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Nature & Wildlife

Rotorua 10 free & cheap things to do

  • 3 minutes

North Island, New Zealand

Public town walks, free geothermal displays, gardens and parks in Rotorua

Discover Rotorua without breaking the bank. Geothermal activity at Kuirau park, magnificent redwoods to picnic under, lakeside walks, memorising trout gleaming, darting as you throw fish food and extraordinary lunar Sulphur Bay where the birds thrive are free.



Find out about fingerlings, immature trout at Fish & Game (Eastern). The centre manages approximately 100,000 trout in their hatchery. It’s fascinating to view myriad darting silhouettes. Buy fish food (less than $1.50) and watch the spectacle of swarming fish. And learn about fishing, licences and all that other stuff while you are there. The trophy lakes of the central plateau are Tarawera, Rotoiti and Okatania. Lake Rotorua is well known for its consistent catch rates.


Ngongotaha is the home of Wingspan (Morepork NZ owl rehabilitation centre) and Paradise Valley Springs (farm animals, bush, waterfalls). Both attractions are fee paying.

Fish & Game New Zealand, a ‘user pays, user says’ non-profit organisation.

  1. LAKES

Immerse yourself in the lake district of the North Island. It’s free to walk, swim and picnic in over 16 lakes all with their own personality. If you’ve not got much time, visit Blue Lake (Tikitapu), and Lake Rotorua. Check out for inspiration where to go and what to see on your walks.


Rotorua’s secret is Sulphur Bay. A lunar landscape with boiling water venting into the lake, crystallised minerals and among the geothermal area are birds, plenty of them. The boardwalk is tucked behind the Bath House and park. The information plaques describe the area as the place where modern tourism began. Check out Sulphur Bay boardwalk for details.

Sunset on Lake Rotorua with a black swan and a kayaker, New Zealand
Sunset on Lake Rotorua
Okere falls rafting, New Zealand
Okere falls rafting

Unearth is another visitor favourite with an interesting walk through native bush on the Okere Falls track. The well maintained trail has several lookouts over the Kaituna River and its waterfalls. Look out for commercial rafting expeditions swept into the maelstrom of surging water as they dare to plunge off the edge of the waterfall.


Need brunch, a snack then pop into the Okere Falls cafe, its hearty meals will keep you on the road exploring Rotorua.

For more inspiring places to eat check out Rotorua where to eat, dine and enjoy great views.


Discover Rotorua’s heritage heart in the public gardens. The tudor style buildings are oddly attractive with the earth colours reminiscent of Maori architecture colouring. The elaborate Victorian era buildings are a relatively rare building style in New Zealand. The restful grounds with the immaculate bowling green lawn, the flower beds and wide open spaces are a must see attraction.

The Tudor-style spa bath house in the Government Gardens in Rotorua, New Zealand
The Tudor-style spa bath house in the Government Gardens

The visitor centre mimics the style creating a Rotorua ‘theme’ In spring the gardens are visually stunning with tulips nodding and marching in full glorious colour in the flower beds.

St Faith’s Anglican church at Ohinemutu on Lake Rotorua
St Faith’s Anglican church at Ohinemutu on Lake Rotorua

Explore a living Maori village with its intricately carved meeting house, its cemetery honouring fallen soldiers (buried above ground due to the constant geothermal activity), observe the ornate woven panels of St Faith’s church and the stained glass window of Christ walking on water.


You are walking through a resident’s backyards and do not enter private property unless invited.



A thousand instagram shots does not detract from the fun of a natural waterfall infused with warm geothermal water. Jump into an authentic Rotorua experience for free. The bush walk is easy and remember to leave only footprints and consider the environment.


The deepest natural springs in the North Island with emerald river grass waving in crystal clear turquoise and deep green currents. There is a scenic loop track through native bush, coastal redwoods with the sound of water. The water has travelled over 70 years underground to rise at Hamurana with over four million litres of water per hour flowing eventually into Lake Rotorua. The reserve is a wildlife haven for the black teal, scaup (New Zealand diving duck), herons, ducks, geese and the endangered dabchick. As the Hamurana reserve is privately owned there is an admission fee. Definitely value for money with your picnic. It’s a great day out and about.

Hamurana Spring in Rotorua, New Zealand
Hamurana Spring in Rotorua

Can you swim at Hamurana Springs, no as it is a reserve and protected. Paddleboarding is allowed on the Hamurana stream outside the reserve boundary.

Redwoods Rotorua, New Zealand
Redwoods Rotorua

Explore the Redwoods on the shared walking trails. The towering trees are beautiful with their sturdy trunks reaching for the sky. If you have a mountain bike this is the place to be with over 90 km of crafted trails to jump.


Shop for foodie treats at the weekend market, walk a misty steamy boardwalk and soak your feet in the free publicly accessible park. In the heart of the town is a crater lake, pools of boiling mud and plenty of steam.  The park has a playground, designated picnic spots with BBQ facilities.

Remember to check out Rotorua romantic places, couples things to do for further inspiration and where to take a great selfie.


Best Bits travel guide is published by Owned and managed by PacificJane Ltd.

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