What to do for free in Rotorua
You don't have to spend a lot of money to feel the spirit of Rotorua.
Below are a selection of places that you can visit for FREE.
Ranolf Street, Rotorua
The northern end of Rotorua (opposite our B&B) has a public park that is
definitely alive and well.
Walking tracks lead to numerous areas of vigorous geothermal activity including mud pools
and steaming pools of water. Provided you stay on the cool side of the safety fences,
visitors are generally quite safe.
The park has a couple of foot bathing sheds where you can soak your feet in hot thermal
water as well as many landscaped areas to sit or to take a picnic.
Download and print our handy map of Kuirau Park.
(There is currently no commercial map available)
6 Tarawera Road, Rotorua
Start by following the road to Lake Tarawera (past the Burried Village) and get a coffee, ice cream or meal at
The Landing Cafe. There is a short bush walk that leads to a small secluded beach - a perfect place to sit
and look jealously at people who own motorboats. Then on the way back stop at the
point between the Green Lake (Lake Okareka) and the Blue Lake (Lake Tikitapu) where there is a popular walking track.
You can walk all the way around the Blue Lake on this track, or you can just stroll for 1/2 hour and wander back.
At the picturesque Blue Lake you can chill out on the beach opposite the holiday park, go for a
refreshing swim in summertime, or watch the various events that occur on the lake throughout the year.
Hemo Gorge Trail
Hemo Road, Rotorua (beginning from the Te Puia car park)
If you feel like a short gentle walk (and have your own car) drive to the southern most
car park at Te Puia, Hemo Road, and start the 1.5km walk that begins through the carved
gateway that is entrance to the Whakarewarewa Valley. This walk is just a small part of
the 66km Te Ara Ahi Cycle Trail.
This pretty walk follows alongside the Puarenga Stream which meanders around lichen-covered
rocks, tumbling over small rapids and through native tree fern forests. The walk is an easy
one with just a few minor inclines here and there but is also shared with mountain bikers
who also use the trail. There are several seats along the way over-looking the stream if
you did feel like taking a rest.
At the end of the walkway you'll pass under another Maori carved gateway which will lead
you to the Mountain Bike Rotorua headquarters (about another 200 meters) where you can
stop for a hot coffee or a bite to eat at their outdoor café. Then simply return the way
Huranga Street, Ohinemutu, Rotorua
View an intricately carved Maori meeting house and enter a 1901 Tudor-style church
set amidst steaming geothermal vents at the edge of Lake Rotorua.
In pre-European times, Ohinemutu was the main centre for the Lake Rotorua region -
visitors and food arrived at this bustling settlement before going on to the surrounding
villages. Standing on the forecourt of the marae, as steam rises through the pavers
from the earth below, you can feel the spirit of this significant place. The carving
on the large meeting house is exquisite and highlighted by hundreds of inlaid shiny
Towards the lake's edge is the magnificently decorated Saint Faiths church. Inside
the church, Maori carvings and woven panels add a unique dimension to the European
A memorable feature is a large window etched with the image of Jesus clad in a Maori
cloak - he appears to walk towards you across the surface of the lake. At Ohinemutu
you can see how the Maori and European cultures have collaborated. Free entry.
Longmile Road, 40km south of Rotorua
Best known by locals and now backpackers, this is a point where a hot stream and a
cold stream meet, so you can jump between the two. There are mixed reviews now
that it’s better known, but it is still a great free experience of Rotorua’s thermal
Since these hot pools are 'natural' they don't have temperature controls! Beware
of straying from the 'used area'. There are bathing areas on both sides of the bridge.
About 20 minutes south of Rotorua on SH5 on the left just before the Wai-O-Tapu turnoff,
you will see the small road sign marked 'Kerosene Creek'. Follow the unsealed road
until you reach the end where there is a large parking area.
Follow your ears toward the sound of the flowing stream.
The waters that flow down Kerosene Creek come from a hot water spring and vary in
temperature from warm to hot. There are two waterfalls, one small creates a
natural bubbling spa pool effect, the other is 30 metres downstream and falls
approximately 2 metres with a
larger swimming area below. (pictured)
Once a local secret for skinny dipping, this spot has now become a popular destination
for people wishing to bathe in the warm thermal water and take in the natural
surroundings for free. Skinny dipping is sometimes possible in the first small
waterfall if there are no textile bathers in there before you or in another
bathing spot about 20 meters past the large waterfall. Most textile bathers
head to the large waterfall. Generally most people are accepting of nude bathers,
especially in this natural and un-commercialised area. It is not advised to go
after dark, as there has been some car break-ins reported there in the past.
Fenton Street, Rotorua
Explore historic gardens that surround a Tudor-style spa bath house and an
ornate Mediterranean-style public swimming pool. Peer through the steam into
ancient bubbling geothermal pools.
The Government Gardens are situated on the lake's edge in downtown Rotorua.
This site is of legendary and historical importance to local Māori people,
for here many significant battles have taken place.
In the late 1800s, the Māori people gifted 50 acres of this land to the crown.
The land was a scrub-covered geothermal area with several therapeutic pools.
The scrub was cleared and formal gardens planted. Several large trees remain
from those early days, including multi-trunked Japanese firs and an unusual
Californian weeping redwood.
Realising the opportunity to create a South Pacific spa attraction, in 1908
the New Zealand government opened a large and elaborate bath house, built in
the Elizabethan Tudor style of architecture. Today this magnificent building
houses a museum and an award-winning exhibition on the days when people came
from all over the world to 'take the waters'.
Rotorua night market
Tutanekai Street, Rotorua
This high profile, main street location with new permanent lighting and sound will come
alive every Thursday night, providing a community focal point for the many thousands of
Rotorua’s visitors and local families alike.
Permanent LED street lighting matched perfectly with the crisp white peaked canopies of
the stalls will provide a lively market environment with the many market stalls showcasing
their wares giving shoppers the opportunity to interact with producers, chefs, artisans,
artists and designers from in and around our region including existing Tutanekai Street
retailers who will complement the marketplace.
Taste authentic artisan products, savour a selection of wine, boutique beers, handcrafted cheese,
honeys, preserves, oils, chutney and jams. Sample the food from various ethnic eateries with flavours
from around the world; French patisseries, handmade Italian
pasta, Indian and of course our local kai.
Kuirau Park weekend market
Kuirau Park, Rotorua
Every Saturday morning no matter what the weather, the Kuirau Park weekend market is held.
It is fast becoming one of the attractions in Rotorua with both locals and visitors
heading there for breakfast.
There is freshly made food such as rewena bread (Māori bread) along with other
Māori foods. You will have to try these. There is food from other cultures as well,
such as Indian and Asian.
Jewellery, second-hand items, clothing and fresh fruit and vegetables are
Longmile Road, Rotorua
If you love the outdoors this area is for you!
Escape into the beautiful Whakarewarewa Forest, one of Rotorua's most spectacular
natural assets. Famous for its magnificent stands of towering Californian Coastal
Redwoods, it is just five minutes drive from the city centre. Here you can experience
some of the finest walking and mountain bike trails in the world, not to mention
taking in superb panoramic views of Rotorua city, lake and surrounding district.
If mountain biking is your thing the Whakarewarewa Forest has one of the oldest
mountain bike networks in the country. These master-crafted trails are an unbeatable
blend of riding surfaces, topography and scenery. With around 90km of continually
evolving trails, there is something to cater for all levels of rider, from beginners
and family groups through to experts looking for extreme action.
Entry to the forest, tracks, gift shop and visitor centre is FREE.
Ngongotaha Trout Hatchery
1130 Paradise Valley Road, Ngongotaha, Rotorua
This trout hatchery is the New Zealand Fish & Game Eastern Regional Headquarters. Each year
around 100,000 trout are hatched here, and once big enough are released into the lakes
providing new stock for trout fishing in New Zealand.
It is free to visit and wander through the native bush walk, enter the hatchery building
where you'll see thousands of baby trout and feed the larger trout that are reared
in various holding pools throughout the park. Bags of fish food are available for
The hatchery is close to Wingspan and Paradise Valley Springs so is a great addition
if you plan to visit those attractions in the same area.
Wai-O-Tapu Mud Pool
Wai-O-Tapu Loop Road, SH5, 27kms South of Rotorua
If you want to see an awesome mud pool which is free to visit during your stay
in Rotorua then head to Wai-O-Tapu Loop Road (opposite the Wai-O-Tapu Tavern, 25
minutes south of Rotorua, or about half way between Rotorua and Taupo) and take
the first left at the sign that simply says 'Mud Pool'.
This mud pool is one of the best examples in the area without having to pay a ticket
price to see it. It is fiercely boiling and constantly puts on an exciting show of
bubbling, plopping and exploding mud, sometimes over a meter in height. If you are
wanting to visit the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland (see the 'Geothermal' tab) then
don't forget to visit this mud pool on your way there or when you come out. Its
well worth a look.
Okere Falls Track
Trout Pool Road off SH33, Rotorua
Okere Falls is located 21 kms from Rotorua on the Rotorua to Tauranga highway.
A 30 minute (1.2 km) scenic bushwalk on a well-formed track takes you through
lovely New Zealand native bush until you reach the scenic lookouts over Okere
River and its spectacular waterfalls. From the main lookout platform by Hinemoa's
Steps you can watch rafters and kayakers sweep over the highest commercially rafted
waterfall in the world.
There are numerous information panels along the track,
interpreting the human and natural landscape. A wide grassy area beside the main
carpark provides a good site for a picnic, public toilets are provided here as well.
The trout pool is a popular fishing spot, and trout are often seen swimming gently
against the current.