Winners of both the Māori Tourism Award and Resilience & Innovation Award at the New Zealand Tourism Awards 2023.

You don’t always have to spend a lot to enjoy the geothermal wonderland that is Rotorua. Browse through our suggestion on some of the best Rotorua experiences that don’t cost you anything, are well worth the visit and help stretch that budget a little further.

1. Hamurana Springs

A half hour easy walk through a grove of coastal redwoods with the collection of natural fresh water springs that are stunning shades of turquoise is the perfect addition to a crisp spring day. When you’re thinking of what to do in Rotorua, Hamurana Springs is always a safe bet.

2. Whakarewarewa Forest

The Redwoods are a much loved outdoor playground for locals and visitors alike. As the weather opens up, the towering Californian redwoods forest is the place to experience some of the town’s best walking and biking trails. The hosting ground for Crankworx, it is an absolute paradise for mountain bikers with 90km of master-crafted evolving trails.

3. Kuirau Park

A free to explore volcanic area and park in the heart of the town is another keeper on our ‘what to do in Rotorua for free list’. It has a crater lake, pools of boiling mud and plenty of huffing steam. Take care – the pools here are boiling, and accidents have happened. Featuring a children’s playground, footpools and picnic spots with BBQ facilities, it is ideal for families looking for outdoor relaxation.

4. Government Gardens

Located at the lake’s edge in the town centre these beautiful historic grounds – an icon of Rotorua – surround a Tudor-style spa bath house and an ornate Mediterranean-style public swimming pool. Every spring the gardens (known as Paepaekumana in Māori) are in full bloom with colourful flowers and trees making it a stunning place to be.

5. Ohinemutu – One Of Our Favourite Free Experiences

Located at the edge of Lake Rotorua, Ohinemutu is a symbol of how Māori and European cultures have collaborated. It features an intricately carved Māori meeting house and a 1901 Tudor-style church. Steam rises through the pavers from the earth below and the meeting house is an exquisite sight.

6. Kerosene Creek

This has to be Rotorua’s worst kept secret. Kerosene Creek is one of the many free hot spots where you can soak into thermally heated waters. Located about 30 minutes from the city centre in the middle of the bush (forest as some overseas visitors would call it), it’s an authentic Rotorua experience that won’t cost you a dime!

Some of the other free hot spots around town are Wai-o-Tapu, Wairua Stream and Kuirau Park.

7. Ngongotaha Trout Hatchery

Each year around 100,000 trout are hatched here, and once big enough are released into the lakes providing new stock for trout fishing in New Zealand. Perfect for families, it is free to visit. You can buy fish food for $1 and feed the trout. Being close to Wingspan and Paradise Valley Springs, it may be something to add on to that day’s itinerary.

8. The Lakes

You’re in North Island’s lakes district with 18 lakes, all free to visit, accessible and stunning. Anglers will enjoy the seasonal bounty. During spring, smelt move in close to the shore to spawn and the trout will follow to feed on them. This provides excellent opportunities for the shoreline angler and particularly those wishing to target the large brown trout that come close to the shore during this time. For those not into fishing the lakes present plenty of opportunities to walk and picnic. Of particular mention are the Blue Lake (Tikitapu), Green Lake (Rotorkakahi) and Lake Rotorua.

9. Rainbow Mountain

Rainbow Mountain or Maunga Kakaramea as it is known in the Māori language, is a magical place where you can enjoy a variety of walks. The tracks are well marked and range in grading from easy to difficult (depending on steepness). You’ll know at all times what you’re in for. The views to and from the summit itself are grand – lush forests and emerald coloured lakes.

10. Okere Falls Track

We really want to dust off your walking shoes. Spring is the time to be out and about and another spectacular walk is the Okere Falls Track. This well-formed scenic bush walk through a native forest takes you to lookouts over the Kaituna River and its spectacular waterfalls. It’s a great spot to watch the rafters sweep over the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world.

We hope you enjoyed the list of Free things to do in Rotorua and enjoy your visit to our beautiful and cultural city.