Best experience in the South Pacific – Canopy Tours Rotorua Ziplines

Since the beginning we have set out to deliver a world class experience.

We are incredibly proud of the achievements we have received for our outstanding zipline Rotorua visitor experience and conservation efforts.


Rotorua Canopy Tours took nearly 5 years from the spark of inspiration until the first customers came on our Rotorua zipline tour with us. Since then over 200,000 guests have enjoyed the magic of this native New Zealand forest. So here’s the story of how our Rotorua zipline tour all began…


The idea

Since the inception Rotorua Canopy Tours has always aspired to be the best, to be and inspiration with a little mix of magic.

It took almost 5 years for James Fitzgerald’s idea to become a reality and take the first customers zipping through the forest. Since that day the doors opened Canopy Tours has shown a different way to do things, sustainable tourism. Intreaging and a rewarding aventure that takes you deep into ancient untouched new zealed and focused on delivering the best posible customer experience. Its a winning combo… and the awards truely did just keep on coming.

Since year one we have reviewd prestigous awards every year we have been open. Now in our 11th year there has been changes in the busines but one thing has alway stayed the same, and that is the unforgettable experince every tour every time.

but since then it has taken New Zealand and the World by storm. The Rotorua Canopy Tour is an extraordinary adventure that takes you deep into the lush forests of Rotorua, New Zealand.
During the tour, you’ll be guided by experienced and friendly locals who are passionate about conservation. They’ll take you on a series of elevated platforms and swing bridges through the treetops, allowing you to experience the forest from a whole new perspective.
As you zip-line from tree to tree, you’ll have the chance to spot various bird species, including the iconic native New Zealand tui and kererū. The guides will also share fascinating insights about the forest ecosystem and the conservation efforts in place to protect it.
What makes the Rotorua Canopy Tour truly special is its commitment to sustainability and environmental preservation. The company actively works to restore the forest and protect native bird species, creating a positive impact on the local ecosystem.
Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie or simply looking for a unique nature experience, the Rotorua Canopy Tour is sure to leave you with unforgettable memories. So, are you ready to embark on this award-winning adventure?
Why has Rotorua canopy tours won so many awards
The Rotorua Canopy Tours has received numerous awards for several reasons. Firstly, its commitment to environmental conservation and sustainable practices sets it apart. The company actively works to protect and restore the native forest, creating a positive impact on the ecosystem. This dedication to preserving the environment resonates with many people, leading to recognition and awards.
Secondly, the experience itself is exceptional. The tours offer a unique and thrilling adventure, allowing visitors to explore the forest from a different perspective. Zip-lining through the treetops and crossing swing bridges creates an exhilarating experience that appeals to adventure seekers and nature enthusiasts alike.
Additionally, the knowledgeable and passionate guides play a significant role in the success of the tours. They provide interesting insights into the forest ecosystem, wildlife, and conservation efforts, making the experience educational and engaging. Their enthusiasm and friendliness contribute to the overall positive experience that visitors have.
Furthermore, the Rotorua Canopy Tours consistently receives excellent customer reviews, which speaks volumes about the high quality of their service. The combination of customer satisfaction, a commitment to environmental sustainability, and the thrilling adventure itself has earned the tours numerous accolades and awards.
Ultimately, the Rotorua Canopy Tours’ success can be attributed to its unique experience, dedication to conservation, exceptional customer

Photo: Finding the prefect spot for the Rotorua zipline tour was the first step in creating a world class visitor experience.

Years went by before the puzzle pieces started falling into place. James found the perfect native forest for his zipline tour on the outskirts of Rotorua. He also found someone to share his dream, university mate Andrew Blackford, who happened to be an engineer! Andrew had some great ideas and believed he could design and build James’ system for the Rotorua zipline tour. With a few research trips to zipline tours overseas. James and Andrew learnt that with a bit of trial and error they could create something truly incredible.

Photo: Nick and Andrew having a break while building the highest platform on the Original Canopy Tour course in 2012, 22 meters off the ground!

The construction of the course for our Rotorua zipline tour

The real work began on 1 March 2012. James and Andrew left their jobs and walked into the Dansey Road Scenic Reserve to build what would become The Original Canopy Tour.

But on the third day of building the course three cop cars showed up. Locals had begun to get suspicious as the forest had been so uncared for and had zero activity in the past. But James pulled out his concession card from DOC giving him permission to use the forest and instead got yarning to the police officers. It turned out that one of the policemen was the coach of a local hockey team. They were looking for a way to do some fundraising. So, James spent the evening at the police officers house organising a fundraiser for the hockey team. They were to unload wood into the forest the next day.

James and Andrew discovered very quickly that there were a few secret ingredients they needed to build a Rotoura zipline tour. They needed to get the ziplines across the forest, so in came a bit of kiwi ingenuity. They built a spud gun and spent their evenings playing in different parks firing tennis balls and potatoes around the suburbs.

Photo: Testing the spud gun before putting it to work in the forest.

They had a few mishaps, including a flame shooting out 4 metres and a hot potato flying off somewhere. But, the good old kiwi jandal was the thing that did the trick. The humble flip flop folded in half got just the right amount of compression. With that, the spud gun and some fishing wire, that’s how the lines were launched. Then heavy-duty wire pulled into place.

The duo were just starting out and had pretty small budgets, so all the materials for the platforms had to be carried in by hand. James wasn’t great with a hammer so instead got the job of hauling in every single piece of wood into the forest by hand. James isn’t a big guy but lost a massive 15 kilos in process.

The other secret ingredient they needed was lots of help and support from family and friends. It was tough work, but after 6 months, the course was complete and James and Andrew knew they had the infrastructure for an incredible forest experience.

Photo: Alex shows off her skills upside down on a zipline – she was one of the first guides at Rotorua Canopy Tours. 

Finding the right people for their Rotorua zipline tour – staff and customers

The next step was to find some staff. Luck stayed on their side when they found some champions looking for a new path in life. We welcomed Dan and Alex as our first guides for the Rotorua zipline tour! Now bring on the customers…

Customers proved hard to come by in the beginning. Charlotte and John from England were the first ever customers. James found them brewing soup in their campervan at the Rotorua Lakefront. He knocked on their window and didn’t let them go until they agreed to come experience one of our Rotorua zipline tour. He even bribed them with pizza. In fact, that’s how we found our first few customers. Knocking on campervan doors at the lakefront and talking up this crazy adventure that no one had ever heard of! Filling the zipline tours was hard work. While it looked cool, people weren’t prepared to take a risk spending a few hundred dollars on something unknown.

Slowly we gained momentum. Customers were talking about us and the media began to hear of this amazing experience that is working to save the native forest. Papers started running stories and news channels started playing footage. We were getting amazing reviews from our customers and our little team began to grow. We went from 4 to 12 to 25 then 60. It was awesome to see our Rotorua zipline tour taking off!

As we started taking on more staff to run more zipline tours, we quickly outgrew our premises in suburban Rotorua. In 2016 we bought some land and developed purpose built headquarters near the Northern entrance of Rotorua (closer to the forest).

Photo: As our Rotorua zipline tour took off, the team started growing from 4 to 12, to 25 to 60!

Growing Rotorua Canopy Tours

Rotorua Canopy Tours was becoming known as one of the best experiences in New Zealand. In 2016 we received the Supreme Award, Sustainability Award and Visitor Experience Award at the Air New Zealand Tourism Awards. The judges said at the heart of Rotorua Canopy Tours’ success is an exceptional visitor experience that has raised the bar of personalisation, authenticity and fun. In the same year at the Westpac Rotorua Business Awards we also won the awards for Business of the Year, Attractions Business Award and the Attractions Business Award.

The Original Canopy Tour was a huge success and our Rotorua Canopy Tours’ guests were asking for more. So, in 2017 we decided it was time to build the best zipline tour in New Zealand… and the world – the Ultimate Canopy Tour!

The build of this tour was a trickier than the Original Canopy Tour. It is located deeper in the forest and incorporates more features and longer ziplines. But, with a bigger budget, the spud gun was put aside, instead drones and helicopters were brought in. A small group of Rotorua Canopy Tour guides, along with the guidance of our engineer genius, Andrew and guide Scott. The course was built over a 6 month period. Together they produced a longer, faster and even more spectacular Rotorua zipline tour. 

Photo: Our Rotorua zipline tours have been departing from our headquarters at 147 Fairy Springs Road since 2015.

Creating a conservation mission

Conservation has been an important part of Rotorua Canopy Tours since the beginning. When James and Andrew first found the forest it was in poor health. We had a total rat and possum infestation. James wanted to hear the bird song ringing loud through the forest and made a promise to restore the reserve to see the canopy flourish once again. Just like it did before humans arrived in New Zealand.

Together with our customers we have now created a forest eco sanctuary. With a trapping network covering 250 hectares. The forest is becoming louder and is now the place that James had once dreamed of. We have even discovered some rare animals in the forest since our trapping work has begun. Find out how our eco tours restored an entire native forest here.

Photo: The incredible rocky cliff walkway on the Ultimate Canopy Tour.

Where we are today

We continue to delight and inspire our visitors, most recently being named TripAdvisor’s Best Nature Activity in the world! Also a winner of the 100% Pure New Zealand Experience Awards for the second year in a row.

Our team has gone though some trying times. During covid, we lost our international clients, this was over 60% of our business. Our team went from 48 members to 20 and most of our kiwi customers came on weekends, this made it hard to give our team consistant work.

But, we battled through. Kept delivering our exceptional tours and wow-ing our guests. Since opening the boarders to international visitors again our team has swelled to 52. And it feels like we are back on top.

There are still heaps of plans for the future at Rotorua Canopy Tours such as introducing rare native birds back into the forest and opening walking tracks accessable to the public.

We couldn’t be more proud of how far we’ve come with our unique twist on zipline adventures – so watch this space there are always exciting things happening here at Canopy Tours!

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