R is for Rotorua – which is also synonymous with relaxation, rejuvenation, and radical fun (in a good way of course).
Situated in the central North Island and conveniently accessible from most North Island cities, there are many roads that lead to Rotoura – famed as the birthplace of tourism in New Zealand.
It’s a popular destination for families and often makes it to the top of must-return-to lists because of the amazing variety of attractions and activities to do in this beautiful place surrounded by geothermal wonders, pristine lakes and sacred mountains.
Here’s how to do 3 nights and 4 days in family-friendly Rotorua.
Welcome to Rotorua!
You may see and likely smell Rotorua before you arrive with steam vents rising above the ground throughout this geothermal wonderland. Arrival day means kids are excited to get out of the car to start exploring.
Begin at the iconic Government Gardens in the city centre then enjoy a 15 minute stroll to Kuirau Park. Kuirau Park is New Zealand’s only public geothermal park complete with nature trails, beautiful gardens, free thermal foot baths, playgrounds and picnic areas, a crater lake and even hosts the Saturday market with 400-50 stalls with fresh local produce, coffee, food carts, as well as arts and crafts. Don’t be surprised to hear wedding bells ringing because Kuirau Park is also a free wedding venue.
Voted as a Top 10 experience in the world by Trip Advisor, book in an unforgettable evening of Māori culture, traditional song and dance, ceremonial rituals as well as a time-honoured hangi feast (prepared in an underground oven) at the award-winning Tamaki Māori Village.
Depending on when you arrive, Third Place Café on Lake Road is a delicious and family friendly spot to enjoy a tasty meal or a bite. This local hidden gem has plenty of parking, amazing lake views and offers vegan or gluten free options.
Kick start the day with some family friendly adventures at Velocity Valley. Located on Paradise Valley Road, Velocity Valley is an iconic Rotorua adventure park that offers six radical rides for everyone to enjoy including the only place in the world where you can race the Shweeb, the only in place NZ to body fly outdoors with Freefall Xtreme and Agrojet- the world’s first commercial jet sprint course.
Open daily from 9-5pm, you can pick and choose from a variety of family packages that lets you try all our rides at a great price.
After an adrenaline-filled morning, you and your family can relax and rejuvenate at Polynesian Spa with the special Ride and Relax offer from Velocity Valley/Polynesian Spa partnership. From family pools to lake view private pools, you can enjoy a geothermal bathing experience that is historic and world-renowned for its therapeutic properties.
If you’re looking for a fun and lively place to bring the family, you can explore a range of dining experiences along Eat Streat located at the lake end of Tutanekai Street with the bonus of Lady Janes Ice Cream Parlour for everyone who eats their veggies!
For those lucky enough to be in Rotorua on a Thursday night, the Rotorua Night Market is on every Thursday eve from 5 pm – 9pm along Tutanekai Street, between Haupapa and Hinemoa Streets and offers a delicious selection of cuisine that caters to the entire family. Family friendly, food, fun, live music and boutique style shopping galore – this is a great night for locals and visitors alike.
A visit to Rotorua wouldn’t be complete without a day exploring one of the beautiful lakes in the area. Lake Tikitapu, otherwise known as Blue Lake, is famous for its striking colour and picturesque setting. Less than a 15 minutes’ drive from downtown Rotorua, Blue Lake is a popular outing outside the city that you can enjoy all year round. Surrounded by native bush and stunning walking trails, you can spend the day enjoying this scenic reserve complete with BBQ facilities, an awesome playground, boat ramp access, and public toilets.
One of New Zealand’s most iconic attractions and another Rotorua must-do, the Redwoods Treewalk is a true bucket list experience the whole family will enjoy. Suspended above the forest canopy floor between giant redwoods and amidst stunning native bush, just watch and see the magic and wonder light up your little ones eyes.
A local favourite to stop at for brunch or lunch on your way to Blue Lake is Sequoia Eatery on 10 Tarawera Road. Delicious pancakes, burgers, baos, healthy bowls, salads, nachos, snacks, and meals made with fresh local ingredients with gluten free and vegan options available.
Your last day in Rotorua is going to be unforgettable. From sky-high gondolas to fast-paced luge rides, Skyline Rotorua is incredibly fun for the whole family. You’ll be spoiled for choice on how to spend the day with a huge array of activities and attractions including ziplines, nature trails, the Skyswing, Jelly Belly Store, and a selection of food outlets including the award-winning Stratosfare Restaurant and Bar, the Market Kitchen café and Volcanic Hills Winery and Tasting Room to boot!
If your last day in Rotorua happens to be a Sunday, then you’re in luck! Make sure you to pop into the Rotorua Farmers Market at Te Manawa in the heart of downtown Rotorua, along Hinemoa and Tutanekai streets. Browse a range of fresh, local produce, specialty foods as well a selection of handmade arts and crafts. Held every Sunday from 9 am – 1 pm, the farmers market is held in the Rain Day Store on Hinemoa Street with wet weather.
Rotorua is the perfect 3 day holiday destination, check out our other 3 day itineraries on how to spend your time in Rotorua.