If you’re looking for a guide on the best things to do in Rotorua with kids, then you’ve come to the right place.
Rotorua is a unique destination with its geothermal landscapes, stunning lakes, Maori heritage and beautiful forests. There is so much to do in Rotorua it can be hard to choose the best activities for you and your family. I have been there several times with my family and each time we have experienced something new.
Rotorua is a great destination at any time of the year. We have been in winter a couple of times and there is nothing better than getting into one of Rotorua’s fabulous hot pools on a cool day. Many of the family attractions in Rotorua are accessible rain or shine and so you will still have plenty to do no matter the weather.
Below you can find a guide to help you choose the best activities to create a perfect stay in Rotorua.
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Getting to Rotorua
Rotorua is about three hours from Auckland. It’s a pretty drive through the countryside with some nice places to stop on the way depending on which route you take.
Via Hamilton you can stop in Tirau, with its large animal-shaped buildings and quirky cafes it’s an interesting place to spot for a coffee or a bite to eat. The alternative route takes you via Matamata which is the jump-off spot for Hobbiton.
There is also a small airport with regular flights from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.
Where to stay in Rotorua
There is a range of different accommodation options when visiting Rotorua. You can go for one of the many hotels or motels around Rotorua itself. There are also a few holiday parks in the area.
Near Rotorua, there are several other lakes, including Tarawera, Rotoiti and Rotokakahi. Around the lakes there are a range of accommodation options including campsites and baches (NZ holiday home). On our last visit we stayed on a bach with stunning views of Lake Tarawera (see above photo). It was lovely to stay away from the touristy Rotorua and enjoy the calm and beautiful lake views.
Check out some of these great family-friendly accommodation options:
Things to do in Rotorua with kids
There are so many fun things to do in Rotorua with kids, it is really hard to decide which to go for. We have tried out a fair few so here is an overview of the top activities with some of my top recommendations for family fun in Rotorua.
Best hot springs for families in Rotorua
The main hot pools in the Rotorua itself and probably the most well know is the Polynesian Spa. It is set on the lake and some of the adult pools look out over the lake. There is a family pool but it isn’t huge. For that reason, we prefer to visit the Waikite Valley Hot Pools.
There have several different pools which children are allowed in under adult supervision. There is the main pool for swimming in then there are other pools, some with lovely views of the countryside, to relax in.
We went in June and it was so warm in the pools and even walking around outside was comfortable. Waikite Valley is about 20 minutes drive from Rotorua but is definitely worth it.
Best geothermal parks in Rotorua
There are a number of geothermal parks to visit, each with their own unique features. I have visited Te Puia and Wai-O-Tapu and would highly recommend them both:
Te Puia – Home to the highest geyser in the southern hemisphere, mud pools, a Kiwi conservation centre and a Māori arts and crafts institute Te Puia has a lot to offer. The guided tours are really educational. In the peak seasons, there are cultural performances that you can purchase tickets for. Te Puia is one of the best places to visit in Rotorua in my opinion to see geothermal activity and learn about Māori culture.
Wai-O-Tapu (currently under renovation at time of writing – check website for opening dates) This geothermal park is a great one to walk around and witness the geothermal wonders including the largest mud pool in New Zealand and Lady Knox Geyser which an reach 10-20 metres high.
A free option to see some geothermal activity in Rotorua with kids and have a nice walk is Kuirau Park. There are mud pools and other geothermal features in the park as well as a lovely lake to walk around.
Other activities in Rotorua with kids
These suspended walkways through the majestic Redwood trees are a great activity to do in Rotorua with kids. Not only is it a fun activity but also a good way to learn about the Redwood trees. When we visited in June there was an offer to do the walk in day and at night. The night visit was visually spectacular with a fantastic light display. This activity is suitable for children of any age. You can’t carry babies or toddler but there are special strollers that you can use.
Skyline Gondola and Luge
The Rotorua Skyline provides great fun for all the family with the gondola and luge as well as some other adrenalin activities. We really enjoyed this activity when our daughter was around three. There is also a Skyline in Queenstown and I think I prefer that one as the views are stunning.
Children must be at least 110cm to ride on the Luge along, and if they are between 80-110cm they can ride with an adult for an additional $5. Full pricing information can be found on their website.
White water rafting
White water rafting – A great option for adrenalin junkies is white water rafting. Rafting on Kaituna River is about 20 minutes from Rotorua. The trip takes you down Tutea falls, which at 7m is the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world. I thoroughly enjoyed this rafting experience.
You get a chance to get in the water and jump off rocks, as well as enjoy rafting down the falls. We went with Rotorua Rafting who made the experience really fun. Children have to be over 13 to enjoy the full experience, or over 10 to enjoy part of it. See more information on their website.
Playgrounds in Rotorua
There is a fantastic children’s playground on the edge of Lake Rotorua. It has recently been refurbished and my kids absolutely loved it. Sometimes there are pony rides behind the park as well for the kids.
More great things to do with kids in Rotorua
- Go zorbring
- Zipline through the forest on a Rotorua Canopy Tour
- Meet the animals at Rotorua Heritage Farm
- Check out the lions at Paradise Valley Springs
Places to eat in Rotorua
There are some great places to eat in Rotorua. Eat Streat, a covered walkway with a range of options for eating and drinking, has several tasty options. There are heaters outside so you can sit outside any time of the year.
On our most recent visit we chose to go for lunch at El Mexicano Zapata after reading good reviews on Tripadvisor. I am really picky about Mexican food and I have to say this was really delicious. The service was also really good.
Fat Dog Cafe is a great option for families. We had a delicious breakfast there. Lone Star is also a good option.
A bit further out Okere Falls Store is a lovely eco friendly café and store. They also serve craft beer and have a lovely beer garden outside. It’s a great option before or after walking or rafting near the falls.
As you can see, you can have lots of family fun in Rotorua. Hopefully this guide on the best things to do in Rotorua with kids will help you plan your trip. For more great places to visit in New Zealand see more ideas here.