By Karen Shelford

Annual Rotorua Events By The Month

Events, Activities, Festivals

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.

NB: Due to ongoing effects of adverse weather in New Zealand some events may have been cancelled or postponed.

View over Rotorua city from the Whakarewarewa trigg.Early Morning Rotorua - Looking towards Mokoia Island

Over time events may have a name change, discontinue or merge with others. I will try to keep the ones below up to date.


Unfamiliar with New Zealand's seasons, high-volume visitor periods and Daylight Savings dates? Check it out.

Summer: Dec Jan Feb
Autumn: Mar Apr May
Winter: Jun Jul Aug
Spring: Sep Oct Nov

High season: Dec to Mar
Shoulder seasons: Mar to May & Sep to Nov
Low season: Jun to Oct

Daylight Saving begins: Last Sunday in September - Clocks advance from 2am-3am

Daylight Savings ends: First Sunday in April - Clocks return from 3am-2am

Annual Rotorua Events


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.

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. Learn more >> Blue Lake Multisport Festival


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! Learn more >> Tarawera Ultramarathon

Lakeside Concert Rotorua: Month can change from year to year. An annual 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. Find out more >> Lakeside Concert Rotorua

Giant 2W Gravity Enduro - A series of 3 one day downhill mountain bike races, spread out over the months of October, December and February, getting harder every day. Competitors have 6hrs to complete six races per day. Best time overall each day wins. Tons of prizes for giveaway's, spot prizes and performance-based prizes. Ride individually or socially. Limited numbers. Giant 2W Gravity Enduro


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. Learn more >> Rotorua Walking Festival

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 for safety reasons.


Rotorua Red Stag Marathon, Red Stag Timber ½ Marathon, ¼ Marathon, or 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. Rotorua Marathon

XTERRA Festival: Without a doubt, the biggest EXTERRA event... worldwide. Nine 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 25.2km mountain bike race. Individuals and teams can take part in short or long course tri events. Short is a 500m swim, 9.1km MTB and 5.5km run. Long course is 1km swim, 25.2km MTB and an 11km run. Good luck with that. Learn more >> Xterra Festival


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. Find out more at Rotorua's Surico Alpaca Farm.

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. Learn more at Targa.


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. The local council usually has a calendar of events.

Active QT 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. Learn more >> Active QT 3D Multisport Festival

Slam Rock - Roller Derby: Pop along to watch the all female Sulphur City Steamrollers 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.


Winter Forest 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. Learn more >> Winter Forest Festival

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. Learn more >> Tough Guy & Gal


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. Learn more >> Kurungaituku Netball Tournament Facebook page.


Tulip Time: Rotorua's Tulip Festival has been cancelled indefinitely but, but, that doesn't stop anyone from visiting to see the 100,00+ tulips planted throughout the city, entirely for your pleasure. You're welcome!

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. Learn more >> Ekiden Relay

Emerson's 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. Learn more >> Whaka100

Giant 2W Gravity Enduro - A series of 3 one day downhill mountain bike races, spread out over the months of October, December and February, getting harder every day. Competitors have 6hrs to complete six races per day. Best time overall each day wins. Tons of prizes for giveaway's, spot prizes and performance-based prizes. Ride individually or socially. Limited numbers and they sell out early. Giant 2W Gravity Enduro

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 October. At my last count there were 32 events. Following is an example of what we have/have had.

Redwoods Coast - Much like a trolley race, the wheels are there but no pedalling as the competitors coast down the Redwoods Nursery Hill. Get the furthest and win.

Runway Project & Flying Kilo - Biking wise, biking on Rotorua Airport's runway goes down a treat with families. You only have to see the tiny-tots taking part to know this. The Project Excalibur NZ Bike Speed Record attempt will be fun to watch as will the elitist Flying Kilo. That's where the top guns come out to race for prize money.

Bow Ties & Bike Shorts MTBers Ball - Live music, auctions, supper and a cash bar make for a fun evening.

Bike the Lake - Bike one lap of Lake Rotorua socially or, if you're a big gun, you can go around again. This event is open to all ages. It's lovely biking on the far side of the lake where it's fast and flat, more especially first thing in the morning when the sun is sparkling on the water and the only noise is from the odd cow or rooster. This is when you want to be cruising because it's so nice to take your time to enjoy.

MTB Rogaine Series 1 (of 3) - Orienteering on a bike challenge. It can be serious or for fun so if you like, turn up on the day. You won't be turned away. Free mapboards for newbies and free sausage sizzle to encourage tall tales afterwards. Orienteering BOP is the organiser of this event.

MTB Beginner's Ride - Easy trails that are flat, what a great way to get a taste of mountain biking. (Must be over 8yrs. Under 12yrs will need a parent.) Your guide will give you a basic skills session then take you on a leisurely ride. Hire bikes are going to be free and if you have a bike, you can get it checked out for free too. How's that? Make sure to register as bikes are limited.

Triple D - Descend Downhill Dash - Fun for the family. Yes, the family, and the dog if you want. All classes of racing included.

Bike Speedway - 4 riders at a time race around the Government Gardens in a circuit. You can be a BMXer, mountain biker or a road biker.

The Big Bike Film Night - A guest speaker and short movies with action, drama, and even romance (the bike kind). There's an afternoon matinee (teen screening) at 3-5pm and the later evening screening for adults. 

16 inch World Dual Slalom Champs - Small wheels they say, big action they say. This all takes place at Dodzy Memorial Skills Park.

Tykes on Trikes - They get to them early here. Under fives can have fun riding their bikes around an obstacle course.

Revolve Rotorua Dipper Dash - Not satisfied with the children, now they've got to drag women in. This is the event where you get to (hopefully) fall in love with mountain biking too. What a dastardly plan. I love it already.

MTB Adventure Quest - A navigation-based adventure suitable for everyone.

The Return of The Sprint Warrior - Set on Skyline's world class stage and accessed via a gondola ride, this popular event is a 1.8km downhill trail. Spectators can watch at the finish line or pay to ride the gondola to access viewing spots.

Cycling Rotorua Hill Climb Fun Challenge - Everyone can take part in this hill climb. And what a hill it is.

Frocks on Bikes - 
Always a popular event involving guys, frocks, and bikes, this leisurely ride is for all ages and abilities. 

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: Moved to February and re-named Tarawera Ultramarathon.


Rotorua District Festival of Gardens (RFoG): 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. Learn more >> RFoG

Rotorua Running Festival: Five running events take place in town and or forest areas. The 50k Ultramarathon, City of Rotorua Half Marathon, Brooks 10k Classic, Novotel 5k fun run/walk, Skyline Kid's 3km Dash.

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? Learn more >> Rotorua Running Festival


Rotorua. Suffer.
½ Ironman: 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.

Other events include the Aquabeer: Swim 2km, cycle 90km or a 21.1km and 10.5km Run Event on the Friday night.
Learn more >> Rotorua. Suffer.

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. Stay up to date >> Rerewhakaaitu Rodeo on Facebook

GLO Festival: This family-friendly festival comprising entertainment and fireworks, is held late afternoon into the evening on New Year's Eve. It's come in a variety of formats over the years so tune in to find out what's happening this year. >> GLO Festival on Facebook

Giant 2W Gravity Enduro - A series of 3 one day downhill mountain bike races, spread out over the months of October, December and February, getting harder every day. Competitors have 6hrs to complete six races per day. Best time overall each day wins. Tons of prizes for giveaway's, spot prizes and performance-based prizes. Ride individually or socially. Limited numbers. Giant 2W Gravity Enduro

 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.

Rotorua events planning: see, do, eat, sleep...

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