We had a ball in Rotorua. I was a little hesitant before booking anything as I had heard that it is just too touristy, but we really didn’t find it any more touristy than anywhere else we have been. We found there is something to enjoy for everyone in the family. From all the geothermal attractions, adventure activities and fantastic cultural experiences, it was a jam packed few days for us – but I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Rotorua is only a three hour road trip from Auckland and we had a stop off at the Putururu Blue Springs on the way to break up the journey. The Putururu Blue Springs were about 2 hours or so from the airport.
What you can find in this post
Putururu Blue Springs
The Blue Spring is fed from the Manaku Plateau and the water can take up to 100 years to filter through (I can’t really get my head around this). The water is so pure, clear and clean that is produces a beautiful blue colour. It was just gorgeous.
There are two options to reach the Blue Spring. The Te Waihou walkway is 4.7km one way taking around 1.5 hours (one direction). The Blue Spring is closer to the Leslie Road end (approximately 800 metres from the car park) so this is the option we took with the kids. The terrain we pretty easy to be honest ranging from a rocky path to boardwalks but all are formed. I wouldn’t recommend a pram but we did see one family trying to push one along!
I think in the past people may have swam in the beautiful clear water but there are signs now asking to please take in the beauty of the area and enjoy the pristine waters but refain from swimming as it can pollute the water.
Rotorua with Kids
We had three nights in Rotorua to ensure we could fit in as much as possible (but there was still so much we didn’t have time for!). Here is our guide to Rotorua with kids, the fun activities we got up to and what we thought would have been awesome if we had more time.
Cultural experience at Tamaki Maori Cultural Village
Even though Ned and Olive are really young, one of the things I love about travelling with them is seeing them take in and learn about life in other countries. Here in Rotorua, we all had a fantastic night learning all about the Maori culture at the Tamaki Maori Village experience.
We did the 6pm experience. It is set in a beautiful forest setting starting out in complete silence with no smiles, laughter or noise allowed whilst we waited for the night to start. The kids were terrific and not as terrified as I thought they might be!
Once the ‘formal’ part of the introductions were complete we moved through into the village, which gave everyone a real sense of what the village was like many years ago.
We saw lots of different demonstrations of the games the Maori ancestors used to play with interactions from the audience members. Including myself, I had to remember my left and rights with the stick catching game! All the boys, including Ross and Ned were up participating in learning the haka. Ned wasn’t overly keen to start with but followed along and I was really proud of him for giving it a go.
The performance which included singing, dancing and the haka was a highlight for all of us with the kids not taking their eyes off the stage. We were then shown how our dinner was prepared. A ‘hangi’ is a traditional way of cooking food in the ground; a method used by the Maori’s many years ago. We then moved into the dining room where we were served our hangi meal. I think the highlight of the meal for Ned and Olive was the opportunity to head back to the dessert buffet for multiple serves of pavlova!
Thank you to Tamaki Cultural Village for teaching us all about the Maori culture with the most fantastic evening.
Playing in the mud pools, spa and geothermal park at Hells Gate
There doesn’t seem to be too many spa facilities in Rotorua which allow children to enter. Hells Gate is very welcoming of families and a great adventure for the whole family.
Before we enjoyed the mud and spa experience we spent over an hour wondering around Rotorua’s most active geothermal park at Hells Gate! There is a free guided tour at 9.30am but we decided to go at our own pace.
The Hells Gate geothermal park features boiling hot pools and erupting waters, steaming vents, hot water lakes and a mud volcano! Just to name a few.
Visitors are asked not to throw anything into any of the pools or vents as a blockage can occur and cause an eruption elsewhere!
We had the opportunity to join the Master Carver to learn some basic carving skills. The kids both choose a kiwi bird design and we spent some time carving around the outline. Ross (of course) was the champion at this activity. The timber was covered in a varnish so we were allowed to bring them back into Australia.
The spa at Hells Gate is the only one in Rotorua which has a mud pool! So cool! They allow kids three and over into the mud so we were able to enjoy this as a family. Well, I loved the mud! Olive got there eventually, and Ned, well Ned looked on in horror as I covered myself in mud! He absolutely loved the hot spa pool and he definitely got further into the cold plunge pool than I did! Our skin felt amazing afterwards and even Ned, who has eczema issues when he over heats had no issues (normally we are covering him in moisturiser and eczema cream after being in water).
Thank you so much to Hells Gate for hosting our fabulous morning adventure. We all had a ball, learnt lots and felt amazing afterwards!
We started off walking to Kuirau Park on the afternoon we arrived. This is a free park right in the middle of town (free is a big selling point as all the geothermal attractions can really eat into your budget). Here you will witness steam vents, boiling mud bubbling up and over, a boiling crater lake and white steam from all the vents.
There is a playground (which we managed to avoid, sorry kids) and a free foot bath area which was toasty warm and very relaxing.
Visiting the Skyline complex was only on my list of things to do if we had time. I was thinking that it was just going to be a bit of a tourist gimmick. But, we had the best fun! There are lots of activities on offer and unfortunately we couldn’t do them all with Ned and Olive due to their age.
The only way to the top of the mountain is via the gondola. There is a restaurant and café at the top but we took a picnic lunch and enjoyed this on the steps looking at the view. We spent a lot longer at the top than I was expecting to. The reason? The luge!! It was so much fun! The luge ride can be described as sitting in a little cart like car which you steer down the hill through the forest. It reminded me loads of being in Canada, but without the fear of looking out for bears! We originally purchased two luge rides but had to go back and buy another 5 more – we loved it so much. There are three different tracks. The scenic (which is the longest), intermediate and advanced. We alternated between the scenic and the intermediate tracks (you were not allowed to ride double down the advanced track). There is a chair lift to take you back to the start of the track.
Also on offer include a zip line track (Ned actually seemed keen for this but we will wait until Olive is big enough and all try this activity together) and a Sky Swing which there was no way I was having any part of experiencing!
The Redwoods Forest and Tree Tops Walk in Rotorua
This area is most well known for the mountain biking tracks, walking tracks and magnificent Redwood Trees.
We went on a short walk around the forest and enjoyed the Tree Walk which consists of 23 suspension bridges between 22 of the Redwood trees. It gives a unique view of the forest from up to 12 metres above the ground. It is approx. 553 metres long with different length bridges. We bought the day and night combination tickets meaning we had two different experiences. Once, during the afternoon and again after dinner. The night experience gives you to opportunity to experience the Redwood forest under darkness, lit up only by light creations, designed as to not damage the forest. We enjoyed looking at the beautiful lights above us and chasing fairy lights on the ground.
Please note that you do need to be able to walk to go up on the Tree Top walk and babies in a carrier are not allowed.
Viewing rafters going over the Okere Falls
The Okere Falls walking track is approx. 21km from Rotorua and is a relatively easy bush walk with views of the Okere Falls and if you time it right you’ll see rafters head over the falls. There are a number of rafting companies and I contacted one to find out what time they’d be at the falls. There is a cool little track which heads down some steps right up against the edge of the cliff which the kids loved. They then got a bit bored of waiting (a whole 3 minutes of waiting!!!) for the rafters but we really wanted to see them.
It was so cool to see them come over the falls and completely capsize! Check out our Facebook page for the video Ross took. Something different to do in Rotorua.
Kerosene Creek – natural hot river and waterfall
We stopped at Kerosene Creek on the drive to Taupo. It was amazing! One of the best days. I think I have a love of all natural waterholes!!!
What lies behind the jungle like trees is a geothermally heated stream where you can sit and relax in a hot river and waterfall. So bizarre, but so awesome! Such a fantastic place to just hang out. It wasn’t deep so we didn’t need to hang onto the kids the whole time and they could have a splash around.
There are a couple of different areas you can enjoy, the smaller waterfall (see photo above) and a larger waterfall (which was still shallow enough for the kids) plus anywhere in-between.
Our bathers were full of dirt afterwards though!
Kerosene Creek is currently completely free, I would hope it stays this way for locals and visitors to enjoy.
Things we didn’t have time for in Rotorua
Visiting the Lakes for a tour
Travel Mad Mum took a tour with ‘Rotorua Duck Tours’ and they visited three of the lakes around Rotorua. It sounded like a really fun interactive experience so that is something to consider if you are planning your itinerary
Hamurana Springs Trail Walk
This is was on our list of things to do but recently they have added an entrance fee of $18 per adult to visit. The walk through the forest and next to the beautifully coloured stream looked amazing. We thought that the Blue Springs gave us a similar experience for free.
Smiths Holiday Road said this was a must do activity for those 6 and over whilst in Rotorua.
Other geothermal areas
There are so many geothermal activities in this area, a couple of others include –
- Wai O Tapu
- Pohutu Geyser
So many opportunities for mountain biking (the whole of New Zealand, not just Rotorua). We’ll have to get back to New Zealand and get the kids riding as it’s Ross’s favourite thing to do!
3d Trick Art Gallery
We didn’t visit here as we have been to ArtVo in Melbourne and really had no time.
Sounds like a great place for a day out with the kids and the opportunity to see a kiwi bird
Paradise Valley Springs
Another great family day out with lion feeding in the afternoon
We found a terrific Air B&B, which was perfect accommodation with kids in Rotorua. It is so lovely to stay in a cosy house where the owners have obviously gone out of their way. We loved all the special touches in this house, from the welcome message and box of kiwi bird chocolates, hot water bottles, toys for the kids and breakfast items. It really was a home away from home and we felt very comfortable. It was awesome to be able to spread out since we had 3 nights. You can check out where we stayed here and if you are new to Air B&B you can use this link for a discount on your first booking.
Have you been to Rotorua with kids? What did you and your family think? We had a ball and would definitely recommend as a family friendly, fun destination.
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