Is there a more family friendly destination in all of New Zealand than Rotorua? Yeah nah.
Earlier this year I took my wife and two kids (aged 1.5 and 3.5) on our first proper family road trip to “Rotovegas”, a tourist town of around 77,000 people, widely known for its geothermal activity and Māori culture — not to mention the fact that it smells kind of like farts.
That’s right. The scent of hydrogen sulphide emissions from all the geothermic activity repulsed and delighted my 3.5-year-old in equal measure. He kept scrunching up his wee nose and asking “who farted?”
That was one of our favourite family activities in Rotorua. Here are some of the others…
“The Luge” – Skyline Rotorua
World famous in the North Island of New Zealand, the Rotorua Luge is easily, in my mind, the single must-do activity for all visitors.
Not only do you get to whizz down a hill on a contraption that’s sort of part go-kart, part toboggan, but you also get to enjoy a nice scenic gondola ride on the way up and down the mountain, not to mention a chair lift at the end of the luge track.
My kids were a little freaked out at first by the gondola and chair lift, but soon relaxed and enjoyed the experience. They loved zipping down the luge — I shared one cart with my son, while my wife shared with my daughter.
The Skyline Rotorua café is family friendly too, with awesome views. The so-called Skyswing Rotorua and Zoom Ziplines are definitely more suited for older kids and adrenaline junkies, of which I am most certainly not one.
I don’t love heights, so I was half expecting this mid-air walk across 28 suspension bridges and 27 platforms in a towering redwood forest to freak me and the kids out — but actually it was bloody brilliant fun for the whole family.
My kids happily marched across the walkways that are suspended 9-20m above the ground. They weren’t worried at all. In fact, once we’d completed the 700m track, they asked if we could do it all again!
Word on the street is Rotorua’s Redwoods Treewalk is even better at night, lit up by the colourful light from 34 lanterns — but that’s well after my kids’ bedtime. Perhaps we’ll take them back some day and get to experience it at night for ourselves. It does look pretty special.
Rotorua Lakefront Playground
I don’t know about you, but it feels like all I do most weekends is take the kids from playground to playground. Indeed, I’ve seen so many playgrounds over the last couple of years that I reckon I’ve become something of an expert on them — so you can believe me when I tell you that this is a goody.
There are many, many things to climb, swing from, spin on, and bounce on at Rotorua’s Lakefront Playground. Best of all, they had some little sand excavators for my construction-obsessed son to dig holes with.
It’s all situated on a piece of picturesque lake front, replete with geese and ducks. Highly recommended with a hot coffee in your hands from one of the food caravans parked nearby.