Traveling with kids is not always a vacation. But with a bit of planning and research, you can discover places to go and things to do that makes for some priceless family moments. And it’s places like Rotorua with its laid-back atmosphere and dizzying amount of stunning natural wonders – that families flock to for the perfect mix of rest and relaxation, adventure, Māori culture, history, and really cool one-of-a-kind experiences.
Located in the central North Island, Rotorua is truly at the crossroads of it all, with highways and byways that lead to volcanic craters and world-class mountain bike trails, Shweeb racing and treewalks – it’s all here in one place. Welcome to Rotorua-land!
As New Zealand’s only living Māori village, Whakarewarewa is a real eye opener that will stay with you long after your time here – because this is an open invitation to see the real legacy and actual home of the Tūhourangi–Ngāti Wāhiao people. Educational, interactive, entertaining and inspirational, you can spend the day exploring Whakarewarewa and easily lose track of time. There’s a must- watch cultural performance, stroller friendly nature walks set amidst bubbling mud pools and hot springs, and of course the world-famous hangi pie to enjoy – though the more traditional Hangi feast is also available here.
Bonus points: Love it or hate it, camping together is like a rite of passage all families should give a go. So why not experience this magic at the stunning Hot Water Beach campground at Lake Tarawera. You’ll enjoy a scenic water taxi ride over to secluded Te Rata Bay, indulge in thermal hot springs lakeside and thanks to the geothermal activity underground, you’ll have ‘underfloor’ heating all day long!
There are not many restaurants or cafes in Rotorua that are as family friendly as Abracadabra! With great atmosphere, a fantastic menu to cater to a variety of tastes (including vegan and gluten free) , kiddies menu, plenty of beautiful and spacious indoor/outdoor seating, Abracadabra has earned its place as a favourite foodie spot for Rotorua locals. Littlies will love the outdoor play area, complete with sandpit, mini kitchen and play hut. Meanwhile Mum and Dad can kick back with a fresh meal, tasty craft beer, or delicious coffee. Centrally located but away from the hustle and bustle of the main strip, Abracadabra is that local gem you’ll always end up coming back to.
A trip to Rotorua wouldn’t be complete without a visit to a geothermal park. Take a fascinating step back in time to see for yourself and as a family how the world began. Waimangu is the world’s youngest geothermal park and is home to the famous Pink and White Terraces that were buried after Mount Tarawera’s eruption’s in 1886. Exciting to visit and spectacular to see – you also get to sneak in a walk and some fitness in there so it’s a win-win for all.
4. 3D Trick Art Gallery
Ever fancied being an All Black? What about taking a ride in a hot air balloon? Wrestling an octopus? Riding a dolphin? Rotorua’s 3D Trick Art Gallery is a unique activity that will delight the whole family, including the most reluctant family member! Jam-packed full of life-size two-dimensional hand paintings which transform into mind-blowing three-dimensional scenes at the click of a camera button, you’ll get some great souvenirs of your family’s holiday in Rotorua. This is the perfect place to spend the day when you want to escape wet, windy or cold weather. Get creative and pose away, you are only limited by your imagination (and the battery life on your camera). Hungry afterwards? The delicious Farmside Buffet, also located on site, has something for the whole family.
5. Skyline Rotorua
Day or night, the iconic Skyline Rotorua has plenty of family friendly fun to enjoy. Gondola, luge or zipline to your hearts content with a great selection of family tickets to choose from because once will never be enough. There’s even the Jelly Belly Factory Store next door as a treat for those who have been very good – with an art gallery that boasts some incredible jelly bean masterpieces to check out too!
6. Velocity Valley
Adventurous fun that’s parent approved but still full of thrills and spills. Well, particularly if you take on Agrojet – perfect for those looking for some high-speed adventure on water. You can literally spend the entire day here, going from one adrenaline fuelled ride to the next – even better with a family pass available. There’s a giant Twister you can play and a free BBQ area for visitors to use so BYO picnics are really good idea. You’ll find Velocity Valley on Paradise Valley Road – a scenic spot about a 10-minute drive outside central Rotorua. Or you can book a free shuttle service that will pick you up from any central Rotorua accommodation to enjoy a car-free day – bliss!
7. Redwoods Whakarewarewa Forest
The perfect place to wander, stroll, run, or mountain bike – Redwoods Whakarewarewa Forest is the beating heart of Rotorua. A hotspot for locals and visitors alike, it is a place to get active with world-class trails for all levels and skills to discover but also to simply slow down and appreciate the natural wonderland before you. For an unforgettable must-do come sunset or just after kids have had dinner, the Redwoods Treewalk Nightlights experience is straight out of a fantasy filled storybook – twinkling lights, otherworldly, with suspended bridges that you walk across oohing and aahing between majestic giant redwoods – it’s literally the stuff that dreams are made of.