Places to Visit in Rotorua

okere falls track hero

Places to Visit in Rotorua

Rotorua is a wonderland for visitors: it showcases geothermal amazements, lush forests, gorgeous lakes and mountains at every turn. At Volcanic Air we’ve put together our favourite places to visit in Rotorua, including nature walks and explorations of the region’s rich history, both cultural and volcanic. 

okere falls track hero
Okere Falls. Photo: Department of Conservation

Okere Falls: Around 20 minutes’ drive from central Rotorua, this walk through Okere Falls Scenic Reserve is an easy 3km round trip and takes about an hour. It takes you through native bush alongside the Kaituna River, and of course features the frothy force of Okere Falls. You might also see white water rafters and kayakers: the waterfalls and rapids here are a huge attraction for these adventurers. There is also a great cafe at the Okere Falls General Store

Whirinaki Forest: If you fancy a long walk or bike ride in a primal forest, Whirinaki is the place for you. Ninety minutes from Rotorua, this ethereal forest is one of the last few examples of primal podocarp (cone-bearing) forests in the world. There are no shortage of tracks to explore: 155 kilometres’ worth! These take you through towering rimu, totara, kahikatea, matai and miro trees, with some trees 1000 years old. The forest also holds rare and endangered birdlife. For wheelchair users and strollers, there is a 2.2-kilometre wheelchair-accessible track. 

CFS19 Whirinaki Forest Park Lake Taupo Whirinaki Rainforest Experiences
Whirinaki Forest. Photo: Whirinaki Rainforest Experiences

Ohinemutu: This is Rotorua’s original settlement. The Maori village was the main centre for the region in the 1870’s, and a hub from which visitors (including royalty) could head for the historical Pink and White Terraces. A few hundred descendents of the original Ngati Whakaue iwi still live here today. While there are guided walks available in the village, you can also walk around it independently at no charge, enjoying the geothermal features like steaming vents and boiling hot pools. The beautiful St Faith’s church is a beautiful attraction (you can even attend a service there 9am Sundays), as is the Tamatekapua meeting house.  

Buried Village: Visit this archaeological site and museum to relive the night of June 10, 1886 at Te Wairoa Hotel, when Mt Tarawera spectacularly erupted, burying the whole village in mud and ash in New Zealand’s largest eruption in living memory. The buried village is a great time capsule to connect with the past – seeing the remains of the village and reading the stories from the village inhabitants at the time can make it all very real. There is a treasure hunt for the kids, and the stunning waterfall nearby is also well worth a visit.  

If you’d like to take it one step further, our helicopters can take you up to land on Mount Tarawera itself – on this adventure you’ll see the craters and domes formed on that fateful night, and learn more from your pilot about the history, culture and geology. 

Kuirau Park: Not many places in the world can say they host four different types of geothermal springs in one location. Kuirau Park is one of them – and it’s free. A stroll through the park is a great way to explore the geothermal side of the city – you’ll see boiling pools of all colours and sizes, steaming geothermal vents, and even a foot spa where you can sit on the edge for a lovely soak. There’s also a children’s playground and basketball courts on the edge of the park. 

Kuirau Park
Kuirau Park. Photo: Rotorua NZ

We hope you manage to tick off at least a couple of these spots on your trip to Rotorua – if you need any advice, or would like to explore the region from the air for that next level experience, get in touch with us at Volcanic Air!