By Karen Shelford

Free Things to Do in Rotorua

Who needs paid attractions? If you're looking for free things to do in Rotorua, get your skates on because there are quite a few, and most of them involve your feet. Walks, parks, & playgrounds, a couple of places to recover with a thermal soak and an event finder. That should keep you occupied for a while.

Government Gardens, RotoruaA display of flowers in the Government Gardens with the Blue Baths behind.


Rotorua has an outdoors culture and with that we have so many walking tracks it would keep you busy to do them all.

You will find many walks in and around the city, others in the forests and others again, out around some of the 17 lakes in the area. It's like—where to begin.

Let's get going with some of my favourites.

Rotorua Lakefront

Rotorua Lakefront Boardwalk & Wai Ariki Spa

Looking for something a bit different on your next getaway? Try Rotorua Lakefront, packed with fun, relaxation, and culture—it’s all here!

If you’re looking for a more laid-back experience, a stroll along the boardwalk or among the native gardens will do that. If culture is of interest, the surroundings are full of it. And if fun is what you're after, you've come to the right place.

Okere Falls

Kaituna River Falls

1hr - even if you don't raft, kayak or sledge the Kaituna you can still have fun watching others come down the falls - and hearing the screams. This walk takes you along the banks of the Kaituna (also known as Okere Falls) river with waterfalls, a cave, parts of our first power station and a trout pool.


Tamatekapua Marae

30min+ to have a good wander - Spiritual is what comes to mind when I think of this place, from the Tama-te-kapua meeting house to St Faith's Anglican Church and also Ohinemutu Māori Handcrafts. Māori culture is alive and somehow, I don't think you will leave without being touched by it.

The Rotorua Redwoods

Redwoods Forest at Rotorua

Six walking tracks with varying degrees of difficulty. Caters to the leisure walker, families with children, and the more experienced hiker. 

As you wander, storybook views appear or you may get a whiff of rich, pungent soil - or sulphur. Then again, a good stiff climb will have you breaking free of the trees and having Rotorua spread out in front of you.. magic.

Tarawera Trail 

Mount Tarawera View

5-6hrs - Walking this 15km trail is something special when you learn about the history of the place and the people first. It sets the scene so to speak.

It's easy to imagine how they must have felt when Mount Tarawera erupted.

Blue And Green Lakes 

View of Blue Lake, Rotorua, New Zealand

1hr + - see the sacred Green Lake (Lake Rotokakai) then take a walk around the popular Blue Lake (Lake Tikitapu) where you can also play, picnic and barbecue.

Puarenga Stream Scenic Walk

Puarenga Stream View

30-40 mins - this is a little known Rotorua walk that winds through ponga trees next to a tinkling stream… definitely a great place to unwind.You won't find it in the guide books because it's not one of the 'official' walks; at least it wasn't at the time of writing. As of 2023, I see it's now been christened the Puarenga Stream Walk.

Mystical Mount Ngongotaha Walks

Mount Ngongotaha Trail Seating View

1-1½ hours plus - Do you believe in fairies (Patu-Paiarehe in Māori)? You very well may after walking the Jubilee Track and/or Nature Walk. The mountain is said to be home to a tribe of fairy people whose thin, reedy voices and flutes can still be heard on days when mist rolls down over the slopes.

Lake Okareka Walkway

Birdwatching Hut At Lake Okareka

1-2hrs - Stroll along the wetlands boardwalk on this easy 5.5km walk. Observe water birds from the birdwatching hide. Take in the spectacular views of bush laden hills and farmland. And once again, like a lot of Rotorua's walks, enjoy the sound of peace and quiet.

Hemo Gorge Trail

View From Hemo Gorge Trail

30m-1hr - Strapped for time, want a quick pick me up, or just out for pleasure? Try this great 3km return walk alongside the Puarenga Stream and located on the city southern fringe. I've thrown in a challenge too for the more experienced walker.

Rainbow Mountain

View of A Crater Lake - Rainbow Mountain, NZ

Dual walk/bike tracks. A 15min one way walk to the crater lakes, with another 3.5km to Te Ranga (Kerosene Creek) or 1.30hr up to the summit, quite a bit quicker coming down. You can't help but feel on top of the world when taking in the incredible 360° views at the summit of this mountain.

Parks & Playgrounds

Kuirau Park

Kuirau Park’s Wisteria Bridge

This should be on your list of fun free things to do in Rotorua, NZ. Kicking back with your feet soaking in a hot foot pool is fabulous after a lot of walking. A flea market, playground, geothermal; what else do you need?

Government Gardens

Grounds of Government Gardens

Who would think that a formal English garden and Māoridom could blend so well together. They do, and it works.

You can wander at your leisure but make sure you set aside enough time to do it all.

The kiddies aren't left out either. The playground on site will keep them busy having lots of fun.

A Thermal Soak

Kerosene Creek

A Waterfall at Kerosene Creek

We've tried to keep it a secret but the word is definitely out there. This hot geothermal pool is gorgeous. A half-hour drive from Rotorua will see you easing your aches and pains in a natural setting. Ah, bliss. What more could you ask for.

Hot 'n' Cold

Hot ’n’ Cold Streams, NZ

Same again but a bit further down the road. Another not so secret, secret, anymore. As the name implies, this local thermal pool area is the result of a hot and a cold stream meeting. Move around to find the temperature that's comfortable for you.

Look Our for Upcoming Free Events - This is a comprehensive New Zealand events calendar website. The link is set to take you to Rotorua's upcoming free events so there may be quite a few or nothing.

This link is set to all events  in Rotorua. Filters include Free, Under $20, $20-$50, $50 and over.

NB: Unlike large cities overseas, many Rotorua events do not show up on Eventfinda until closer to the time, as in 1 or 2mths out, or even closer to the event.

I will add more free things to do in Rotorua as time goes by so check back periodically to see what's happening, unless....

Have you...

Found A Great Freebie Lately?

Scratching my head here! I'm sure there are other great FREE things to see & do in Rotorua.

I would love to hear about them and I'm sure all the visitors to Rotorua would really appreciate it... heck, even us locals would. Just because we live here doesn't mean we know it all.

What Other Visitors Have Said

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

Learn The Secrets Of Jade Carving For Free Not rated yet
On this tour you get to learn about Jade and meet the Jade carvers who make these amazing necklaces and art. From their website, it says: A short journey …

Rotorua Trout Hatchery Not rated yet
A lovely smaller bush walk at the Rotorua trout hatchery with beautiful crystal clear brooks. With the hatcheries in the middle of it all, you can see …

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In the meantime, enjoy.

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