Rotorua Lakes - Free things to do

The Rotorua region is home to a variety of stunning lakes, a playground of jumping rocks, secluded natural hot pools, glow worms, running and biking trails. The lakes are a big reason why many of our locals chose to call Rotorua home.

Lake Rotomahana
Best for: History Buffs

Our favourite, but we’re biased, Lake Rotomahana is a haven for the history buffs among us. Rotomahana attracted the first tourists in New Zealand to see the Pink & White Terraces, once believed to be the eighth natural wonder of the world. The eruption of Mount Tarawera in 1886 blasted the lake to 20 times its original size, and buried the terraces under mud, ash and water. Scientists flock to the area in the race to discover what’s left of the terraces, and plan to send a manned submersible down to the depths to take a closer look! Add to that the regenerating native bush, geothermal activity, steaming cliffs and lakeside geysers and you’ve got one really unique spot. Check out our Lake Rotomaha Boat Cruise

Lake Rotomahana - Waimangu Volcanic Valley

Lake Rotoiti
Best for: Hot Pools

There’s something very special about hot pools that are only accessible by boat. Lake Rotoiti is home to the Manupirua Springs hot pools, a lake side paradise with 6 mineral hot pools and easy access to the lake for a cold water plunge for the brave!

Don’t worry if you don’t have your own boat, there are a plenty of ways to get there. River Rats offer kayak tours to the hot pools, and Katoa run transport from Rotorua. If you’re looking for a taste of luxury or have a special occasion in mind, how about a yacht with Pure Cruise or fly by floatplane and land on the water by the pools with Volcanic Air.

Lake Rotoiti Hot Pools - Volcanic Air


Lake Tarawera
Best for: Trail Runners

Also home to a number of natural hot pools, Lake Tarawera is a trail runners dream. The stunning and challenging Tarawera Trail offers views across the lake to Mount Tarawera, and plenty of hills to get the heart pumping!

The Tarawera Trail ends at hot water beach, the perfect place to soak and relieve tired legs. If you’re not keen on the return trip, there’s a water taxi with Totally Tarawera to bring you back to the start.

Free hot pool - Lake Tarwera
Lake Tikitapu
Best for: Family Fun

A firm favourite with families, Lake Tikitapu (or Blue Lake) has all the right ingredients for a day out with the kids. With sandy beaches, barbeques, picnic areas, a playground and family-friendly swimming areas, you can’t go wrong. The 5.5km loop walking track isn’t too taxing for little legs, there is a grade 2 mountain biking trail, and a few options to buy coffee and ice cream as a reward.

Lake Okareka
Best for: Glow worms

Lake Okareka comes into its own at night. The lake is definitely a locals’ favourite, but even some locals don’t know that its home to a host of glow worms! They hang out in lakeside caves, best to explore by kayak or stand up paddle board. Let the locals show you where, Paddle Board Rotorua take guided trips to see these curious little creatures.

Stand up Paddle Boarding Rotorua

Lake Okataina
Best for: Mountain Bikers

A little less frequented is Lake Okataina, a perfect escape for those looking to get off the beaten track. The Western Okataina Walkway provides a backcountry mountain bike ride away from the crowds, the extra effort of the climb up to the trig is worth the reward!

If two wheels aren’t your thing, there’s also a host of walking tracks, and a hidden waterfall to explore.

Posted by Nicki Dent on August 01, 2020