Summer is arguably the best time to get away – the kids are out of school, the weather is mint, and it’s a great time for extended families to reunite and reconnect.
What better place to get everyone together than a holiday park or campground? There’s space for loads of people, all the outdoor toys and gear, and many are situated at or close enough to hear the lapping of a lake on its shores.
Here’s a guide to a few out-of-the-way Rotorua holiday parks. Some feel miles away but are actually just a 10-minute drive from the city centre – great for a quick run to the supermarket if you need to top up the chilly bins. Others are a bit more rural but still within easy reach of the city and all it has to offer.
Camping that’s close-ish to town
Known for their excellent hospitality, All Seasons Holiday Park (pictured above) was voted New Zealand’s Most Hospitable holiday park. Besides the commonly found accommodation options, All Seasons is a pet-friendly option with three fully fenced campsites, perfect for keeping your dog safe and happy. A 100-metre walk takes you to Lake Rotorua for boating, fishing and other water sports.
Campsites, cabins and motel units are available at Holdens Bay Holiday Park (pictured above), as well as a great playground, outdoor swimming pool and indoor hot pools. Bring the boat and fishing gear, as the calm blue water of Holdens Bay on Lake Rotorua is just a five to 10-minute walk away, then bring your catch back to the fish bay for cleaning, cooking and devouring.
Lake Tikitapu is one of Rotorua’s favourite lakes. It’s popular for swimming, boating, fishing, kayaking, stand-up paddle (SUP) boarding, and BBQs and picnics. There’s also a beautiful 5km walking trail around the lake, and you’re just a five-minute drive from the new Te Pūtake o Tawa mountain bike hub for instant access to the mountain biking trail network (and rental bikes if you don’t bring yours) in the world-famous Whakarewarewa Forest.
You’ll have all this and more at your beck and call while staying right across the road at Blue Lake Top 10 Holiday Park (pictured above). Surrounded by native bush, you’ll surely hit holiday mode by the time you arrive only 15 minutes after you’ve left the city centre.
Waiteti Trout Stream Holiday Park (pictured above) in the Rotorua suburb of Ngongotahā is nestled on the banks of the stream for which it’s named, and amidst two acres of mature trees and gardens. Your family will love real New Zealand holiday experiences where you can arrange trout fishing lessons, take out the free dinghy or kayaks, enjoy children’s activities or stroll 200 metres along a pathway to Lake Rotorua.
Camping further afieldIf you’re keen on lakeside camping, here are four great options to consider.
Just a 20-minute drive from the city centre, Lake Rotoiti Holiday Park is located in the popular village of Okere Falls. The holiday park is a small, privately owned slice of paradise on the shores of Lake Rotoiti (pictured at top). Pack up the boat and water toys, your fishing gear and walking shoes so you can fully take advantage of the lake, scenic bush walks, and the secluded hot pools in Manupirua Bay, which are accessible only by boat.
For a quiet, beautiful, rural escape – with bonus free access to the hot pool complex next door – head to Waikite Valley Thermal Pools Campground (one of their hot pools pictured above). Additional perks include the licensed café onsite, Pukeko in a Ponga Tree, which serves excellent burgers, salads, snack, ice creams and more, and the walking trail to Te Manaroa Spring to see the boiling geothermal spring water bubbling to the earth’s surface.
Another rural campground to consider is Brett Road Campsite on Lake Rerewhakaaitu. You’ll have the basics here with 25 non-powered tent sites, a cooking shelter, and non-flushing toilets, as well as immediate access to the beautiful lake that’s popular for swimming, fishing, kayaking and canoeing. Dogs are not allowed at this Department of Conservation-operated location, and it’s suggested you bring your own water for drinking and cooking.
If seclusion is what you’re after, you can’t beat Hot Water Beach Campsite along the shores of Lake Tarawera. Camp in scenic surroundings, relax in natural hot springs, enjoy fishing and water sports, or explore the tracks around Te Rātā Bay.
Te Rātā Bay and Hot Water Beach were once only accessible by boat. Now, experienced trampers can access both via the 15km Tarawera Trail, which is considered an advanced trail and takes five to six hours one way to complete.
You can still get to the campsite by boat through the Lake Tarawera Water Taxi (pictured above) operated by Totally Tarawera. They’ll take you and your gear – or even just your gear if you want to walk the trail – just be sure you pre-book both drop-off and pick-up.
Camping at this Department of Conservation site must be pre-booked as well through Whakarewarewa Village Charitable Trust.