in Taupō.

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.

Getting there

Located in the centre of the North Island, Rotorua and Taupō are just under an hour from each other by road. The driving time from Auckland is just under 3 hours to Rotorua or 3.5 hours to Taupō. From Wellington it’s 5 hours to Taupō or 6 hours to Rotorua. As a popular tourist destination, there are several coach tour options from Auckland to Rotorua.

You can fly into Rotorua with Air New Zealand from Auckland, Wellington, or Christchurch with connecting flights from other regional centres. To find out more, visit www.airnz.co.nz.

Getting around

Rotorua’s public bus service is Baybus with stops at many tourist attractions and links to other Bay of Plenty towns. The Taupō Connector is Taupō’s local bus service, also with links to Waikato towns. InterCity operates daily bus services between Rotorua and Taupō.

As attractions are widespread around the region, travel by car or campervan is a more flexible option.

Day 1

Your first day in Rotorua is spent in the tourist hotspot of Fairy Springs.

Fuel up with breakfast at Capers Cafe in the city centre. Choose from a big breakfast menu with everything from healthy breakfast bowls to classic eggs benedict, plus vegan, gluten-free and keto options.

Ten minutes drive north brings you to all the fun of Skyline Rotorua! Set high on the side of Mount Ngongotaha with extensive views, you can relax as you glide to the top in the Gondola. Then take on the Luge track, ride the Zoom Ziplines, or be thrilled by the Skyswing. Before you take the Gondola back down, grab some treats at the Jelly Belly Store.

Just a couple of minutes down the road is the unique 3D Trick Art Gallery. Step right into art itself and take those weird and wonderful photos that will have everyone scratching their heads.

 

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Nearby is your lunch stop at Heritage Farm Cafe 171 (open Wednesday to Sunday) in a beautiful countryside setting with a playground and deer to feed. There are other lunch options on Fairy Springs Road too.

For an afternoon to remember, explore the canopy of a prehistoric native forest as you travel on a network of ziplines, swing bridges, and tree top platforms with the experienced guides of Rotorua Canopy Tours.

Finish your first epic day back in the heart of Rotorua with traditional wood-fired pizzas at Mamma Rosa Pizzeria & Restaurant and not forgetting the gelato!

Day 2

The second day in Rotorua takes in some of the geothermal wonders of the city.

If you’re wanting an easy breakfast, it’s hard to beat the breakfast buffet at Chapmans Buffet Restaurant and it’s ideally situated just down the road from the first attraction of the day, Te Puia. Here you will see the powerful Pōhutu geyser and other geothermal wonders, plus 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.

Next up is the amazing Redwoods Treewalk in nearby Whakarewarewa Forest. Traverse the suspension bridges and platforms among the majestic trees of the Redwood Forest.

Heading back into the city centre, stop for lunch at Abracadabra Cafe & Bar with a menu influenced by Mexican and Moroccan flavours and a kids menu that includes options for the littlest ones too.

From the cafe it’s an easy walk over to Kuirau Park, a free public park with geothermal pools and boiling mud as well as a kids playground.

Next, head to the lake’s edge and the famous Polynesian Spa where you can splash about in the warm water of the family pool. The geothermally-heated recliners are a must as is the chance to view Lake Rotorua as you unwind in the hot mineral pools.

From the Spa, you can take in some of the Rotorua Lakeside Trail to see birdlife and geothermal activity before heading for dinner at Lone Star Rotorua or any of other dining options on Rotorua’s “Eat Street”.

Where to stay in Rotorua

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

Copthorne 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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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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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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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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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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Day 3

Today we leave Rotorua behind and make a few stops on our way to Taupō.

After breakfast, leave Rotorua and head south towards Taupō, making a slight detour on the way to visit the exciting Waimangu Volcanic Valley. Take a self-guided walk through geothermal activity and see the world’s largest hot spring (Frying Pan Lake) and the incredible blue hues of Inferno Crater. On an optional 45 minute cruise on Lake Rotomahana you can see native birdlife and hear stories of the lake and the Mount Tarawera eruption.

Feed those appetites at the on-site cafe with burgers, pizzas, or gourmet sandwiches while enjoying a great view across the valley. Then make your way back on to State Highway 5.

On your approach to Taupō stop off and view the thundering 11-metre high Huka Falls on the Waikato River. You can see the falls from a short walking track or choose a unique view with either a thrilling high-speed jet boat ride with Hukafalls Jet or a more sedate pace on the Huka Falls River Cruise with information from local guides and viewing platforms for the best photos.

Next up is the unique Huka Prawn Park where you can hand-feed baby prawns, take the aqua trikes, pedal boats and stand up paddle boards out onto the water, and enjoy some fun family challenges on the activity loop.

If you’re staying the night at nearby Wairakei Resort, enjoy amazing New Zealand cuisine with locally sourced product dinner at the Pavilion Restaurant or if your accommodation is in central Taupō why not keep the kids happy by grabbing a meal at Taupo’s McDonalds – simply the coolest McDonalds in the world, where you can eat your meal in a plane!

Day 4

Today’s adventures are based around the beautiful waters of Lake Taupō.

For those staying at Wairakei, nearby Kefi at the Hub has keto and vegan breakfast options as well as a cool helicopter for the kids to play in. If you’re in central Taupō, The Storehouse is an eclectic cafe serving freshly made meals and cabinet food from 7am (8am on weekends).

Make your way down to the water’s edge and explore Lake Taupō on a Chris Jolly Outdoors Māori Rock Carvings Cruise. The 90 minute tour with live commentary takes in the lake’s stunning bays while viewing platforms allow you to get up close to the carvings. There’s full amenities on board and activities for kids.

Back on dry land, walk or cycle as much of the Great Lake Pathway as you please with scenic lake and mountain views. Don’t miss getting your photo taken at the #LOVETAUPO sign then head for the Spoon and Paddle, a homestyle cafe that’s one of Taupō’s best.

 

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This afternoon get ready for a splashing good time at Taupo DeBretts Hot Springs. These family-favourite thermal hot pools have an interactive warm water playground and hydroslides, as well as private pools and spa treatments.

Next take a stroll through native bush and flowering gardens (in spring) at the Waipahihi Botanical Gardens. Print off the Waipahihi Botanical Gardens Kiwi Guardians adventure map before you head out, then find the Kiwi Guardian post and submit the special code word on it to receive a Kiwi Guardians certificate and medal.

To finish off your Rotorua and Taupō adventure, dine at Dixie Browns and choose from a huge menu plus a fun dinosaur-themed kids menu.

Where to stay in Taupō

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

Wairakei Resort Taupo

Wairakei Resort – tranquil 4-star accommodation set amidst a stunning thermal valley. Enjoy the 9-hole course, tennis on floodlit courts, two geothermally heated swimming pools and six outdoor hot tubs and an on-site spa. There’s a range of accommodation options including family villas and suites with WiFi and 24-hour room service.

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Taupo De Bretts Spa Resort

Taupo DeBretts Spa Resort – more than a place to stay, Taupo DeBretts is a destination! Year-round relaxation and recreation activities on-site in the Hot Springs waterpark and Living Waters Spa plus tasty food at the Savour Café. At Taupo DeBretts, you choose your adventure. Accommodation options include everything from luxury rooms to campervan and tent sites.

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Voyager Apartments

Voyager Apartments – situated close to the lakefront with the shopping and restaurants just a short walk away. Modern one, two, and three bedroom apartments with fully equipped kitchen, laundry facilities, air-conditioning heat pump, private spa bath, Sky TV, free WiFi, DVD, and stereo. The on-site swimming pool is heated year-round.

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Acapulco Motor Inn

Acapulco Motor Inn – family-run, affordable motel accommodation just a short walk to central Taupō. Choose from a range of accommodation options that can sleep up to eight. All air-conditioned with free WiFi and some rooms with spa pool/bath.

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Main photo credit: Destination Lake Taupo

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Written by Kidspot New Zealand for Tourism New Zealand.

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