9 top things to do in Rotorua at night

Plan your next evening out with these amazing night-time activities in Rotorua.

A hub of adventure, adrenaline and culture, Rotorua should be right at the top of any New Zealand bucket list!  With so much to do there, the fun doesn’t stop when the sun goes down!

Rotorua is equally suited to a weekend getaway as it is to a longer stay and with a wealth of incredible night-time fun on offer, you’ll have lots of options to help pack that itinerary full.

Whether you’re travelling solo, as a couple or are in Rotorua with kids, there’s something for everyone!

Situated an easy drive (only 2 hours, 45 minutes from the Auckland CBD) or a 45-minute flight, it’s easily accessible from our largest city and also serves as a must-see town for people travelling through the North Island.

How will you spend your evening hours in this unique city?

The following are our top five suggestions for night-time fun in Rotorua

A wooden walkway surrounded by the steaming Kuirau Park during sunset.
Kuirau Park Sunset.

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The Best Things to Do in Rotorua at Night

In no particular order, these are our favourite things to do in Rotorua after sundown…

1. Check out the Redwoods by Night

Though the Redwood Nightlights tour only opened in December of 2016, it has fast become an icon of Rotorua and a firm favourite amongst those looking for night-time entertainment.

Hosted by Redwoods Treewalk Rotorua (and featuring 30 lanterns designed by David Trubridge), the towering redwoods really come to life when the sun goes down.

Guests wander from tree to tree, suspended at up to 20m above the forest floor, all whilst admiring glowing lanterns and enjoying multi-coloured light dancing across the canopy.

23 suspension bridges connect 22 beautiful old redwoods whilst native ferns and trees help make this a uniquely Kiwi experience that suits all travellers.  As there’s no need for a harness and there are plenty of platforms to stop for a rest, a visit to the Redwoods tree walk really is a stunning way for the whole family to spend an evening.

Did you know? If your kids aren’t up to a late-night visit, you can walk the redwoods during the day too. It’s one of our top recommendations for families in Rotorua.

See New Zealand Glow Worms

Though Waitomo is best known for its glow worms, it’s not the only place in New Zealand where you’ll find them. 

In fact, there are two really unique ways to see glow worms in Rotorua after dark…

2. Paddle Board Rotorua

Starting just before sunset, the team at Paddle Board Rotorua will kit you up with everything you need to enjoy a still evening out on one of Rotorua’s many lakes

Once the sun goes down, the real magic begins though – that’s when they’ll tell you to lay back (quite literally) and enjoy an incredible display of bioluminescence in the cave above you.

With shimmering glow worms at arms reach, I’ve never had such a personal experience with these little beauties (and it’s all with the added benefit of a great night out paddle boarding too).

Add in a great rundown on local culture, storytelling and true-blue Kiwi chat and you’ve got yourself a night to remember with newfound friends.

1167 Fenton Street, Rotorua 3010

A man riding a small floating board inside a cave with glow worms.
Photo Credit: Paddle Board Rotorua.

3. Real Rotorua Noctural Tour

Combining a night-time bush walk, glow worms and good kiwi hospitality, a Real Rotorua trip is one to remember.

Join Stephen as he drives you out to secret spot just out of Rotorua.

He’ll kit you up with a couple of torches (and gumboots if you need them) before leading you through native bush.

On your walk, you’ll see waterfalls, native wētā, introduced wallabies and of course, glow worms!

What’s more, Stephen will snap a couple of unique photos for you and treat you to a hot chocolate back at the van.

For a unique and memorable way to see glow worms, we think this trip can’t be beaten!

Book: Real Rotorua [discounted] ✨
Two persons in the forest shining their flashlights on the tress in front.

4. Join a Māori cultural experience

If there’s one night-time experience that’s practically a must-do in Rotorua, it’s an evening Maori cultural experience.

A number of different cultural tours and visits are available in Rotorua – each of them offering something different and unique.

Pick from:

  • Te Pā Tū – Te Pā Tū offers intimate guided tours, including interactive activities, an incredible cultural concert and a modern Māori inspired menu.
  • Mitai – This is the most budget-friendly evening Māori experience. Try a hāngī and watch a memorable waka (canoe) entry.
  • Te Puia – Offering a dinner/show visit and a guided walk through the park (with dessert only), Te Puia is conveniently close to town.
A woman standing wearing a cultural dress.

5. Ride the luge at night!

Whether you’re travelling in Rotorua with kids, or you’re there without them, the luge is a tonne of fun!

Ride a gondola up Mt Ngongotahā before boarding a gravity-powered cart and racing your way down one of Skyline’s luge tracks.

Once at the bottom, you’ll hop on a chairlift and ride back to the top… to race your luge back down again!

Young children can double up with adults, allowing almost everyone in the family to get involved.

It’s possible to luge by day and night, but we particularly love it there when the sun goes down!

That’s when the light the track up in bright colours – ensuring a safe and thrilling ride.

Pro tip: We recommend heading up the Skyline gondola before sunset to enjoy a couple of rides in the daylight. Then have dinner and complete your luge rides in the dark.

Kids in luge rides with neon lighting while inside a tunnel.

6. Admire Rotorua’s Dark Skies (with Camera in Hand)

Rotorua is blessed with many lakes and, at the right time of year, they make the perfect backdrop to stunning views of the milky way.

If you’d like to try your hand at astrophotography you’ll need a camera that has a manual function on it and will need to set it up as follows:

  • Shutter speed:  This will vary depending on the lens you have but start with around 20 seconds and if the stars are forming nice little circles, you might be able to push it out further.  There is a formula to calculate the maximum shutter speed you should use but we’re keeping things simple here.
  • Aperture:  The lower your f-stop, the more light your camera will pick up.  As a general rule, take it down as low as it will go (eg. f2.8 or f3.5 are fairly common apertures at the lower end of the spectrum).  Often lenses don’t perform as well down low so you may like to try going up a touch for interests sake.
  • Focus:  Flick your camera off of autofocus and, if possible, focus on the brightest star you can find.  If your camera won’t allow you to zoom in on your live-view, try setting your manual focus either to infinity or just a touch back from it.
  • ISO:  The higher your ISO, the less range you’ll have between light and dark, in effect brightening up your image.  To start, I’d suggest setting it to ISO 6400 and adjusting as required.

When planning out your shot, Sun Surveyor is a great addition to your phone as it will show you where the milky way appears in the sky and at what time you can expect it (remember to keep an eye out for the moon too as it’ll out-glow the stars in your photos).  You can also use an app like Light Pollution Map to check the best area for photo-ready dark skies.

You’ll also need a tripod for your astrophotography and may also like to use a manual shutter release to further prevent camera shake.

A pontoon stretching on a calm lake with a view of the stars and Milky Way seen on a cloudless sky.
Photo Credit: Scenes by Cycl1n.

7. Soak in Rotorua’s Geothermal Mineral Water

After a busy day running around the North Island’s adventure capital, there’s nothing better than a soak in one of the areas stunning hot pools.

Pick from:

  •  Polynesian Spa [discounted] – set right on the lake, these pools blend beautifully into their surroundings leaving guests relaxed and ready to take on their next adventure. It’s also right in town – perfect if you don’t have a rental car.
  • Hell’s Gate [discounted] – located just out of Rotorua, Hell’s Gate opens for a limited season of twlilight bathing. It’s well worth heading out for a mineral water soak with a mud spa and a walk around the geothermal park.
  • Secret Spot [discounted] – relax in your own private cedar hot tub, surrounded by bush. What’s more, the team will even deliver drinks right to you!

Regardless of which one you choose, you’ll enjoy all of the benefits of naturally warmed geothermal mineral water or fresh water and feel any stress melt away.

Your skin, muscles and mind will all thank you for making the investment!

A person relaxing on a hot pool while on front of a steaming lake.
Photo Credit: Polynesian Spa.

8. Tuck into a Good Meal

The food scene in Aotearoa has really developed over recent years and the addition of Eat Street in Rotorua reflects exactly that – delicious kai in a modern, vibrant environment. It is home to some of the best food in Rotorua.

Situated conveniently at the lake end of Tutanekai Street (which is also handy to our favourite accommodation in Rotorua, Aura), Eat Street is warm, covered and offers a wide array of cuisines (and delicious ice cream at Lady Janes!).

If you’re looking for something a bit different, we can also recommend The Thai Restaurant, where they serve up delectable food in portions big enough to share.

The Eat Street food court with colourful lights.
Photo Credit: RotoruaNZ.

9. Visit the Rotorua night market

If you’re around town on a Thursday evening, there’s only one place to be – the Rotorua Night Market!

Head along to Tutanekai Street (between Hinemoa and Haupapa St) between approximately 5 pm and 8.30 pm (times change slightly depending on the season – check before visiting.)

There you’ll find food trucks and stands, selling delicious kai (food), arts, crafts and artisan products. In addition, musicians ensure a festival vibe.

With a focus on world-class tourism activities, nature, culture and fun, Rotorua is an incredible part of New Zealand and one that deserves your attention long after the sun goes down!

The only question is how many nights can you commit to spending in this incredible region?

Thank you to RotoruaNZ for making our recent visit possible.  As always, all thoughts are 100% our own.

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