Alexia Santamaria picks four great family-friendly entertainments in Rotorua for the school holidays.
Rotorua is a fabulous place for a holiday. With 18 lakes, three rivers, 800ha of parks, gardens and reserves and seven geothermal fields there's natural beauty in every corner. It's also one of the best destinations in the country to take kids as there is so much to keep them entertained — from meandering mini golf to adrenaline-fuelled rafting and skyswings, depending on age — and bravery levels. Here are four Rotorua activities worth investigating if you're heading to the Central North Island with your darlings this school holidays.
Eat where the locals eat
If you happen to be in Rotorua on a Thursday you're in luck as the night markets are the perfect place for families with "varying tastes" in food. Everyone can get a bit of what they want from empanadas to pork belly to dumplings to skewers to mussel fritters to crepes (and everything in between) as the market takes over Tutanekai St from 5pm every week. There are also artisan foods like honey, preserves, oils, handmade cheeses, boutique beer, chocolates and pastries for the cupboards at home. It's a really local experience and the live music and sounds of families and groups of friends catching up makes you feel you're "part of the village".
3D Trick Art Gallery
If the heavens open up, holidays can be a bit of challenge — a hotel room can seem pretty small when you're all trapped inside.The 3D Trick Art Gallery will be a lifesaver for you and your tribe if the weather goes south. Selfie-obsessed children — let's face it, that's most of them — will love striking a pose with painted dinosaurs, giraffes and dolphins or looking like they're in a hot-air balloon, hanging off a building or even inside a snow globe. There are five themed sections: Classic Art, Kiwi Life, Physical Challenge, Fantasy and Grand Nature, and all the works in the gallery were created by 10 professional international 3D artists. It's cleverly done and if you pose well and work on your expressions, the resulting pics are hilarious.
Walk in the trees — no really, up in the trees
With its unique amber hues and straight trunk shapes that seem to go up forever, the 5600ha Redwoods and Whakarewrewa Forest has always been one of the most magnificent places for a peaceful stroll, or an active mountain bike ride, if that's more your thing. It's even better getting an elevated perspective from the 600m eco-tourism walk made up of 23 suspension bridges at varying heights from 6m to 20m off the ground. Better still, do it at night by the soft glow of David Trubridge's 30 beautiful lanterns suspended in the trees — beyond magical. Don't worry about any damage to these 117-year-old Californian Coast Redwoods. The walkway has been carefully, and very cleverly, constructed to avoid any deterioration of the trees or natural environment.
Hurtle down the hill in a spheric moving waterslide
Overseas guests must really wonder about the things Kiwis invent in the pursuit of entertainment. You can't help but giggle as you watch 3.4m inflatable OGO balls roll and bounce down Mt Ngongotaha on the world's longest zig-zag Sidewinder track with up to three people inside (either in a dry environment or with warm water added for a rolling hydroslide effect). As adults we love to keep things relatively under control, but this is a great way to totally surrender, as chaos of the best kind reigns inside your OGO ball on your downhill ride. Jump in with your kids or race them in separate balls — there are even hot tubs at the top and bottom of the hill to relax in while you're waiting for your next ride.
The Sudima Lake Rotorua is fantastically located right on Lake Rotorua and right next to the Polynesian Spa. It's five minutes walk from the centre of town and the family rooms are well laid out to preserve the sanity of all.