Rotorua is a hotspot for tourists exploring New Zealand. While there’s no shortage of high adventure activities for young 20-somethings, it’s sometimes hard to know what to do with the younger crowd. On our recent visit in February 2016, we found the activities for children to be plentiful!
Here are some of our favorites::
1. Kuirau Park
Kuirau Park is an eclectic public park in the middle of town—featuring both a great playground for kids, as well as a great variety of hotspots and public geothermal pools. How many places would you find a playground built essentially on top of a hotbed of geothermal activity?
Back in the late 19th century, the most popular pool in the park, Waiparuparu, was literally used for bathing after a long day’s work, or on the weekends. Nowadays, the pools are set up quite nicely with seating area and places to sit. Your kids could be playing on the equipment, and just around the corner you could be soaking in a thermal pool
Less than 20 yards from all of that, you could be peaking over fences at a variety of 3hot pools with warnings of thermal danger.
2. The Waterfront on Lakefront Drive
Boating and Jet adventures are at your service on Lakefront Drive, but it’s also a great place to simply take a walk and enjoy some beautiful summer weather. Beautiful black swans gather at the docks, and are fun to look at, but not feed. (If you’re there during Chinese New Year, you may have the opportunity to watch the swans snip at the fingers of Asian tourists who may not [or choose not to] read the “Do not feed the swans” signs!)
Rotorua is well-accustomed to visitors, and isn’t afraid to promote itself. Our kids enjoyed the city’s life-sized picture frame–filled with colorful flowers with the stunning backdrop of Lake Rotorua.
And of course, with children we’re always looking for a good playground! The Lakefront playground newer and modern, and especially appropriate for younger children (while still having enough equipment for the older ones).
3. Hamurana Springs Trail
If you’re looking for a stunning walk through the forest, Hamurana Springs Trail is one you won’t want to miss! Our kids loved the Sequoia Redwood Grove (Whakarewarewa Forest)–a grove of transplanted US Redwoods, planted back in 1919! We personally love Redwoods (a reminder of home in the PNW), and we were blown away by the stunning backdrop of this grove among the blue waters of Hamurana Springs. The easy loop trail takes only about 1/2 an hour to walk–but you may take much longer if you stop to appreciate many beautiful gems along the way!
4. Wai-o-Tapu Thermal Park
Rotorua is a thermal wonderland, and Wai-o-Tapu is one of the best paid-entry parks in the area for a “Yellowstone-like” experience.
The park is dotted with craters and pools, and features excellent walking trails that are mostly stroller-friendly. We recommend going early in the morning to avoid the crowds (preferably while they are manually setting off the Lady Knox Geyser in another area of the park).
5. Agrodome Farm Experience
If your kids love animals, or want to have a unique New Zealand farm experience up-close, don’t miss the Agrodome! Here your family can watch a sheep-sheering demonstration by a high-energy employee, as well as be introduced to their 19 breeds of sheep (live on stage!).
Don’t miss their Farm Tour where you’ll jump on the tractor-tram that takes you through their 350 acre working farm. You’ll learn about and have a chance to pet quite a few animals, including llamas and domesticated deer. The tour will end with an opportunity to see kiwifruit growing and taste their fresh kiwifruit juice and local honey.
6. Tamaki Maori Village
Your kids will enjoy journeying back in time to a representation of an ancient Tamaki Maori Village. At the entrance you’ll watch an intense ceremonial ritual that welcomes you into their small village with rotating stations demonstrating various aspects of village life. The stations are very interactive, and you or your children may be selected to do a haka dance, play some children’s games, or do some dancing. It culminates in a beautiful musical celebration and a hangi feast.
7. Rainbow Springs Nature Park
Rainbow Springs has quite a bit to offer–aviaries, bird shows, wildlife encounters, a great playground, well manicured and labeled gardens/forests, and a “Big Splash” ride. It’s a mild enough ride to not frighten the little ones, but fun enough that your bigger kids may beg you to ride over and over. The very best use of your money, however, will be buying the extra admission ticket to their Kiwi Conservation Center. We truly enjoyed going on the small tour of their Kiwi Experience, where we got to learn about their efforts to protect and hatch Kiwi eggs and nurture the babies until they’re strong enough to released in the wild. All this is done with the goal to protect the species from extinction–and they are doing a top-notch job! Your kids will learn a great deal about conservation efforts and the Kiwi bird heritage that is an integral part of New Zealand culture!
#8 Watch Rafters on Okere Falls
Only children 10+ years old may raft over Okere Falls–the highest commercially rafted falls in the world–but children of all ages will enjoy watching others take the plunge!
A short walk on a nice wide trail will deposit you at a beautiful vantage point to watch the rafters falling over the edge of the falls (some even capsizing) while the company photographer snaps photos over your head.
Our kids enjoyed walking down the narrow steps cut into the side of the mountain to get a closer view of the rafters.
Possible Bonus #9: Chinese New Year Celebration
If you happen to be town during Chinese New Year (sometime between Jan 21st and Feb 20th)–don’t miss the official CNY celebrations downtown. You’re in store for a full street of food vendors, Chinese dragons, and dance performances!
If your family is visiting New Zealand’s North Island—Rotorua is a MUST SEE. There’s simply too much to do in just a few day’s time—you could spend weeks there! \
Our family will forever call Rotorua “the stinky town”…because…well…IT. STINKS.
The whole town rests on top of the Rotorual caldera, which is the source of all of its thermal activity. Geysers, hot mud pools, and the oft-persistant smell of sulfer in the air——->you’re in Rotorua!