What to do in Rotorua?



Gemma and I spent a day in Rotorua in February, and we liked it so much we came back for a weekend in May, and we thought we would share with you what we did to help you plan your trip better when you come! rv We believe this town, famous for it’s geothermal activity, has much more to offer. However, there’s only one way to prove that, and that is to go and do it for yourself. So we did… So one Saturday in February we came down to “RotoVegas” and started at Whakarewarewa Forest, which is full of huge redwoods, mountain bikers, joggers and trampers. We decided to grab some mountain bikes for a couple of hours and see the forest that way. MTB Rotorua are the go to company for mountain bikes in Rotorua. Gemma strapping her helmet on As novices, we felt a little out of place with 8 year olds zooming past us, but there were also some young families that went at our snail speed. We went on a track called “The Dipper”, which is a beginners course and was plenty heart raising enough for me. We soon realised that I’m pretty bad on a bike. I have always have terrible balance, and that’s my excuse. Gemma was patiently following me around, pretending not to care about my lack of cycling ability. If I can do it, anyone can. Trust me! The sounds and smells of the forest are awe-inspiring, and going slowly along the many miles of tracks is recommended. Sometimes the stillness and silence is deafening, other times the birds are chirping and fellow riders are whizzing by. There are free walking routes available for those that don’t cycle, or just want a different view. We then headed to Kerosene Creek, a hot water spring where you can swim and have picnics etc. It’s a 30 minute drive from Rotorua but worth it. The warm waters are said to have nutrients in that are good for your health. There’s a mini waterfall too. We got changed into our swimming stuff by holding towels up for each other, there are no changing rooms here! We hopped in and found the water is a great temperature, and to my surprise one of my football team mates was in there! Coincidences, eh? If you want to go, it is located here. It costs nothing too, bonus! Blurry one! We then headed back to Rotorua, determined not to spend any money on viewing the bubbling mud pools that are abundant here. We parked up (for free) inside Kuirau Park, which was suprisingly empty considering the time of year and temperature. Most tourists seem to flock into Te Puia, which is an expensive way to see the same pools. The only difference is Te Puia has a geyser that shoots water into the air once a day around 10.30am. You can see if you think that’s worth the entry fee here. We saw some wildlife, and there was plenty around. Our favourite has to be the pukeko, a native bird. If you want to see geothermal activity, but don’t want to pay, Kuirau Park is the place to go. We revisited Rotorua in May, with the weather starting to get wetter and cooler, to see what else it has to offer. We went down on a Friday this time, giving ourselves more time in this geothermal wonderland. We started with Pure Dirt Tours, a dirt bike business set on over 700 acres of farmland with some fantastic views along the way. We had an hour on the bikes, both crashed once, and had a great time. You will see from these GIFs that Gemma’s crash is a high speed-over the handlebars type crash, and I just seem to topple over! Once again my balance is my excuse…


My crash!
My crash!

Once we had cleaned ourselves up we had our evening meal at Ponsonby Avenue, a restaurant/bar on the main strip where Rotorua really does try to become RotoVegas. It was lovely food, but everybody was dressed very smartly and we felt slightly out of place in our traveller’s clothes. Next stop for us was Rotorua Hideaway Lodge, a little set of 10 lodges tucked away just on the edge of Rotorua. Gemma fell in love with this place as soon as we walked through the door, there was a log burner and the room had been pre-heated for us, so it was toasty! We settled into our huge comfy bed for the night, and got some well earned rest.

The next morning we nipped across the road to OGO Rotorua, which is the world’s largest ball rolling site! Having only ever played “bubble football”, I was keen to go inside one of these huge marbles. The owners of OGO started up a similar company called Zorb many moons ago but eventually sold out and started a new company called OGO.

The first run we had was in two separate OGO’s, on a side by side straight track, racing down a steep hill. The OGO was full with warm water so it was much nicer inside than out! The ball picks up some speed and sends you sliding all over the place so we both loved it. I won the race, of course! We jumped into the handy hot tub before heading back up the hill for a second run.

The second run was on a “sidewinder” track, which has a series of corners and turns. We went into this one together. Now I’m not sure how the GoPro footage came out because we were all over the shop in that thing, but we both preferred the sidewinder track. It renders you useless and your body becomes the OGO’s ragdoll, being lashed around all over the place. We couldn’t breathe for laughing! Check the video out at the bottom of the page.

We jumped back in the hot tub for 5 minutes to get warm, then got dry and headed to our next stop. Just down the road from OGO is Agroventures, an adventure park with 5 extreme activities. We opted to do the following 4 activities… First up, we tackled the Shweeb, which is the only commercial schweeb in the world. It’s like an upside down bicycle that you race around a monorail track. It’s pretty good fun, but it canes your thighs if you really go for it! This one was my favourite of the 4 that we did. Next up was the Swoop, like a bungy but you swing instead of bounce. They load you into a sleeping bag so it’s arguably more comfortable than a bungy, but equally breathtaking. This one was Gemma’s favourite!

We then went on Freefall Xtreme, which is a where you practice your skydiving technique on a vertical wind tunnel, and we both came off a few times, but again it’s a great laugh.

Finally we went on the Agrojet, a small but powerful jet boat that is driven around a 1km track on site. The power of the boat is unreal, and the cornering is like nothing I have ever seen. I was more impressed by this “ride” than any other.

We didn’t do the bungy, but they have a 43 metre high bungy available if anyone’s keen! For our full review click here. We then went to the Holiday Inn Rotorua to check in and go for a dip in heated pool. Lovely. They even had a hot tub, and that’s the first time in my life I’ve been in two in one day!

That evening we were booked in to go to Tamaki Maori Village to soak up some culture and enjoy a hangi (traditional cooking method) feast. We were picked up from our hotel by coach, and what an interesting journey that was. The host was informative but seemed to love to crack “Dad” jokes between nuggets of information and audience participation. We arrived and were treated to some good performances by the Maori’s, and we learned a lot. I especially liked the audience participation on a stick catching hand-eye co-ordination game, because I won! The musical performances were catchy and the baton throwing was impressive. The show didn’t go on for as long as we had expected, but we didn’t mind once the food came out. It was delicious and plentiful. You can taste the difference in the potatoes as they were cooked in a hangi, which is an underground oven covered in dirt. Once we had been dropped off at the Holiday Inn we showered and fell straight to sleep after a long and busy day.

We have spent less than 48 hours in Rotorua in total, and yet it is one of our best-loved places in this beautiful country. The weekend we came down in May is one of my all time favourite weekends, and I’ve had some belters. Ultimately, if you come to New Zealand, you HAVE to come to Rotorua, it is so much more than just sulphur smelling geothermal activity! Please feel free to ask if you need any tips/advice/discounts relating to Rotorua. Full reviews of all the businesses we have worked with our now up and can be found here.

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