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14 Free or Cheap Things to do in Rotorua


Free or cheap activities in Rotorua.

How can a place be so smelly but so awesome? Rotorua is a must-visit in New Zealand due to the the geothermal activity here making it an intriguing place, especially as the aroma of sulphur licks your face. Don’t worry, you soon become immune to the stench and will be onto enjoying the free things to do in Rotorua!

The Earth’s crust is thin in this part of the country producing many hot mud pools and thermal hot springs. Luckily for us, this means there are a few springs in the area that you can enjoy for free, which we have listed here for you. If nature is your thing, then take a look at these 10 Free Natural Spots Near Rotorua.

So take a look at our quick list below of the stuff you can do in Rotorua for free or very little cost.

Waimangu Valley

1. take a dip in a hot spring

Between Taupo and Rotorua, make sure to stop off at one of the free hot pool spots. One example is the bridge leading to Wai-O-Tapu is a perfect spot where cool and hot streams meet. Check out the other Free Natural Hot Pools in Rotorua.

Tourism NZ

2. Walk or bike in Whakarewarewa Redwood Forest

Taking a trip up to a lookout will give you views of Rotorua. Or there’s a wide selection of mountain bike trails to hurtle down. Find out how to get there in Rotorua – Guide for backpackers.

 Steve Watson

3. check out rotorua night market

It’s like a market… but at night. Taking place ever Thursday night on Tutanekai Street, stuff your face with delicious food and enjoy the evening entertainment. A real community vibe!


4. Watch rafters plunge down a waterfall

The short Kaituna River Walk leads to Okere Falls – the highest commercially rafter falls in New Zealand. The entrance to the walk is also a good place to see glowworms (when it’s dark, obviously). See where else you can raft here: The 7 Places to go White Water Rafting in New Zealand.

Tourism NZ

5. stroll around Kuirau Park

Kuirau Park gives visitors a taste (quite literally, the smell is so strong you can taste it) of the volcanic activity that Rotorua is famous for. Walk around the various mud pools. Kuirau Park can be found along Pukuatua Street and Ranolf Street.

free things to do in rotorua

6. Visit the Waimangu Volcanic Valley

Wander through a geothermal valley packed with geysers, hot springs, vibrant lakes, steaming vents and fascinating history. Discover Waimangu’s network of walking trails, which range from 1 hour to 2 hours+, giving you great value for money at one of the most affordable geothermal parks in the Rotorua area. A day out among the epic geothermal features, as well as the stunning forest, lake and mountain scenery makes the Waimangu Volcanic Valley well worth exploring!


7. See the maori village of Ohinemutu

The suburb in Rotorua used to be a Maori village. Sights here are the Tama-Te-Kapua marae (Maori meeting house) and St Faith’s Anglican Church. If you can’t afford to see one of the 10 Places to Experience Maori Culture in New Zealand then this is another free alternative.


8. visit Hamurana Spring

A 15-minute drive out of Rotorua is the crystal clear Hamurana Spring. The easy 15-minute walking track can be found just off Hamurana Road. [Update: an small entry fee has been introduced here].

Frederik Vanrenterghem

9. Rotorua museum

This would not be a ‘free or cheap things to do’ list without a museum. But wait a minute, you have to pay for this museum! At NZ$20 you can learn about the historic mud bath house. Or just take a cheeky picture of the grand architecture from the outside for free! Alternatively, walk around the Government Gardens just before the museum with water features, gardens and Maori art. [Update: currently closed for earthquake damage repairs].


10. Waikite valley thermal pools

A whole host of thermal pools using natural thermal water await at the Waikite Valley thermal Pools, as well as a bush walk to the hot water spring itself. Admission is just NZ$15! Find the complex down the Waitake Valley Road, a 30-minute drive out of Rotorua.


11. relax by lake rotorua

Whatever you do, don’t feed the black swans!

Tourism NZ

12. Hike rainbow mountain

You will need a car, as Rainbow Mountain is 26km out of Rotorua. There is either the short walk to Crater Lake or the longer walk to the summit. Find out more information about this hike in 10 Free Natural Spots Near Rotorua.

Michal Klajban (Hikingisgood.com)

13. Go to Wingspan

At just NZ$25, we think this just makes the cheap things to do list. Wingspan is the National Bird of Prey Centre for New Zealand and an amazing opportunity to see birds of prey close-up in this recovery centre. See flying displays every day at 1.30pm to watch the rare New Zealand falcon do its thing.


14. Snatch up a deal on activities from our deals page!

That’s right, we often have some amazing deals on activities in Rotorua for under NZ$20! Take a look at our exclusive Rotorua deals over on the BackpackerGuide.NZ DEALS tab.


Now that you have done the free things to do in Rotorua …

… Check out all this other information about Rotorua!

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