Sometimes the best things in life ARE free – or, at least that’s what we think when we think about the lakes, forests, parks and mountains that are right here in our own backyard (and a little bit beyond, but still easily accessible).

The next time you’re scratching your head on what to do when you don’t want to spend a cent, start with this list.


If you love being in or on the water, you’re lucky to live in Rotorua. With 18 sparkling lakes and three major rivers in our region, you might want to start a Bingo card and aim to see them all.

Enjoy a refreshing freshwater swim in nearly any of the lakes.

If the temperature’s a bit low and you need a warmer activity, relax in a hot thermal pool along the edge of Lake Tarawera.

The lakes are great for cruises on a kayak, canoe, packraft or SUP to see the beautiful autumn colours lining the shores. Pack a couple sammies and something to drink, and enjoy a cruisey afternoon outing.

Many of our lakes can be enjoyed from the beach or by trail, too.

The boardwalk at Lake Okareka takes you through native vegetation, farmland, beach, lake and wetland scenery, and features expansive views and wildlife, including our much-loved dabchicks.

Lake Tikitapu has the Blue Lake Track which circles the lake in mostly undulating bush with a couple beaches thrown in.

We’ve posted another story about these and more great places to walk here.


Wouldn’t you agree that our beautiful forest is one of Rotorua’s best assets? Several tracks of varying lengths allow you to take in the natural beauty, admire the different flora and fauna, and just enjoy the fresh air. You can spend an hour or half a day here and it won’t cost you a thing. In fact, we’d recommend frequent and regular visits for forest bathing.

Enjoy the simple things in life while exploring the beautiful environment that surrounds our beautiful city.



The Government Gardens is a great place to enjoy on a sunny autumn day.

Rotorua Museum, the Blue Baths, the Klamath Falls Rose Gardens, Te Runanga Tearooms and Band Rotunda are all located here.

Klamath Falls Rose Gardens on Queens Drive are named after Klamath Falls in Oregon, USA – a sister city to Rotorua. Beautiful roses are in bloom from mid-November to June.


Right in the centre of town you can explore natural hot springs, bubbling mud pools, stunning gardens and even a crater lake. Take some time to soak your feet in the recently renovated geothermal foot baths, a lovely way to relax.


More commonly known as the Tree Trust, Centennial Park offers 20 beautiful, grassy, tree-dotted hectares of rolling hills and steep gullies await. Autumn is probably the best time to view the colourful Maple Grove, the gingko-lined drive, and the Peace Memorial. In spring, thousands of Tui flock here when the trees are in flower, happily singing their little hearts out while they dine on their favourite nectar. Sheep are the eco-friendly grounds keepers here, so be sure to close any gates you go through.



The first part of this walk follows an easy grade through native bush that features one of the largest rata trees (40 metres tall!) in the Bay of Plenty, and a viewing platform. It then continues on the Mt Ngongotaha Nature Loop Track to Jubilee Track where the trail becomes moderately steep until near the summit. Once you reach Mountain Road, it’s just a short walk further to the summit.


Rainbow Mountain can be tackled by mountain bike or foot. It takes the average person on foot an hour and a half to reach the summit but the time will fly by as you check out this amazing geothermal mountain, with crater lakes and magically coloured earth. At the summit, 360-degree views reveal Mount Tarawera, three lakes, forests, ranges and even the volcanic peaks of Mount Tongariro to the south. A few more details of the track can be found here.