Hands up if you’re hanging out for break but you’re short on time.
If you don’t get an extended holiday around this time of year, that’s ok! With careful planning, you can enjoy a microadventure in Rotorua. Even with minimal planning – we’re talking bags packed and petrol tank filled – you can still head this way and easily fill a day or two with amazing activities that require no advanced booking.
A microadventure is a great way to do something exhilarating and adrenaline-fuelled, tick off bucket-list items, try something new, stave off the winter blues, and put the pep back in your step.
For the plannersIf you’re the organised, plan-ahead, pre-book and pack-it-all-in kind of traveller, Rotorua will suit you perfectly since there’s so much to do here. Thankfully, it’s also easy to get around to everything, and there are no traffic or parking issues. You can easily plan a full day of non-stop, high-energy action.
Don your adventure-wear (and perhaps some warm layers) and head to your pre-booked, early morning Ultimate Tour at Rotorua Canopy Tours, recently named #1 Nature Activity in the world by TripAdvisor! This incredible 3.5-hour eco-adventure involves six ziplines, a 50-metre-high cliff walk (pictured at top), suspended swing bridges, an 18-metre-high controlled descent, and amazing guides who take you through a protected ancient forest.
Next up, grab a quick lunch and head to your 2pm whitewater rafting tour with River Rats Raft & Kayak, Kaitiaki Adventures, or any of the other rafting companies.
This incredible experience will take along the famous, historic, bush-clad Kaituna River where you’ll enjoy a thrilling mix of dropping over three waterfalls, pushing through 14 rushing rapids, and paddling across calm waters of recovery where you can look back in awe at what you have achieved.
This activity is a famous bucket-list item because you’ll be tackling Tutea Falls, the world’s tallest commercially rafted waterfall at 7 metres. But not to worry, you’ll have plenty of time with your guide to build up anticipation and practice your newly acquired skills in the rapids and two smaller waterfalls before the big drop.
If you’ve rafted the river on a previous Rotorua visit and want to up the ante this time around, New Zealand Whitewater Academy offers tandem kayak tours on the same river. With you seated in front, your guide in back, and a GoPro strategically mounted to capture the fun (which you can take home with you for free and replay your kayaking prowess for all your mates).
Once you’re off the river, change into your dry clothes and head to dinner before your final activity for the day: a sunset tour to see magical glow worms in their natural habitats. Real Rotorua offers a two to three-hour walking tour, or you can opt to explore via three-hour kayak tour with Paddle Board Rotorua.
Well done, you’ve just blitzed your way through some of the best adventures in Rotorua!
For free-form travellers
If you prefer to just hit the road and take things as they come, there are loads of options for you to just rock up to and enjoy.
Adventure Playground, Off Road NZ and Velocity Valley have multiple activities to get the blood pumping and the laughter flowing. The fun can include the Swoop (pictured above), Freefall Xtreme, jet boat rides, 4WD self-drives, 4x4 Monster Thrill Rides, and so much more. Allow at least a couple hours to fit in two to three activities at any of these places.
Just down the road a bit is ZORB (pictured above), another massively popular adventure activity. This is an all-weather, year-round activity as you’ll be out of the rain and inside a giant inflated ball, with a bit of warm water pumped in, then rolling downhill and laughing uncontrollably all the way. Keep warm before and after your rides in the free hot tubs or sauna on site.
Further down the same road, you’ll come to Skyline Rotorua, famous for its Rotorua-invented Luge rides.
First, make your way to the top of Mount Ngongotahā via the Skyline Gondola, quite a spectacular way to take in panoramic views of Lake Rotorua, the city and surrounding district. From here, you’ll encounter a world-first activity of racing a three-wheel, gravity-based luge cart down the mountain. A ski lift at the bottom will return you to the top where you can do it all over again on one of the other tracks. There are three track to choose from and more than 5kms of track to ride – once is never enough!
Skyline’s Stratosfare Restaurant and Bar is located here, too, perfect for filling hungry tummies after all this fun. Stratosfare is open daily for lunch and dinner, and renowned for its amazing buffet offering New Zealand cuisine, with the same beautiful views of Rotorua and beyond.
If you have time before dinner, treat yourself to a wine tasting at Rotorua’s only winery, Volcanic Hills Winery. If you don’t plan on dining at Stratosfare, order a platter of nibbles to accompany your wine. You’ll still enjoy that million-dollar view here before you take another gondola back down the mountain to your next activity.
By now, the sun has set and it’s a great time to head to our iconic Whakarewarewa Forest to get a bird’s-eye view of the forest as you traverse 700 metres of walkways eco-suspended between 110-year-old California redwood trees that are up to 75 metres tall. The multi award-winning Redwoods Treewalk can be enjoyed during the day and night, but the full experience is brought to life by beautifully designed David Trubridge lanterns which are turned on at dusk. With the Treewalk heights ranging from six to 12 metres, this unique experience is a great way to explore nature at night.