Our favourite free things to do with the kids in Rotorua

Rotorua has so many spectacular things to do – from luges to zorbs to geothermal parks to lions and everything in between.  There is so much to do and as a family visiting Rotorua (particularly with 3 kids) the costs can soon add up.  So we’ve put together our list of our favourite fee things to do with the kids in Rotorua.

#1  Watch the sunrise

Now you may be thinking I’m a bit crazy here or have kids that are so in touch with nature that they jump out of bed to watch every sunrise.  Neither is true – well, maybe a little of the crazy…

The simple fact is that sunrises in Rotorua are quite different than any where else and will enthral even kids who normally wouldn’t bat an eye at a sunrise.

You see in Rotorua not only do you have the pinks, blues, purples and oranges that you get with sunrises but you also have the steam from all the geo thermal activity rising up off the lake that gives you an experience that is quite other worldly.

My favourite spot to go for sunrises is along Hatupatu Drive (out the back of Government Gardens).  From this vantage point you have the steam rising from the geothermal activity around the Polynesian Spa, the sun rising from behind lake Rotorua and so many amazing vantage points from the lights of the city to Mokoia Island to the little wharfs.

#2  Kuirau Park

Kuirau Park is New Zealands only public geothermal park and is right in the middle of Rotorua and totally free!

It gives you just enough crater lakes, mud pools and hot springs to feel like you’ve experienced something uniquely Rotorua, while not spending an money.

It also has an amazing foot bath, which again is totally free.  Tip from the locals is to bring your own towel as it can get a bit wet on the seats by the end of the day.  It’s a great little spot to meet people from all over NZ while having a bit of a soak.  And the kids absolutely love it!

One of the things I remember being enthralled with about Rotorua when I was a child was the richness and intrigue of the stories and perhaps one of my favourites happens in this very park.  It’s set in the early 1800’s when a young woman called Kuiarau was bathing in the waters of a (much cooler back then) lake in the centre of the park.  Legend has it that a taniwha dragged her to his lair below the lake.  Understandably the gods were not too happy about this so they make the lake boil to destroy him forever and the lake and park is now known as Kuirau after the lost woman Kuiarau.  

Kuirau Park also has loads of open spaces to explore and play.  I’m more than a little in love with it in all it’s autumn glory as it was when we went there but any time of the year would be stunning.  

I’d love to know if there are any knowledgable people reading this post just how they keep all those trees looking so amazing with all that steam around.

There is also an epic playground on the outskirt of the park but maybe save that to the end when you’ve got the kids around all the bits you want to see first.

#3 Pick a lake

You really are spoilt for choice here  – there are in fact 18 amazing lakes in the Rotorua district – ripe for the exploring.  

There’s the Blue Lake – dubbed the worlds clearest lake it is perfect for paddling or watching the speed boats when they are out.

There is Lake Tarawera – the scene of the terrible 1886 eruption that killed over 150 people and destroyed the Pink and White Terraces.  There remains at the lake an air of mystery and sadness, but also beauty.

Lake Tarawera, Rotorua

As you go there are many information signs that the kids will enjoy as they learn more about their history.

There is Lake Rotorua, around which is dotted playgrounds and great places to eat or get a coffee (sorry – I know we’re not spending money but The Terrace really is great – with or without kids).

By having a couple of free days in Rotorua you will help to make the dollars go further so you can splurge on some of those amazing activities.

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