Though most commonly associated with steaming sulfur pools, bubbling mud baths, and Maori heritage, Rotorua is also an adventure hub. From easygoing activities to extreme, high-adrenaline excursions, here are a few of the outdoor adventures on offer in this geothermal region of New Zealand’s North Island.
Rotorua is a watery playground, with more than a dozen lakes—collectively known as the Lakes of Rotorua—and several rivers within the region. The white-water rapids of the Rangitaiki, Wairoa, and Kaituna Rivers promise plenty of thrills for rafters. The truly brave can even take the plunge over the 21-foot (7-meter) Tutea Falls in a raft. Alternatively, take an exhilarating spin on a jet boat through the Waikato River’s Tutukau Gorge, or speed across Lake Rotorua to Mokoia Island, a wildlife sanctuary. For gentler water-based adventures, try kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, or even a steamboat cruise.
Just a short journey west of Rotorua lies Waitomo, an area known for its network of underground caves, some of which are accessible to the public. Tour Ruakuri Cave to encounter strange limestone formations and subterranean waterfalls, or Aranui Cave, where thousands of stalactites hang from the ceiling. Don’t miss the Glowworm Caves, where thousands of glowworms twinkle like stars in the dark cavern.
Zipline along cables suspended above the forest canopy, or take to the skies above Lake Rotorua during a parasailing experience that sees you reach heights of up to 400 feet (120 meters). For the ultimate aerial thrill, try a tandem skydive from 15,000 feet (4,572 meters), free-falling for up to 60 seconds before releasing the parachute and floating down to the ground.
For adrenaline-fueled thrills at ground-level, Rotorua offers plenty of options. Go off-road during a 4WD safari, either steering yourself along forest and farmland tracks or sitting back and letting a professional driver take the wheel. Alternatively, slow down the pace with a horseback ride through the countryside or roll down hills in a Zorb or OGO (giant inflatable balls).