5 Free and Affordable Things to do in Rotorua

Known for its Maori culture, geothermal activity, and photogenic landscapes (not to mention the world-famous Skyline Luge!), Rotorua has an amazing array of activities for every budget.

But you might be wondering what there is to do in Rotorua on a small budget. Well, the good news is there's a lot to do!

Wrapped around the 12-kilometre-wide Lake Rotorua are both free activities, and affordable (paid) counterparts. Read on to discover how to make a lifetime of memories in Rotorua, without breaking the bank.

Here are the top 5 free and affordable things to do in Rotorua:

  1. Take a walk through a giant redwood forest
  2. Explore geothermal hot pools
  3. Ride world-class mountain bike trails
  4. Swim in natural hot springs
  5. Walk among natural springs and river trails

1. Take a walk through a giant redwood forest

Whakarewarewa Redwoods

With over 5,600 hectares of forest to choose from, only five minutes drive from downtown Rotorua, the Redwoods is a fantastic spot to explore. 

Keep an eye out for one of New Zealand’s largest trees - the incredible redwood spans 72 metres high. Family & pet friendly, taking a walk in the Redwoods is one of the best free things to do in Rotorua.

Price: Free
Location: Longmile Road, Rotorua

A man walks through the Whakarewarewa Redwood trees bathed in the morning light.
Image credit: Adrian Hodge Photography

Skyline Nature History Walk

Nestled above the top Gondola complex at Skyline Rotorua is a 1-hour return nature history trail. With over 15,000 native trees on site, you are bound to see some amazing bird activity.

See if you can spot Skyline’s local Kererū (native New Zealand pigeon) feasting on some fruit. Along the trail are interactive and informative panels explaining the region's history and culture. Not to mention there’s a Weta hotel and a wind-up grinder that makes bird noises.

Once you’ve completed the walk reward yourself with a quick stop at the Market Kitchen Café.

Price: See the most up-to-date Gondola prices here. Under 5's ride the Gondola for free.
Location: 178 Fairy Springs Road, Fairy Springs, Rotorua

A family enjoys the nature walk at Skyline Rotorua.
Image credit: Skyline Rotorua

2. Explore geothermal hot pools

Kuiaru Park

Situated in central Rotorua are New Zealand’s only public and free-to-access geothermal park. Open year-round during daylight hours you’re free to explore natural mud pools, hot springs, a crater lake, stunning gardens, a children’s playground and thermal foot baths.

A relaxing and enjoyable experience that you can take at your own pace. If you’re visiting on a Saturday morning there’s a food market showcasing local and international cuisine.

Price: Free
Location: 1371 Pukuatua Street and Ranolf Street, Rotorua

Steam rising from the water at Kuiaru Park, New Zealand’s only public and Free geothermal park.
Image credit: rotoruanz.com

Waimangu Volcanic Valley

Experience New Zealand’s youngest geothermal valley and learn how the world began.

Located a 20-minute drive from downtown Rotorua you’re greeted by rare plants, a regenerating forest, multiple lakes, the inferno crater lake, Silica Terraces, Stalactites and panoramas over the valley highlighting both Rainbow and Tarawera Mountains.

Experiences include: Self-guided walks/hikes of varying distances and duration and a Lake Rotomahana Boat Cruise. Don’t forget to download the Waimangu App for exclusive content.

Price: Prices start at approximately $45 for adults, children $14, and family discount packages are available
Location: 587 Waimangu Road, Rotorua

The stunning bright blue water in Waimangu Volcanic Valley near Rotorua.
Image credit: Waimangu.co.nz

3. Ride world-class mountain bike trails

Whakarewarewa Redwoods

Made up of multiple trail networks totalling over 130 kilometres of superb trails, the Redwoods is your one-stop shop for a pedal-powered mountain biking adventure.

The forest is free to everyone and the trail network caters to all ages and abilities. From fast-paced berms to massive gap jumps and everything in-between, you can’t look past this world-renowned forest. Come along and experience it for yourself.

Price: Free
Location: Longmile Road, Rotorua

A person rides a banked corner on the Redwood Mountain biking trails.
Image credit: Freehub.com

Skyline MTB gravity park

If you're more about the vertical descent, and less about the pedal power - situated on the side of Mt Ngongotaha is New Zealand’s only year-round Gondola-assisted bike lift park!

Enjoy your day knowing that the gondola is going to do most of the hard work for you so you can focus on the fast-paced gravity thrill that awaits you. Skyline Rotorua's 12-kilometre trail network is home to 12 masterfully crafted tracks, and there’s a trail to suit everyone.

Price: See the most up-to-date mountain biking prices here
Location: 178 Fairy Springs Road, Fairy Springs, Rotorua

Two bikers riding riding on the gravity park overlooking Rotorua and the Skyline Gondola on a sunny day.
Image credit: skyline.co.nz

4. Swim in natural hot springs

Kerosene Creek

If you’re a sucker for steaming waterfalls and natural hot water swimming holes look no further than Kerosene Creek.

Only a 25-minute drive from Rotorua’s CBD, partway down a forestry road you’ll find yourself at the car park. Take a short walk through the forest beside the hot water stream, and you’ll come across the large pool.

Great for relieving those aches and pains or just to relax after a busy day of adventure in Rotorua - the Kerosene Creek hot pool is one of the best free ways to relax and unwind in Rotorua.

Price: Free
Location: Old Waiotapu Road, Waikato 3073

Famillies enjoy the warm water of Kerosene Creek.
Image credit: Peter Wood

Waikite Valley Thermal Pools 

The Waikite Valley Thermal Pools are the only pool complex in New Zealand of its size that uses 100% pure natural geothermal water. The water comes direct from the Te Manaroa natural boiling spring, it’s cooled before entering the pools leaving a cosy 35-39o soft calcite-laden mineral pool of relaxation.

There are six pools to choose from, all included in general admission. If you’re looking for a slightly more intimate experience, private pools overlooking the native wilderness and geothermal activity are available for hire.

Price: Prices start at approximately $20 for adults, children $11, infants and spectators $3
Location: 648 Waikite Valley Road, Waikite Valley, Rotorua

Natural thermal hot pools at Waikite Valley Thermal Pools in Rotorua.
Image credit: hotpools.co.nz

5. Walk among natural springs and river trails

Okere Falls Track

This amazing walk is just a 20-minute drive from Rotorua’s CBD. The 1.2-kilometre well-made and maintained forest track guides you to amazing lookouts of the fast-paced Kaituna river and all 4 of its powerful and picturesque waterfalls.

There’s a viewing platform that showcases the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world, and if you stick around long enough you'll hear the screams and watch the faces of rafters as they descend the 11-metre fall into the deep pool below.

The falls are also the home of Rotorua’s first hydro-electric power station, the Tutea Caves and Hinemoa’s steps.

Once you’re done exploring why not stop across the road at Okere Falls store (an eco-friendly café) for a bite to eat.

Price: Free
Location: Trout Pool Road, Rotorua

Okere Falls in Rotorua.
Image credit: Ronald Woan

Hamurana Springs Nature Reserve 

Located just 20 minutes from the Rotorua CBD, the Hamurana spring the deepest natural spring in the North Island, spouting four million litres every hour!

The Nature Reserve is home to a scenic walking track which loops through ancient redwoods and native forest. The walking loop takes around 45-minutes to an hour and is suitable for all ages. Be sure to take your time to enjoy the wildlife and discover the sites of cultural significance to the local tribe Ngāti Rangiwewehi.

Price: Prices start at approximately $18 for adults, children $8, and family discount packages are available
Location: 773 Hamurana Road, Hamurana, Rotorua

Children enjoying the clear water at the Hamurana Springs Nature Reserve near Rotorua.
Image credit: Hamurana.co.nz

Now that you know the best free and affordable things to do in Rotorua...

Read on to discover how to make a lifetime of memories in Rotorua:

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