Heading to Rotorua for next week's school holidays? Sarah Downs counts down 10 fun family friendly activities — and five just for the grown ups — worth a look while you're there.

1. Geothermal wonders

Think of Rotorua and it's hard not to picture the geothermal wonders dotting the area — and the immersive smell of sulphite. Spouting geysers, bubbling mud and volcanic crater lakes, the place is cooking. Explore the hot stuff by checking out the Pohutu geyser, the largest active geyser in the southern hemisphere. Pohutu translates as 'constant splashing' erupting once or twice every hour, meaning it's a guaranteed show for the kids.

2. Tree Walk


Rotorua's forests are a destination within themselves. The famous Whakarewarewa or Redwoods Forest is home to 5600 hectares of native bush and a magnificent stand of California Coastal Redwoods. For a unique, birds eye view of these ancient giants take the family for a peaceful stroll on this suspended walk. The short trek is made of 23 suspension bridges up to 12 metres high. Although you're above ground it's a low adrenalin-activity suitable for all ages, no harnesses required.

3. Zipline Canopy

For a more express route of Rotorua's forests, zip your way through its treetop canopies. This three-hour wilderness adventure travels along a 1.2km network of zip lines up to 22 metres high. Along the way there's swing bridges, walking trails and treetop platforms for a quick pit stop to learn the history of the forest. If your troops are after a bit of outdoor adrenaline the sky is the place to be. (Minimum age is six years old)

See the forest from a different angle at Rotorua Canopy Tours. Photo / Andy Belcher
See the forest from a different angle at Rotorua Canopy Tours. Photo / Andy Belcher

4. Gondola and Luge

For views of Rotorua, take the eight seat gondola up 900 metres to see the best outlook of the lake, city and steaming geothermal vista. When there's up, there's down and the best return route is riding the luge track. Zip off with the family in the gravity fuelled carts that have full rider control over speed and direction. There's three different track options and it's good for any age. Small children can even hop in the backseat.

5. 3D Art Gallery

For an art excursion that won't bore, enter the third dimension at Rotorua's 3D Trick Art gallery. A first of its kind in New Zealand, the gallery has 50 paintings created by some of the world's best 3D painters. The works first appear one dimensional, but once the right angle is found the optical illusions come to life and look even better in photos. It's good indoor fun and lets creativity run wild.

3D Art Gallery, Rotorua.
3D Art Gallery, Rotorua.

6. aMAZEme


Rotorua is home to some wacky attractions but this outdoor maze makes a good time of old fashioned fun — lose yourself (or the kids) in the 1.4km trail of winding pruned hedges. The maze only takes around 20 minutes to complete and is challenging without being impossible. On-site there's also a monarch butterfly house to explore, an aviary, animal petting and giant board games including connect 4 and snakes and ladders to make the entertainment last even longer.

aMAZEme Rotorua.
aMAZEme Rotorua.

7. Mountain Biking

With its expansive forests it's no surprise Rotorua, a.k.a the city of trails, is home to world class mountain biking tracks. The Redwoods' 130 km of tracks caters to all levels or interest, whether you're a family of speed demons or just beginners. You can hire bikes for two hours, a half or full day, or multiple adventures. If the kids aren't quite ready for their own wheels, Happy Ewe Cycle Tours have child seats and tandem trailers.

Mountain Biking Rotorua. Photo / Chester Boyes
Mountain Biking Rotorua. Photo / Chester Boyes

8. Hot Springs

Rotorua is home to a number of free natural hot springs perfect for bathing in its geothermal healing waters. Kerosene Creek is a local favourite with its two metre waterfall, or Hot Water Beach on Lake Tarawera is also a great spot to rest weary muscles after a long day of family-focused activities.

9. Paradise Valley Wildlife Park

For some holiday stories to share back at school, head to Paradise Valley and let the kids help feed roaring lions. The wildlife park is home to New Zealand trout, birds, farm animals and a pride of African lions. Set amongst native bush, the park is a nice place to spend the day walking the grounds, patting and hand feeding friendly goats, donkeys and sheep, and catching the daily lion feeding.

10. Agrodome

If your family's ever wanted a field trip to the farm, Rotorua's Agrodome is the whole kit and caboodle. This famous attraction is 10km north of the city and is the place to go for all things rural. Watch the award winning sheep show, cow milking and dog demonstrations. There's also farm and orchard and a nursery to end your visit with cuddles and photos with baby animals.

Rotorua for adults — book the babysitter

1. Polynesian Spa

The best way to relax and unwind in Rotorua is by spending a leisurely few hours at one of its hot springs. Polynesian Spa pools are lakefront and more importantly have adults only areas, spa treatments and a reflexology walk.

2. Volcanic Hills Winery

When the only way to reach a destination is by gondola you can rest assured it's pretty special. Volcanic Hills is Rotorua's only winery and has wines from Marlborough, central Otago and Hawke's Bay to enjoy overlooking views of the lake and the city.

3. Brew Bar

Craft beer lovers rejoice — you can most certainly get your fix in Rotorua. Head to Brew bar for a variety of different craft brews and Rotorua's homegrown Croucher beer on tap. This is a lively spot to go if you enjoy something hoppy.

4. Ponsonby Road

A little bit of Ponsonby Road in Rotorua — get dressed up and enjoy cocktails with live jazz music in this fun little bar on Eat Streat, owned by Tamati Coffey and his partner Tim.

5. Quad Bike Tours

Throw caution to the wind and embark on a guided quad bike tour through 100 year old forestry trails on Mount Ngongotaha on tracks that suit all abilities. For the truly brave take the mud tour for a full on off road experience.

Canopy Tour, Rotorua.
Canopy Tour, Rotorua.