Sometimes the best things in life ARE free – or, at least that’s what we think when we think about the lakes, forests, parks and mountains that are right here in our own backyard.
The next time you’re scratching your head on what to do when you don’t want to spend a cent, start with this list.
If you love being in, on or near the water, Rotorua has you covered. With 17 out of 18 sparkling lakes available for your fun and exploration, plus three major rivers, you might want to start a Bingo card and set out to see them all.
Enjoy a refreshing freshwater swim in nearly any of the lakes.
Load up your boat, kayak, canoe, packraft, SUP or floaties to check out crystal-clear water and beautiful greenery lining the shores. Pack a couple sammies and something to drink, and enjoy a cruisey afternoon outing. Lakes Rotoiti and Tarawera are very popular for water sports.
Many of our lakes can be enjoyed from the beach or by trail, too.
The boardwalk at Lake Ōkareka takes you through native vegetation, farmland, beach, lake and wetland scenery, and features expansive views and wildlife, including our much-loved dabchicks.
Lake Tikitapu has the Blue Lake Track which circles the lake in mostly undulating bush with a couple beaches thrown in.
Whakarewarewa ForestOur beautiful Whakarewarewa Forest is one of Rotorua’s best assets. Several walking tracks of varying lengths allow you to take in the natural beauty, admire the different flora and fauna, and just enjoy the fresh air. You can spend an hour or half a day here and it won’t cost you a thing. In fact, we’d recommend frequent and regular visits for forest bathing.
Enjoy the simple things in life while exploring the beautiful environment that surrounds our city.
Government Gardens is another great place to get some fresh air while stretching your legs.
Rotorua Museum (pictured above), the Blue Baths, the Klamath Falls Rose Gardens, Te Runanga Tearooms and Band Rotunda are all located here.
Klamath Falls Rose Gardens on Queens Drive are named after Klamath Falls in Oregon, USA – a sister city to Rotorua. Beautiful roses are in bloom from mid-November to June.
Near the centre of town you can explore Kuirau Park’s natural hot springs, bubbling mud pools, stunning gardens and even a crater lake. Take some time to soak your feet in the recently renovated geothermal foot baths, a lovely way to relax.
More commonly known by locals as the Tree Trust, Centennial Park offers 20 beautiful, grassy, tree-dotted hectares of rolling hills and gullies. In spring, thousands of tui flock here when the trees are in flower, happily singing their little hearts out while they dine on their favourite nectar. Sheep are the eco-friendly grounds keepers here, so be sure to close any gates you go through.
Majestic mountainsMount Kakaramea (pictured above), or Rainbow Mountain as it’s more commonly known, can be tackled by mountain bike or on foot. It takes the average person on foot an hour and a half to reach the summit but the time will fly by as you check out this amazing geothermal mountain with crater lakes and magically coloured earth. At the summit, 360-degree views reveal Mount Tarawera, three lakes, forests, ranges and even the volcanic peaks of Mount Tongariro to the south.
The first part of the Mount Ngongotahā Nature Loop Track to Jubilee Track follows an easy grade through native bush that features one of the largest rata trees (40 metres tall!) in the Bay of Plenty, plus a viewing platform. It then continues on the where the trail becomes moderately steep until near the summit. Once you reach Mountain Road, keep going as it’s just a short walk further to the summit.