16 unmissable things to see and do in Rotorua with kids

Explore the best things to do in Rotorua with kids. Each and everything on this list is sure to keep kids (and parents) happy!

The tourism industry in Rotorua was originally established when land was leased from Ngati Whakaue in the late 1800s.  Tourists flocked to the area to experience natural geothermal wonders and, as international tourism grew, celebrations of Māori culture formed an important part of the visitor experience.

Nowadays, Rotorua offers a wider range of events and activities catering to all ages and appetites for adventure and relaxation.

From bubs to teens, this is the ultimate list of family-friendly attractions in Rotorua. And it’s written by a local, for the young and young-at-heart, so you know there are plenty of hidden gems in the mix.

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A family walking down a concrete stair in the woods of Rotorua.
Photo credit: Graeme Murray.

The Best Things to Do in Rotorua with Kids

The following is a list (in no particular order) of our favourite recommendations for those travelling with kids.

Family-Friendly Animal Encounters

1. Visit the Animals at Paradise Valley Springs

Paradise Valley Springs is located just 11 kms from the city centre, and has long since been a favourite destination for families. The immaculately maintained park is home to brown and rainbow trout and a collection of native and introduced birds and animals (including lions, wallabies, alpacas, pigs, kea and more).  What’s more, the paths are suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs, ensuring it is accessible to the whole whānau.

It’s easy to spend a few hours exploring, feeding the fish and animals (there are often piglets, lambs, fawn and kid goats). You’ll be able to catch the lion feeding at 2.30 pm or the possum feeding at 3 pm too.

We recommend you pack a picnic to enjoy as a family, or you can buy cold drinks, coffee, ice cream and snacks from the shop.

467 Paradise Valley Road, Paradise Valley, Rotorua 3072

Did you know? Paradise Valley Springs is home to captively-bred lions. We appreciate that this isn’t for everyone. It is possible to visit the nature park without seeing the lions if you’d prefer not to. It’s also worth noting that there is no cellphone coverage in the area, so be sure to send messages or make calls before arriving.

A young girl feeds a darkish-brown lamb.

2. Play a Round of Mini Golf with Rabbits!

Is a family trip complete if it doesn’t include a round of mini golf? 

Located near the base of Skyline this place is fun during the day and fairy-like at night! It is open every day from 10 am to 10 pm, with a fun family-friendly course.

This isn’t your normal mini golf course though. Of most note are the friendly, furry Flemish giant rabbits hopping about (or snoozing) while you make your way to the 18th hole.

A bubble machine, music and thousands of twinkling lights make it a fascinating experience after dark too.  Even if you don’t have the time to putt, consider driving by in the evening just to show the littlies the light display.

152 Fairy Springs Road, Rotorua 3015

A rabbit in Rotorua's Mini Golf Course.

3. Check out a Farm Show or Join a Tour at the Agrodome

If you’re keen to share a bit of farming magic with your child, we recommend heading to the Agrodome.

For over 40 years they have been walking visitors from all around the world to their farm show and tour, providing a glimpse into the rural community that so such a big part of our heritage.

The farm show shows off 19 different breeds of sheep, along with other furry and feathery friends. Brought to you by engaging presenters, this hour-long show is fun and educational for kids and adults alike.

Whilst visiting the Agrodome, you’re also able to join a guided tour of their working farm. Covering 350-acres, you’ll have the chance to meet their animals and visit the orchard, all while learning about life on the farm.

In addition, you’ll get to visit their farmyard nursery, where the little bubbas are available for cuddles and photos.

141 Western Road, Ngongotahā, Rotorua 3010

Young girl in a ponytail holds a lamb near her face.

4. Meet Wingspan’s Birds of Prey

If your children love animals, a visit to Wingspan is an absolute must.

Doubling as our National Bird of Prey Centre, the team here do an incredible job of protecting our native species, improving conservation efforts and shining a light on the plight of these amazing birds.

Their free-flying displays, known as flight of the falcon, are informative and exciting, allowing guests a chance to see the power and grace of these birds up close.

It is clear how passionate their team is about the protection of their precious birds. We highly recommend you pop along with your whānau to see for yourselves.

1334 Paradise Valley Road, Ngongotahā, Ngongotahā Valley 3072

Did you know? Wingspan host their flight display Thursday to Sunday, from 11.30 am to 12.30 pm. Bookings are essential and can be made via email or by phoning (07) 357 4469.

A falcon stands on the left hand of a smiling young girl.

5. Make Some New Furry Friends at Heritage Farm

Another popular farm tour, the Heritage Farm is super family-friendly.

With sheep, deer, llamas, alpaca, cattle and more to feed and pet, you and your kids will have plenty of opportunities to get up close and personal with these friendly farmyard animals.

You’ll learn about the role that farm animals have played in improving our daily lives and growing our economy through agriculture. Your friendly host will also share lots of fun farming stories with you.

The tour itself is a one-hour fully guided experience, during which time you’ll ride around the farm on a covered trailer towed by a tractor.

Be sure to pack your camera too as this is a great spot to snap photos of your kids!

171 Fairy Springs Road, Fairy Springs, Rotorua 3015

Did you know? You’ll also find the 3D Trick Art Gallery here. This is lots of fun for families and is a great place to snap some photos.

Father takes a picture of her daughter with a cow grazing on the green grass.

6. Explore the Whakarewarewa Redwood Forest

The spectacular redwood forest is a must-see, whether you’re a walker, biker or wanderer!  Pick up a map from the Rotorua i-SITE to guide you to the tracks and trails that suit your levels of fitness.

If you’re holidaying with young children the Mokopuna Track is a comfortable pram-friendly track in the redwoods. The kids may even find handpainted rocks to rehide along the way. 

The Treewalk is worth doing, but it’s worth noting that kids can’t be carried for safety reasons. They need to walk on the bridges themselves or sit in provided harnessed buggies. 

You can purchase tickets to both day and night walks – both of which are amazing. During the day you’ll get a real sense of the forest, whilst at night the canopy is lit with stunning Trubridge lanterns while laser fairy lights and projections are thrown onto the forest floor. Whatever you choose, this is a wonderful experience.

1 Long Mile Road, Rotorua 3010

Kids and their dad stops by in the middle of a hanging bridge to watch the trees.

7. Fly Through the Sky with Rotorua Canopy Tours

The team at Rotorua Canopy Tours have developed a world-class attraction, but don’t take our word for it. They were awarded the World’s #1 Nature Activity on Tripadvisor in 2021!

They’ve combined adventure ziplining with a concerted conservation effort that is transforming the Dansey Road Scenic Reserve into a thriving, pest-free environment.  Birds have returned and the forest is regenerating to its former glory.

Their knowledge of the project while encouraging you to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ on ziplines will have you flying from platform to platform across native bush.

Children as young as 6 can participate and as there is no upper age limit, grandparents and great-grandparents can join the fun too! 

147 Fairy Springs Road, Rotorua 3015

8. Walk Around Kuirau Park

Visitors of all ages love Kuirau Park. It is a great place to view the bubbling, geothermal activity that Rotorua is famous for. What’s more, it’s the only free geothermal park in New Zealand! 

The heated footbaths are worth visiting before heading across the bridge to the playground… and of course, all kids enjoy a visit to the playground.

The best days to wander the park are damp, cool days when the heat from the thermal springs sits low, creating steamy, misty ‘clouds’ over the mud pools.

In addition, Rotary host a morning market at Kuirau on Saturday mornings, weather permitting. There, you’ll find great stalls and food vendors including coffee, sweet treats, fresh fruit and vegetables, vegan goodies and brunch options.

1371 Pukuatua Street, Rotorua 3010

Did you know? Rotorua is home to a number of geothermal parks. Round off your Rotorua holiday with a visit to one (or more) of the unique thermal parks.  Pick from Wai O Tapu (our favourite), Te Puia (with its day and night tour options) or Waimangu Volcanic Valley (with its self-guided tour and boat trip around Lake Rotomahana).  They are all a great opportunity to educate family on the history, culture and unique features that have made Rotorua a destination for kiwis and international friends for over a hundred and forty years.

Steaming waters of Kuirau Park.

9. Visit Lakefront Playground and Lady Janes Ice Cream Parlour

There has been significant development to the Rotorua Lakefront in the last few years.  With wide boardwalks, park benches and a fantastic playground it’s the perfect place to chill. 

The new playground caters to all kids – right from very young toddlers to older (and more adventurous) kids.

The swingbridge and flying fox are a hit for more independent kids, whilst the loop track is perfect if you’ve got bikes, skateboards or scooters with you.

When you’re finished, we suggest you prize the kids away from the park with the promise of ice cream and refreshments from the iconic Lady Janes Ice Cream Parlour. This is just a short walk across the village green. 

Lakefront Drive, Rotorua

People playing and hanging out in the playground of Rotorua Lakefront.
Photo credit: Andrew Warner.

10. Check out the Gondola and Luge

Perhaps one of the most iconic things to do in Rotorua with kids, the Skyline is a hit with everyone!

On a clear day, the views from the gondola are outstanding, and the luge offers an opportunity for a bit of fun family rivalry as you race down the tracks.  Young children can travel down with an adult, and you’ll have a variety of tracks to choose from, ensuring everyone is happy. There are even massive dinosaur sculptures on some tracks, so make sure everyone has their eyes peeled.

When finished on the luge, a chairlift takes you back to the top where you can choose to race down again, or maybe try out the zipline or skyswing.

The café and restaurant offer great options to keep the family fed and hydrated, too.

178 Fairy Springs Road, Rotorua 3015

Family racing down the track with three luge sleds.

11. Enjoy a Short Walk

If you’re hankering for a break from the busy tourist attractions, you’ll find a number of great walks in the region.

For a short, easy stroll try the Hamurana Walkway (which is similar to the Putaruru Blue Springs) or the Reeme Street Reserve in Ngongotaha – both allow dogs on lead and are beautiful. 

We also love the Ponga Track (officially known as the Puarenga Walk) for kids. It’s a fun track that follows a meandering river through dense bush. Best of all, there are a number of opportunities to cross the river using logs, if your kids are so inclined.

Heading out towards the lakes, you’ll be spoilt for choice, too.

Lake Tikitapu (Blue Lake) offers a couple of walk options. The Nature Walk takes approximately 30-minutes or try out the longer walk around the entire lake (Lake Tikitapu Loop Walk) which is around 5.5 kilometres (so you may end up with younger children opting to ride on your shoulders)  

There’s a viewpoint from the top car park where you can see both Lake Tikitapu (Blue Lake) and Lake Rotokakahi (Green Lake).  On a sunny day, the vivid blues and greens of the water make for stunning photos.  We like to start this walk from the first bottom car park (opposite the TOP 10 Holiday Park) so we get the least scenic part of the track out of the way first.  There are a number of little tracks and stairways along the way too, where you can get down to water level to explore the beach.

Pro Tip: Be sure to take your togs if the weather’s looking nice, as these lakes are wonderful to swim in.

Swim in One of Rotorua’s Many Hot Pools

12. Relax at Secret Spot Hot Tubs

Secret Spot is home to a number of private hot tubs surrounded by native bush and connected by wooden boardwalks.

Book an outdoor fresh-water hot tub for your group of 6 (or less) and soak for 45 minutes surrounded by tree ferns (with drinks and snacks delivered right to you). Or, simply buy a beverage and enjoy a free ‘shinny dip’ on the deck. 

The grass lawn has space for the kids to run around and play and they’ll be entertained playing cornhole or giant Jenga. Plus it’s dog friendly too so the family pooch can join you out and about.

Although it’s called ‘Secret Spot’ these hot tubs are super easy to find. They’re situated in the car park of the popular Waipa Mountain Bike Park. We definitely recommend including a visit when you’re next in Rotorua.

Mountain Bike Car Park, 13/33 Waipa State Mill Road, Whakarewarewa, Rotorua 3073

Tourists enjoying the Secret Spot Hot Tub in the middle of the woods.
Photo credit: Graeme Murray.

13. Let Off Some Steam at the Polynesian Spa

Though the Polynesian Spa is possibly better known for its wonderful adults-only pool, they also have facilities that cater perfectly to families.

In fact, they have a number of family-friendly natural thermal pools, including a toddler’s section, a slide and a deeper section for bigger kids. Though the pool is warm, it’s cooler than the other pools, allowing kids to comfortably dunk their heads. What’s more, there are some hot pools looking down on the main kids’ one, allowing parents to warm up whilst their tamariki have a great time.

1000 Hinemoa Street, Lakeside, Rotorua 3010

Did you know? Children under 5 years of age swim free of charge. All children under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult.

Father and son, and a few people playing in the Polynesian Spa Family Pool.

14. Chill Out at Waikite Valley Thermal Pools

While Waikite  Valley Thermal Pools are a 30-minute drive from Rotorua they’re a real family favourite – and unsurprisingly, one of our favourite things to do in Rotorua with kids.  You’ll find them nestled in the namesake Waikite Valley, overlooking beautiful native bush.

It’s the perfect spot to relax in pools ranging in temperature from 35 to 40 degrees Celcius.

In addition to the pools, they have a short family-friendly walking track to the bubbling Te Manaroa Spring. This is the source of the pure geothermal water used on site.

It’s also possible to camp out there, with 26 powered and unpowered sites available. They also have kitchen, bathroom and laundry facilities, along with unlimited access to the pool complex for guests.

648 Waikite Valley Road, Waikite Valley 3077

Did you know? The water itself comes straight out of the naturally-heated spring, before being cooled and used in the pools. Because the water is not treated with chemicals or a filtration system (making it 100% pure natural geothermal water), they recommend you keep your head above water when swimming. If this doesn’t suit your whānau, then the Polynesian Spa might be a better option.

Two kids bathing in a small Waikite Valley Thermal Pools.

15. Explore Hell’s Gate – Part Geothermal Park, Part Spa

Hell’s Gate is unique from anywhere else on this list as it combines a geothermal park with beautiful hot pools (and mud baths!)

Their sulphur spas (which are geothermally-heated hot pools) are suitable for the little ones 6 months and older, whilst kids need to be 2.5 years or older to enjoy the mud baths.   We recommend you don’t wear your favourite swimwear if you’re planning on trying out the mud bath experience, as the smell can be hard to get rid of. If you rinse off well in the freshwater showers they have there, and get your togs straight into the wash, you should be fine though.

While visiting, be sure to tour the geothermal park too. They hold guided tours twice a day (at no additional charge), but for families, a self-guided walk is likely to be most suitable. That way, you can move at your own pace, stopping at points of interest that suit your kids.

The park itself is relatively flat, making it easy going on little legs.

State Highway 30, Tikitere, Rotorua 3010

Steam coming out of the ground while family and tourist groups pass by in Hell's Gate, Geothermal Park.

16. Pay a Visit to the Daily Dose Bakery for Amazing Treats

Tucked away in the suburbs, this bakery is worth hunting out. 

Apart from tasty pies, quiches, supershakes and the usual bakery kai you’d expect, they have the best doughnuts!  Choose from classics like jam and cream, or custard and cream, or go for a caramilk, biscoff, banoffie or snickers doughnut. With creative, delicious flavours, it’s hard to go past these for a mid-afternoon treat.

We suggest you grab a boxful and have a doughnut picnic on the lakefront!

2/22 Kokako Street, Selwyn Heights, Rotorua 3015

Pro Tip: We also love the sandwiches and cronuts served at Ciabatta Cafe & Bakery. It’s located in an industrial area but is also well worth the drive. They close on Sundays, so be sure to visit on Saturday if you’re only in town for the weekend.

A box of sweet and decorated pastries of Daily Dose Bakery.

Rotorua is an absolute paradise for people of all ages.

With so many activities available to keep the kids happy (whilst also keeping parents entertained), this really is one of the ultimate places in the North Island for a family-friendly holiday.

We suggest you start planning your vacation using all of these awesome ideas.

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Guest post by Kerry Foster, host of two Rotorua accommodations. If you’re looking for amazing local hospitality, we recommend checking out Cottage135 or Blackwood.

Unless otherwise stated, these photos have come from the operators mentioned.

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