After two long weekends in a row, who’s feeling a bit claustrophobic now after this “long” week of work and school?
If you and the kids have been a bit restless this past week and need to get out and about to blow off some steam, Rotorua has you sussed. There are heaps of things to do outdoors if the weather cooperates, and indoors too, if we have a rainy day or two.
Fun in our favourite forests
Discover the giants of Whakarewarewa Forest (aka The Redwoods) and walk, run, bike or hike to your heart’s content. Set among magnificent stands of towering California redwoods, lush native and exotic trees, the forest offers nearly 200km of sign-posted world-class mountain biking trails and walking tracks catering for everyone from beginners to experts alike, and at any fitness level.
Mokopuna trail is a perfect track to get the little ones started as you run alongside them. The two-way trail is wide, easy to follow, and dogs are allowed to join in the fun.
Access to the forest and trails is always free, and maps are available from the Redwoods i-SITE Visitor Information Centre which is open daily.
Top tip: Many trails in the forest are shared use, so always keep an eye out for others coming or going on foot, bike and even horse.
Ziplining through an ancient virgin forest with award-winning Rotorua Canopy Tours is an experience you’ll remember for a lifetime. Both the Original and Ultimate tours run several times a day, so there should be no hassle fitting this into your day as long as you book ahead. The Original Tour is suitable for ages 6 and up.
Because of the thick tree canopy, this is an almost all-weather activity as the trees keep you mostly dry. On wet days, Rotorua Canopy Tours recommends wet-weather gear but if you get caught out without it, they can get you sorted.
Explore incredible geothermal reserves
A magical place to enjoy the outdoors is Waimangu Volcanic Valley. Here, some of the best walking trails in Rotorua are set within an awe-inspiring geothermal reserve. Choose from a range of self-guided nature walks and hiking trails (mostly downhill!), through pristine New Zealand bush. If you’re a geek for factoids, keep an eye on your guide sheet as you make your way past spectacular volcanic craters, enormous hot water springs, beautiful geothermal features, rare and unusual plant life, brilliantly coloured micro biology and a wide array of birds.
But wait, there are two more ways to enjoy this incredible place. Add on a relaxing cruise across beautiful Lake Rotomahana to see even more geothermal activity, with full commentary by your skipper, or book in for a Steaming Cliffs Kayak tour on the lake.
Sulphur Bay Wildlife Refuge on the south-eastern shore of Lake Rotorua is home to an array of bird species thriving in the active geothermal environment. The water in this area is a milky colour due to sulphur suspended in the water. You can walk or bike through Sulphur Bay. Access is free, however, because this area is home to endangered native plant and birdlife, dogs are not permitted.
Playgrounds and a maze
Speaking of lakes, the Rotorua Lakefront has always been a central hub for locals and visitors to enjoy. Now, thanks to a $40 million redevelopment in progress, it’s even better than one could imagine.
A gorgeous new boardwalk was finished last year that features multiple wider pathways following the shoreline, projecting out over the lake, and criss-crossing in some areas – perfect for enjoying the waterfront by foot or bike, and suitable for prams, pushchairs and mobility scooters as well.
But wait until you see the epically new-and-improved Volcanic Playground (pictured above), now about four times larger than the original! The kids will go nuts over the two large smooth-surface loops for bikes, scooters and skateboards, dual flying foxes, a basketball half-court, a nest swing, a rope course with slide, a pendulum swing, net see-saw and much more. There are also places to sit, relax, and watch all the action, plus permanent food and coffee containers to buy refreshments.
If you’re up for something a bit more relaxed for the adults where the kids can burn off some energy, head to aMAZEme and tell them there’s a reward for the one who can get to the middle of the maze first. Bringing a picnic lunch is welcomed, and there are giant lawn games, McGregor’s Garden and a small-animal petting area too.
There are heaps of ways to get active here in Rotorua, so get out there and make some memories. Don’t forget the sunblock and water bottles!