Rotorua is one of the biggest tourist destinations in New Zealand, attracting around 3 million visitors every year. You’ll find all sorts of attractions, including geothermal and natural wonders, crazy adventure activities, and cultural entertainment. Plus, if you’re looking for free things to do in Rotorua, you’re in luck!
As in any major tourist area, in Rotorua you might expect to spend a lot of money. Most visitors seem to splurge quite a bit in Rotorua, going to all of the thermal parks, attending Maori shows, and maybe even trying out river rafting or Zorbing. Even backpackers seem to drain their wallets here, indulging in all of the entertainment options. Which would explain why tourism in Rotorua rakes in about $700 million a year.
Yes, money flows abundantly here, and it would almost seem that you can’t visit Rotorua unless you are willing to spend, but that’s not true.
If you’re visiting Rotorua on a budget, you will have to skip out on a lot of the advertised attractions. You won’t be able to go everywhere and do everything. You won’t be able to do all the cool things you hear the other backpackers raving about. But that’s okay.
There are plenty of free things to do in Rotorua. Instead of trying to do all of the major attractions, pick a couple that are really worth it to you. (For example, I spent the money to go to Wai-O-Tapu) Then fill in the rest of your time with these free things to do in Rotorua.
Free Things to Do in Rotorua
Kuirua Park is the only free geothermal park in the Rotorua area. Other larger and more popular places like Waimangu and Te Puia will cost you, but this city park is easily accessible on foot and will cost you nothing. A thermal foot bath is also available to use for free.
Walk the Natural Heritage Trail
Walking really is the best free activity. While there are plenty of places to walk near Rotorua, the best walk is the Natural Heritage Trail. Located right in town, this walk takes you along the shore of Lake Rotorua; from Sulpher Bay up to Motutara Point, and around to the main lakefront area. Along the way you’ll see wildlife, wetlands, geothermal features, and plenty of scenic views.
Stroll Through Government Gardens
Rotorua’s Government Gardens is a park set right on the shore of Lake Rotorua. Besides beautiful gardens, the park is home to the Rotorua Museum, The Blue Baths, a sculpture garden, a heritage trail, a croquet lawn, and access to walking trails along the lake.
Just a short bus ride outside of town, Rotorua’s Redwood Forest (or Whakarewarewa Forest) is a playground for hikers and bikers alike. Explore the trails on foot or mountain bike, or just stop by to look at the trees. The Treetop Walk allows you to get right up in the trees for a special experience.
Note: Entrance to the forest and use of the trails is free; the Treetop Walk costs $25 for adults.
Rotorua Night Market
Every Thursday night, the Rotorua Night Market is held on Tutanekai Street, between Haupapa and Hinemoa. The streets are blocked off to cars and the community comes together to enjoy food trucks and stalls, live music, and a farmer’s market. It’s a fun way to spend the evening, whether alone or with friends.
Note: While the market is free to attend, you’ll want to bring a couple of dollars to try some of the food if you can.
Hot Springs Hopping
There are natural hot springs all around Rotorua. While there are some commercial places that charge for use, there are still plenty of free hot pools open to all. Spend your time soaking in the free hot springs instead of paying for that baths or spas! The hardest part of this one is finding them and getting there (if you don’t have a car).
Note: This article lists a few of the free hot pools in the area
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