Rotorua is one of the best places to explore with kids! It’s like a gigantic playground for all ages and keeping the family entertained for a weekend or more is a mere child’s play (pun intended).
Known for its geothermal activities and trademark hint of sulphur in the air, Rotorua has a lot of natural wonders on offer. The namesake Lake Rotorua, for example, is only one of many more or less accessible lakes in the area. There are walks, bike rides, action, adventure, Maori culture…all packed into one town that is Rotorua.
And not only is there lots to explore: Many of the things to do in Rotorua with kids are reasonably priced or even free!
Family activities Rotorua
Rotorua Duck Tours
If it swims like a duck, quacks like a duck and is in Rotorua, it’s probably a…Rotorua Duck Tour. Their bright yellow amphibian vehicles take you around town and onto some of Rotorua’s many lakes. Along the way, you’ll have heaps of fun listening to the driver’s entertaining stories about Rotorua’s history.
Driving from the roads right into the lake and continuing the tour floating like a boat is a one-of-a-kind experience.
Rotorua Duck Tours have two different tours. One is 90 minutes long, takes you around town and out on the water on two occasions. The second tour takes two hours and splashes down into Lake Okareka, Lake Tikitapu (Blue Lake) and Lake Tarawera.
Skyline Gondola with Luge
When thinking of Rotorua family activities, the Skyline Gondola and the Luge tracks above the gondola station are probably the ones that instantly spring to mind.
After a scenic gondola ride, you can enjoy the view, visit the furry alpacas or go for a stroll on one of the nature trails.
The Luge is pretty much a professional soapbox with brakes. Every family member gets to ride one, smaller kids ride with an adult. You then derby against each other one of three downhill race tracks, scenic, intermediate and advanced.
Velocity Valley is Rotorua’s very own adventure park. From fun for the kids to adrenaline for grown-ups, it’s all there.
Race against each other on the Shweeb Racer, two futuristic-looking pods with pedals that hang off parallel monorails. Accelerate to full speed with every pedal stroke you take.
Other rides for families are Agrojet, a jetboat, and Swoop, a giant swing.
Explore Rotorua’s Redwood forest between the ground and the canopy. With the height of the walkway ranging between 9-20 metres, you are presented with a unique, birds’ eye perspective of the forest below and treetops above.
After dark, Redwoods Treewalk turns into a romantic lit-up wonderland. Oversized lanterns light you the way and the redwoods are bathed in gentle lights. Kids and adults will love the magical atmosphere!
Te Puia is a great combination of almost everything that makes Rotorua and New Zealand famous. It’s one of the most popular geothermal parks in Rotorua, you’ll learn lots about Maori culture and you can even see Kiwis birds!
The basic entry at Te Puia includes an optional 1-hour tour of the park, the carving and weaving school and access to the Kiwi nocturnal house. You don’t have to join the tour if you don’t feel like it but we highly recommend you do to get the best of the park and learn the most. The guides also know best how long it takes for Pohutu Geyser to erupt as they can read the signs that lead to the eruption.
Before and after the tour, you can explore the park for as long as you like.
Waimangu Valley is a great geothermal park for families. It’s divided into a walking track and a boat ride (at the end of the track). The walk is mostly pushchair-friendly (there might be some exceptions) and if the kids get tired of walking, you can just hop on and off the shuttle bus that runs on the side of the walking tracks.
The boat ride is fun for young and old. You cruise along the shores of Lake Rotomahana and learn about Mt Tarawera’s eruption and how it sunk the famous Pink and White Terraces. You’ll pass the spots where the terraces used to be. From the boat, watch a small geyser erupt.
Close to the boat jetty, picnic tables invite you and your family to sit, relax and eat a packed lunch. Or if you prefer to sit in a cafe, just jump back on the shuttle bus that brings you back to the entrance.
Rolling down the hill in an inflatable ball is just as much fun as it sounds like! And the guys at ZORB Rotorua should know as they invented this interesting activity.
You hop into the ball, they give you a good push and off you are, swooshing and bouncing down the hill (depending on the track you chose).
Zorbing can be done either in the dry version or the water version. DRYGO is only available in Winter for those who prefer to stay dry. But the most fun you’ll definitely get out of the water rides.
In order to keep you nice and warm, even in winter, the water in the zorb is warm and there are multiple hot pools at the top and bottom of the hills you get to soak in before and after your ride.
Rotorua Canopy Tours
This is one for the families who are not afraid of height. Rotorua Canopy Tours offer two zipline experiences, the Original and the Ultimate Canopy Tour. Both see you soaring through the air on multiple zip lines and walking over wobbly (but safe) swing bridges. Along the way, the knowledgable guides teach you about the flora and fauna of the native forest, both on the platforms on canopy height as well as on ground level.
Polynesian Spa Family Pool
Located right on the lake’s edge, Polynesian Spa is a great place to let go of your everyday stress.
The Family pools are fun for the kids and relaxing for the parents. The area has three hot pools, two of which are thermal water. The main pool is freshwater. There’s a corner for toddlers and bigger kids will love the water slide. A lifeguard is on duty at all times.
If your kids are a little bigger, you all might also enjoy the other two pool areas, Deluxe Lake Spa (kids from 8 years) or Pavilion Pools (from 12 years).
A fun maze and lots of furry, friendly animals… aMAZEme was designed with the kiddies in mind but avid gardeners will love it just as much. Find your way to the centre of the circular shrub maze and then spend some time with the bunnies, visit the butterflies in their home and pick some sweet fruit from their garden. It’s one of the best-priced family activities in Rotorua, too!
3D Trick Art And Heritage Farm
Deceive the eye with this amazing 3D trick art in Rotorua! The gallery is designed to let to star in their 3-dimensional paintings. Just position yourself and soon you’ll be crossing a canyon on a wooden log or fighting with a giant crocodile.
On their Heritage Farm, your family learns how the farmers round up sheep and feed the goats.
Paradise Valley Springs
Another park to come up close and personal with the animals… Ok, maybe not too close with the lions but the other animals are friendly ones. Watch the lions being fed and say hi to Alpacas, pigs, sheep, goats, the cheeky kea and many many more.
Paradise Valley has its own spring where you can drink the water right from the source. The delicious water bubbles up from beneath the surface at 60 litres per second from a cascade into a stream.
Free things to do in Rotorua with kids
A hot water stream that plunges into a hot water pool. And set in the middle of a forest (near the car park), Kerosene Creek is one of the best natural hot springs there are. The creek might be best for families with older kids as some of the water is pretty deep and there is no lifeguard around.
Hands down the best free geothermal park in New Zealand if not the world. Kuirau Park is not only a great alternative if the other parks are too expensive. Next to hissing geothermal water, bubbling mud and a colourful lake, the park also has some warm water foot baths and a fun playground for the kids.
Redwood Forest walk
The Redwoods are not only great to walk in the trees but also under the trees. You’ll find a range of easy walks leaving from the same place as the Treewalk the whole family will enjoy. If you look carefully you’ll even find some light geothermal activity along your walk.
Biking is the Number One activity in Rotorua and also one of the best things to do in Rotorua with kids. If you bring your own bikes along it’s free, it’s fun and active.
There’s a whole free mountain bike park in the Redwoods for the ones who like more action but the bike ride along Rotorua’s waterfront to Sulfur Point and Government Gardens is absolutely lovely.
Your turn now! What are your favourite things to do in Rotorua with kids and why? Let us know in the comments below!