Get your pulse racing with an active holiday in Rotorua — a destination designed for adventure-seekers who put their fitness first and lounging last.
Located less than three hours’ drive south of Auckland, this Māori cultural capital is a hub for far more than just geothermal activity. Its picturesque setting is not just for show: the hills are to be hiked, the rivers rafted, and the forests biked.
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Take the plunge
Rotorua Lakes District promises non-stop aqua adventures: feel G-force on a jet boat, kayak at sunset or get up close with glow worms on a stand-up paddleboard.
Unmissable for serious adrenaline junkies, a Kaituna River white-water adventure offers the chance to plummet over the world’s highest commercially rafted waterfall. This action-packed experience tackles 14 epic rapids through an unpredictable canyon of twists and turns — including the monstrous Tutea Falls. Hold your breath and clench your core as you plunge a near-vertical seven metres into the untamed cascades of the river below. You’ll finish with a serious sense of achievement (and a full-body workout).
Pump your legs
Lace up your hiking boots and prep your glutes ready to tackle the 15-kilometre Tarawera Trail. Fast emerging as one of New Zealand’s most breathtaking day walks, this challenging route weaves through towering ferns and spring-fed streams along two of Rotorua’s 18 lakes. Ramble through native forest in the brooding shadow of Mt Tarawera and pass the ruins of a Māori village, a victim of the mountain’s 1886 eruption. Along the way, bathe weary feet at isolated beaches with cooling clear waters and catch your breath at the scattering of lookouts, each framing new perspectives across plunging valleys and shimmering lakes. Concluding at Te Rātā Bay, reward your efforts with a dip in its natural hot water beach — don’t forget your togs!
Pick up the pace with a four-wheel drive up Mt Tarawera and run into the volcano crater or chase waterfalls on myriad nature loops; Rotorua has plenty of jaw-dropping hikes to keep your legs moving and your mind blown.
Ready to book your Rotorua escape? See our handpicked escapes here.
Reach for the sky
Leave your comfort zone (and solid ground) behind and fly through prehistoric forest on a once-in-a-lifetime ziplining experience with Rotorua Canopy Tours. High above 220 hectares of native New Zealand wilderness, you’ll soar along an impressive 2.5 kilometres of exhilarating zip lines, floating stairs and towering walkways. Run, jump or step off the platforms as you appreciate nature’s ancient beauty from a bird's eye view. The good feeling is more than just something physical — your entry fee will contribute to forest conservation.
The bucket-list adventures continue; head to Velocity Valley and experience 141 metres of sweet free fall with Rotorua Bungy or take a scenic flight across the crater lakes for unbeatable views.
Feel the speed
Home to the world-famous Crankworx festival, Rotorua is a mecca for mountain-bike enthusiasts and many of New Zealand’s top trails are found in Rotorua’s Whakarewarewa Forest (The Redwoods). Take to two wheels and pump up your calves as you zoom past glistening lakes and geothermal springs, churning up volcanic soil as you master crafted routes across 180 kilometres of premier riding terrain. With courses ranging from beginner to extreme, you’ll find the ideal track for you.
There are plenty of other thrills to chase: swap your bike for a ZORB and tumble down a hill in a giant ball or helter-skelter the mountainside on a luge.
After thrilling days, relieve your aching muscles with a stimulating soak in Rotorua’s famous thermal springs. Head to Hell’s Gate (Tikitere) to sink into pools of bubbling geothermal water or indulge with a therapeutic mud bath. For a touch of luxury, Polynesian Spa offers lakeside hot pools where you can enjoy the health benefits of both acidic and alkaline natural mineral springs. Be sure to book in a visit to Māori village for a traditional Hāngi (earth oven banquet) to refuel for tomorrow’s adventures.
Ready to relax? Check out these Laidback Activities in Queenstown
Hero image by Graeme Murray, courtesy of RotoruaNZ.