Travel

Rotorua – The top 7 things to do with the kids!

Discover this hidden gem of New Zealand's North Island
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Standing atop a mountain, I peer at the view below – Lake Rotorua sparkles in the distance. But while the scenery is breath taking, my pulse is racing for a different reason.

I ‘Superman dive’ into a giant transparent ball filled with water, take a deep breath and roll down the hill. Slipping, splashing and screaming, I realise: Rotorua is much more than the sleepy city it appears to be!

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If you’re looking for a destination that’s great for families, Rotorua has lots to offer for kids to see, do and discover!

A MUST DO! 

With all the volcanic activity in the area, Rotorua has an interesting history and plenty of incredible natural wonders to see – and the Waimangu Volcanic Valley plays home to much of it.

Seven craters make up the valley, and from the top, I take in the view of Echo Crater with Frying Pan Lake – the largest natural hot spring in the world – steaming in the background. My guide tells me the water is naturally boiling temperature!

Though I’ve booked a tour guide, visitors can easily navigate the park solo. There’s even an interactive app that can show you what the area looked like before Mount Tarawera erupted in 1886, creating the landscape we see today.

Waimangu Volcanic Valley
(Credit: Destination Rotorua)

TURN UP THE ACTION! 

After all the sightseeing, I’m ready for adventure – and I get it at OGO Rotorua, the world’s largest downhill ball rolling park!

The sight of Mount Ngongotaha sets my heart racing, but I make it to the top, fight back my fears and quite literally dive into the ‘Zorb’ ball!

Taking the ‘easiest’ path, my screams are concealed inside the ball and as I make it to the bottom and catch my breath …I can’t wait to go again!

The exhilarating activity is fantastic for kids (over 5) – and people with a fear of heights, like me.

Tip: Take swimmers and a towel!

OGO Rotorua

Sticking with the action theme, I head to Skyline Rotorua, where I find a gondola ride, go-kart-style luge, zip line and sky swing.

All the activities are great for the kids, and Volcanic Hills Winery is the perfect spot for the big ‘kids’ to take a break with a local tipple.

For dinner, I head to Terrace Kitchen, where dishes on the menu are created using the best local produce.

A night treetop walk at Redwoods Forest is a thrilling way to finish the day on a literal high – the bridges are suspended up to 20m off the ground!

Redwood Forest

MAKING FRIENDS

One of the most special parts of a trip to New Zealand is getting to know the local animals – and at the Rainbow Springs Nature Park (next to Skyline), I learn all about the famous kiwi.

At the purpose-built Kiwi Encounter conservation centre, I learn about the threats to the sweet, small, fluffy flightless bird, and why it’s on the verge of extinction.

But it’s in the Nocturnal House where I meet these cute creatures that only come out at night.

I watch as three of the strange, long-beaked and admittedly endearing birds wander around their habitat and I find myself grateful to know that the centre is putting in extreme efforts to repopulate kiwi numbers in the wild.

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MEETING THE LOCALS 

A 20-minute bus ride away, I reach a lush 200-year-old native forest, and am greeted with a warm ‘kia ora’ (hello) at the Tamaki Maori Village.

The village offers an interactive way to learn about Maori people and culture, and I’m treated to a traditional music performance and ‘haka’, the Maori war dance.

Following the Maori custom to share food, I take part in a traditional Maori ‘hangi’, a meal of meat and vegetables cooked over hot stones in a pit beneath the ground. Delicious!

Tamaki Maori Village
(Credit: Tamaki Maori Village)

LAKESIDE VIEWS

The town is famous for its volcanic geothermal action, and as I arrive at Sudima Hotel Lake Rotorua, the smell of sulphur from the lake hits me (don’t worry, you get used to it). Right in the heart of town, the 250-room lakeside hotel offers a buffet breakfast and a heated pool and spa.

I kick off my visit with an aqua-duck tour of the city, taking in key attractions like Government Gardens and Sulphur Point by the lake, before the driver takes us up the hill and finally into the lake itself, while entertaining us with jokes and local folklore.

Rotorua Duck tours
(Credit: Destination Rotorua)

After the tour, it’s time for a little R&R, and Polynesian Spa (a two-minute walk from the hotel) is just the place.

There are two types of mineral water feeding into its 28 natural pools: the acidic Priest Spring for easing aches, and the alkaline Rachel Spring for rejuvenating the skin.

Some spas overlook the beautiful lake, and there’s even a slide and large pool to keep the kids happy.

Polynesia Spa

Rotorua is a 45-minute flight (with Air New Zealand) or a three-hour drive from Auckland. There are also direct flights to Rotorua from Christchurch and Wellington. To plan your trip visit rotoruanz.com 

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