Locals know that Rotorua is a year-round, all-season city.
There’s no reason to wait until the temperatures reach 20 degrees or more to take advantage of the amazing activities to do here.
Winter here can be chilly – sometimes even downright frigid – with grey and cloudy skies. However, these are perfect conditions for many activities that will warm you up quickly so here are some ideas you can undertake in one day or spread out over a long weekend.
Fuel up with a big brekky and a hot coffee. Head south of town for a beautiful drive, making your way to Waimangu Local Store & Café for delicious breakfast selections from the kitchen (pictured above) or equally yummy classic Kiwi favourites form the cabinet. They’re happy to help you start your day from 8.30am daily.
Mid-morning & afternoon optionsGo for a walk. Now that you’re ‘bright-eyed and bushy-tailed’, as Mum would say, head into valley here at Waimangu to explore the world’s youngest geothermal system created just 135 years ago when Mount Tarawera erupted, leaving behind incredible crater lakes, steaming fumaroles, bubbling hot springs and geysers. Four different self-guided tours ranging from 1.5 to 4.5km and taking one to two-plus hours, with three complimentary bus stops, means there’s a walk for nearly everyone.
Explore by boat or kayak. The 45-minute Lake Rotomahana Boat Cruise at 11.45am takes passengers along the shoreline to see and hear about the history, wildlife and geothermal springs and geysers around the lake. Or, for an even closer viewpoint, pre-book the 12.45pm Steaming Cliffs Kayak tour (pictured above) with Paddle Board Rotorua who will take you out on the lake in two-person kayaks.
Try mountain biking. If you prefer something to get the heart working a bit harder – either after breakfast or after a Waimangu tour – drive back toward the city and take a right into the Waipa Mill Road car park. Look for the friendly crew at Mountain Bike Rotorua or Planet Bike Mountain Biking. Both supply mountain bikes for hire, guided tours and lots of knowledge about the nearly 200km of purpose-built, gold-status mountain bike trails in Whakarewarewa Forest.
The Kiddie’s Loop is the perfect warm-up for anyone new to mountain biking or feeling a little rusty. From there, the network of trails includes rides for EVERY person, from beginner to seasoned experts, cruisy to extreme downhill, unfit to pro athlete. Access to the forest is always free and the trails are always open. Seriously, there’s no excuse not to try it!
Enjoy a hot soak. After your ride, return your hired bikes and walk over to Secret Spot Hot Tubs for a refreshing bevvie and something to nosh on after all that good work you did on the trails, and a hot soak in what might be the world’s first Shinny Dip (a baby hot tub for your feet and calves). If you’re up for a full-body treatment, book yourself in for proper soak in your own freshwater cedar hot tub and soothe all of your muscles at once.
Roll down a mountain hamster styles. Superman dive into a giant inflatable ball and roll down Mt Ngongotahā in a ZORB (pictured above). You’ve got four tracks to choose from, a little bit of warm water is added to keep you and up to two others sloshing about while you roll and laugh your way down, and afterwards you can hop into the hot spa and watch others do the same.
Evening optionsPlay in the mud. Hell’s Gate is the only place in New Zealand where you can soak and relax in an outdoor mud bath, following the ancient methods used by Māori for generations to soothe joint and muscle pain. Before your soak, enjoy a guided or un-guided walk through this very active geothermal area and see New Zealand’s largest mud volcano and the largest hot waterfall in the Southern Hemisphere. After your mud soak, rinse off and head to the sulphur spa pool, then cool off in the cold plunge pool. During winter, the last entry on Fridays and Saturdays for the geothermal walk is 4pm, and for the mud bath and spas is 6.30pm; these hours are slightly different on other days of the week so be sure to check their website for details.
See Geysers by Night. For the first time ever, the geothermal valley at Te Puia is revealed under night skies, providing a multi-sensory experience not replicated anywhere else. Hear the stories of the past and feel the beauty of the world-famous Pōhutu Geyser during an interactive journey guided by flashlight. The tour culminates in a steaming cup of hot chocolate while watching Pōhutu put on its magnificent show.