Annual Rotorua events, activities and festivals can be somewhat confusing for first-time visitors, and for the regulars wanting to find out what's on when and what each event involves. This by the month list, along with a brief description, will help in your planning as will the links provided to monthly calendars.
A compilation of happenings likely to be of interest to visitors (and locals) put together for each month. Together with the annual Rotorua events, you should be set. NB: It's a general guide only, sometimes organisers change the month.
Blue Lake Rowing Regatta: The second biggest rowing regatta held in the North Island makes this a popular event for novices and masters alike. It often coincides with Wellington Anniversary weekend.
Ecomist Blue Lake Multisport Festival: Five events are held over two days, often on Auckland Anniversary weekend (the Monday in Rotorua is a public holiday). Main events are: 1) an Aquathon with a 5.5k run followed by an 800m Open Water Swim, 2) a 2k swim across the lake, and 3) a Sprint Triathlon. Out of this a King & Queen is crowned. Kids can join in with their own Triathlon and adults can enjoy a social 750m swim and Forest Fun Run/Walk.
Tarawera Ultramarathon: 20/50/102/160km races. Only New Zealand's most prestigious ultra marathon. Just sayin'. Just think, you'll be running through forests, around lakes, there's waterfalls and hot pools, and scenery, incredible scenery. What an experience!
Lakeside Concert Rotorua: A free outdoor concert held at the Village Green. Each year (it started in 1997) we see a line up of stellar performers. Past acts include Dame Malvina Major, Kiri Te Kanawa, Tim Beveridge, Jason Kerrison, Tina Cross, and so many more.
Rotorua ½ Marathon, ¼ Marathon, 5km and Kids Race: Fun for all the family, this course is located at Whakarewarewa Forest. Scenic trails, forestry roads, ah, it's wonderful out there. Getting slightly crowded nowadays though.
Rotorua Walking Festival: Be prepared to walk your feet off with this two day festival. Forest walks of 10, 21 and 42Km take place on Saturday. Same again on Sunday except it's around town. The 10km is classed as a Fun Walk.
Classic Hits Easter Beach Dig: Could be March or April depending on when Easter falls. For kiddies 12 and under, join the Classic Hits 97.5 team for a beach dig to find a numbered stick that is buried in the sand. Every child is guaranteed a prize and there's a whole lot of Easter Eggs, hot cross buns and drinks for giveaways. Spot prizes and major prizes are up for grabs as well.
Rotorua to Taupo 100k Flyer & Vice-versa:
The Flyer event has moved to Karapiro (Flyer) for safety reasons.
Full, ½ or ¼ Marathon, 5.5km Run/Walk: Thousands head to Rotorua in April or May for the Rotorua Marathon. It's one 42km lap around the lake that starts and ends at Government Gardens. A very scenic route if you're in a fit state to be enjoying the view. And, as you can see, shorter distance races take place also, this lets the whole family join in.
XTERRA Festival: Without a doubt, the biggest EXTERRA event... worldwide. Eight events take place at Blue Lake (Tikitapu) and surrounding Whakarewarewa Forest. Social or competitive, you can choose between a 5.5, 11 or 21km run/walk, or a 26km mountain bike race. Individuals and teams can take part in short or long course tri events. Short is a 500m swim, 12km MTB and 5.5km run. Long course is 1,000m swim, 26km MTB and an 11km run. Good luck with that.
Nduro Super D: Shuttle up and race your bike downhill. Enjoy the 6-7km downhill and cross country route through the forest. Categories of riders begin with Little D at 8-14yrs on through to the Classics at 55+ yrs. There's also a Hard Tail (no rear suspension) race with no age grouping event.
National Alpaca Farm Days - Normally held the first Sunday in May, alpaca farms throughout New Zealand open their doors to the public. For free. Meet and hand feed alpaca, learn about the industry by speaking to the owners and check out the alpaca products on display.
Targa Rotorua - May or June: New Zealand's largest competitive rally series visits Rotorua. The cars range in age from classics to modern day super cars. The general public get to see the cars up close at some point while they're in town. Have a bite to eat and chat to the competitors before this event whizzes on by.
Matariki: The Māori New Year has come to the fore in recent times with Matariki, our name for a cluster of stars more commonly known as the Pleiades taking center stage. The Matariki cluster rises late May, early June and and that's when the New Year celebrations begin. Spread out over more than a month, kite making, star gazing, community walks and more take place. As it begins to take hold, this may very well turn into something else. Something bigger.
3D Multisport Festival: Oh you're in for a treat with these events. What's your pleasure? Mountain biking, off road running, kayaking, or one of the many paddling disciplines? From 50km at the most, right down to 2km, there's something for absolutely everyone. And a heap of prizes too. It's timed for Queen's Birthday long weekend.
Slam Rock - Roller Derby: Pop along to watch the all female Motley Crew in action. Roller skating has come a long way that's for sure. Actually, this is the world's fastest growing sport for women. Unreal huh? Spectators might like to get glammed up because there are prizes. Look for other opportunities to win too.
Glowlights Winter MTB Series - July/August/September: Based at Waipa mountain bike car park, this series includes a short course (12-20km) for those new to MTB or just wanting a challenge, medium (25-35km) with harder trails, and long (35-50km) with up-hills. Also a kiddies U8yrs course of about 1km.
We Run the Forest - Winter Running Festival: It's fun and super cool to run/walk 5.5km/11km in the Redwoods with a bunch of friends of family. Or, if that's too easy you can always run the 21km trails.
Tough Guy & Gal: I don't know why this race takes place mid-winter. Brrrrr! If you're over 13yrs you can enter. Races are 12 or 6km. Run, walk and wade through swamp crossings, climb a spiders web net, crawl under barbed wire, and slap some mud on while you're at it. Good for the skin I hear. Don't know how well clothing handles it. There's also a Junior and a secondary school version of this event.
Kurungaituku Netball Tournament: Held over three weekends, this Netball tournament is huge. First up are the CDEF Grades, then ABCD and masters Grades. Schools feature on the final weekend. It definitely makes for a great girls weekend.
Tulip Festival: Rotorua's up to 100,00+ tulips planted throughout the city centre, entirely for your pleasure. A large range of tulip themed activities take place over the span of 9 days that take in 2 weekends.
Okere Falls Store Beerfest: Happy hours, beer tastings, live music, locals night, a Schweinshaxe dinner, platters, an all day Weisswurst brekky and lots more. Does that sound Beerfestive enough? Buses are laid on as the store is about 20min out of the city and cost about $10 return. The Friday and Saturday events also cost to get in. Around $20 and $30.
Ekiden Relay: Teams of 3-6 people make their way around the beautiful shores of Lake Rotorua in this fun event. Six segments are broken into distances of 5-8km. Get a group together, make it a family event, a work challenge. Look forward to making friends with 2,000 odd people.
Nduro Whaka100: Race or ride 100km of the best mountain bike trails. Too much? Try the Whaka50, Whaka25 or Whaka10 events then. Trails are lovingly hand crafted by mountain bikers, then there's the ones untouched by man, apart from his wheels that is, unless he takes a header and leaves it traumatised. The trail, that is.
Rotorua Bike Festival: 10 days of biking events. Phew. Insane. Improvements see changes with events being dropped and new events being added each year. Normally held in February, as of 2018 it has now moved to October. At my last count there were 32 events. Following is an example of what we have/have had.
More information about the Bike Festival together with links to organisers can be found at Rotorua Bike Festival.
Now let's continue with other events that may be of interest. (By the time you reach the end you'll swear we do nothing else except play outdoors.)
Tarawera Trail Marathon & 50km Events Cancelled for 2018: Moving to February and re-named as the Tarawera Ultramarathon. Only New Zealand's most prestigious ultra marathon. Just sayin'. Are you up for running the Rotorua to Kawerau 100km? No? Okay, how about the 85 or 60km races as alternatives? Just think, you'll be running through forests, around lakes, there's waterfalls and hot pools, and scenery, incredible scenery. What an experience!
Rotorua District Festival of Gardens: Spanning three days every 2yrs (odd-numbered) and timed to catch the Rhododendrons, Roses etc. flowering, this festival attracts gardening fans from all over. The forty-five plus gardens may be small or veritable estates, professionally designed or brought to life with love. Some even have items to sell like plants, artworks and food (cash only). The gardens are spread out widely and how it works is, you buy a pass and receive detailed listings
and location maps. It's a self-guided ramble so you can visit any garden in any order over the three days.
Podium Rotorua Running Festival: Five running events take over the lakefront end of town. The City of Rotorua Half Marathon, Brooks 10k Classic, Novotel Community 4k, 2k Kid's Dash, and the BOLT Relay.
Open to everyone from 3yrs and up, these flat, fast courses are suitable for novices on through to the elite. It's a weekend of fun, medals by the ton, food and entertainment. What are you waiting for?
Tikitapu Off-Road Adventure Runs - Cancelled for 2018: Something for everyone can be found with these Rotorua events. 18km or 21km takes you offroad into the heart of our forest, or for less adventurous people, a 5.5km and 11km run or walk around the Blue Lake.
Rotorua ½ Ironman: A 2km swim, 90km bike, 21km run. Based at Blue Lake, this is a bugger of an event with the flattest part being the swim. True. And the only good thing about the run is that it's off road. It's tough, really tough. This event is a good lead in to the Taupo Ironman, a much flatter course. Pussies. If the distance is too much presently, being part of a team would be a good option or the Quarter Ironman might be more achievable.
Rerewhakaaitu Rodeo: Competitors from all round the country, ranging in age from 5 to 70yrs, follow the rodeo circuit building up enough points to take part in the National finals. The spectators get into it as much as the contestants, and the animals trying to unseat them.
GLO Festival: 3 days, 3 locations, 3 events culminating in a 'GLO Party in the Park' on Day 3, New Years Eve. Day 1 is the result of an online busking competition with the top 10 vying for a win at Government Gardens. Day 2 is a family picnic and movie screening at Blue Lake. Lots of fun for all.
If you're local and know of any annual Rotorua events I may have missed, get in touch and I'll add it.
Visiting? Unless you visit Rotorua regularly, you're going to be wanting to find out a whole lot more yet. Use the following quicklinks to do this.