Looking for free activities in Rotorua? Get walking!
If you’re looking for free activities in Rotorua, look no further than this selection of walks. Rotorua’s lakes and forests have something for everyone, from a 15 minute stroll in the Redwoods to a full day tramp…. and its all FREE!
Free activities in Rotorua – Get walking:
- Redwoods Visitor Centre
- Blue Lake – Tikitapu
- Jubilee Track & Nature Walk
- Tarawera Trail
1. Redwoods Visitor Centre
Various Walks 2km-34km
When it comes to free activities in Rotorua, no trip to Rotorua is complete without a trip to the Redwoods Forest. A mecca for mountain bikers, horse riders and walkers alike, there’s something for everyone in this giant playground. The visitor centre on Longmile Road is the start and end point for a variety of walks, and also offers visitor information, a souvenir shop, ice creams and a coffee cart.
The circuit tracks are all well marked with colour-coded arrows and take you through the variety of forest that the area has to offer.
- The shorter pram friendly red and blue tracks take you through the towering Canadian Redwood trees, and across a boardwalk over a geothermal pond.
- The green track adds on a climb through Douglas Fir up to the quarry look-out.Going further afield.
- The yellow track provides great views over Rotorua’s geothermal areas of Te Puia and Whakarewarewa.
- The purple track offers spectacular views over the lake across to Mokoia Island and Mount Ngongotaha.
- For a challenging full day tramp, the 34km Black track takes you further off the beaten track and over to two of Rotorua’s lakes; Lake Tikitapu (Blue Lake), and the less-visited Rotokakahi (Green Lake).
The information centre at the Redwoods is a great resource for free activities in Rotorua and the Walking and Tramping Tracks.
2. Blue Lake – Tikitapu
One of Rotorua’s most popular free activities in Rotorua is the loop track walk around the playful Lake Tikitapu (Blue Lake). A favourite local spot over Summer, the lake has BBQ areas and a number of beaches with shallow water, perfect for families with young children.
Home to a number of free activities in Rotorua and sporting events throughout the year, it’s also a favourite training ground for triathletes, open water swimmers, waka ama and kayak paddlers as well as water-skiers and wakeboarders.
The track edges around the lake before climbing to a viewpoint between Tikitapu and Rotokakahi, where you can see the contrasting colours of the lake and understand why they’re nicknamed Blue Lake and Green Lake. You can either continue on the road, or take the steps down to a beach at the far side of the lake and back through a small section of trees to the Blue Lake Top 10 Holiday Park.
3. Jubilee Track & Nature Walk
If you’re interested in eco tours in Rotorua and the Canopy Tours conservation efforts, you’ll also enjoy exploring the walking tracks through native New Zealand forest at Mount Ngongotaha another of the great free activities in Rotorua.
The Jubilee Track is a hidden gem, taking you up to the top of Mount Ngongotaha. The track is accessed through the Violet Bonnington Reserve on Paradise Valley Road, a great stop off on the way to or from the Wingspan Bird of Prey Centre, another favourite eco activity in Rotorua. Rooty and interesting, this one’s definitely a bit of a work-out! Don’t be fooled by the short distance, this track climbs steeply through the gorgeous native bush, taking around 1½ hours to get to the top.
The only downside to this trail is the lack of view from the summit. The track brings you out into the trees on Mountain Road, a further 400m takes you to the very top with nothing to see but a telecommunications tower.
For a shorter option, the Nature Loop starts at the same point and circles the bottom of the Jubilee track. Designed to be family friendly and suitable for school groups, this walk features a giant Rata tree with viewing platform and interpretive signage along the way giving information about the local flora and fauna, as well as the conservation work of the Mount Ngongotaha Bush Restoration Trust.
4. Tarawera Trail
15km one way
For those looking to stretch their legs a little further when looking for free activities in Rotorua, the Tarawera Trail is a great day walk comprising all of Rotorua’s favourite features; history, culture, geothermal activity and of course beautiful forest and lakes.
Start at the trail car park, or you can join the track from the Landing, slighter further along Tarawera Road. The track takes you along the edge of the lake through forest and up to a number of lookouts with stunning views out over the lake and across to the looming Mount Tarawera.
Don’t forget to take your togs (swimming costume) for a hot soak, as the lake-side hot water beach provides a welcome reward at the end. As with any natural hot springs, be careful in this area, particularly with children, as the water in certain areas and some of the streams can be extremely hot.
You can either walk back the same way, or catch a water taxi back with Lake Tarawera Water Taxi and Eco Tours and on the way you’ll learn a little history around the Tarawera eruption in 1886 which devastated the area and the local Māori population. The 20 minute boat ride brings you to the Landing Café, where you can stop for a beverage or some food before heading back to the car.
For a less strenuous way to see the area, the same company offers a selection of eco tours by boat.