Discover native bush, mighty lakes, and piping hot thermal vents on these Rotorua walks
Looking to experience the beautiful scenery, forests and lakes our part of the world has to offer? Then get out and amongst it on our Rotorua walks. Rotorua has something for everyone no matter your fitness or age. We love our diverse walks, treks, and hikes, so we thought it would be great to share some of our favourites with you. We’ll cover everything from the most popular, to the hidden gems. We’ve included all the essential details, but we do recommend having a chat with our staff for further info and details.
1. Tikitapu/Blue Lake (1hour 30mins)
An iconic Rotorua walk, Lake Tikitapu is a peaceful lake at the foot of a mountain. The looping track which circles the lake transitions between native bush, lakeside shores, and picturesque vistas. If your fitness is a concern, look no further. This relatively pleasant track has a gentle 40 meter elevation change. If you’re coming from Rotorua, you’ll find yourself at the northern end of the track. There is convenient parking just off the road by the beach. This sandy strip is perfect for lounging or enjoying a pre-walk dip, but if you’re keen to get going, continue along the beach till the track meets Tarawera road. As you follow this route, view the towering Moerangi Peak to your right.
Once you find the sign marking the walkway circuit, continue through both splits opting for the longer options. You’ll definitely be repaid as you pass through the beaches and bush. Not so long after that second split, you’ll find a path to a relatively private small beach on the lake. Further along you’ll find South Beach, which is much wider and has grand views of the surrounding mountains.
Next you will reach the highlight and greatest challenge of this walk, the double views of Blue Lake and Green Lake. Climb a short sharp set of stairs to reach the ridge, to enjoy this view. From here, the track weaves through lush native woodlands along the slopes, with the lake peaking out at certain points. There are several more vistas as you continue around the rest of the lake so definitely bring a camera. Once you reach the end you’ll find the boats only area and swimming area. After a good day's hike, on warmer days it will be hard to avoid a swim.
The volcanic lake formed 13,500 years ago. It’s beautiful turquoise blue colour is attributed to the rhyolite and pumice covering the floor of the lake. The lake’s Maori name “Tikitapu” is derived from an ancient Maori tale. It refers to the tale of a high born chief who lost her sacred greenstone ornament in the blue lake. It is said the lake hides the ornament to this day.
Dogs are welcome on Blue Lake Track, but bikes are not allowed. Lake Tikitapu Scenic Reserve is free to visit and no permit is required for Blue Lake Track, so get out and enjoy!
2. Mount Ngongotaha Nature Loop (1 hour 30 mins)
Mount Ngongotaha Nature Loop is a perfect walking experience for families who are looking to chill out in nature. This Rotorua Walk is a loop with a gentle easy path. Circling the mountain it is an opportunity to see the wondrous native plant life and animals of the region. Beginning at Violet Bonnington reserve, you’ll pass through farmland and soon reach a lonely rata Tree. One of the highlights of this loop, the large tree the local’s refer to as Pat is a conservation icon. This mammoth tree is hundreds of years old, and the largest in the Bay of Plenty region, and it’s flowers attract kaka, tui, and korimako who love the nectar.
Beyond the tree, the nature loop track begins. The forest here is full of interesting fungi and plant life. These are well marked by helpful posters and signs. As you walk you’ll reach a junction between the Nature Walk and Jubilee Track. If you’re keen for a longer walk, you’re able to continue down the Jubilee Track, which intersects the track 1.3km in. It crosses over again after another 1.2km. The Jubilee track continues upward, reaching the summit of Mount Ngongotaha. This can be a more difficult track so definitely bring sturdy shoes.
On your way back down at the second junction of the jubilee track and the Nature walk is an awesome view of the city, as well as a huge rimu tree.
Mt Ngongotaha is a part of the rich fabric of Rotorua. The Mountain was named by the Maori explorer Ihenga, who upon reaching the summit was served water by the local patupaiarehe woman. Thus, he named the mountain Ngongotaha (‘drink from a calabash”).
Mountain Road which connects to the end of the Jubilee track leads to the Aorangi Peak Restaurant (An awesome place to go before or after a long mountain walk).
3. Rotorua Lakefront Walk (20 mins)
This easy stroll is walking distance from the heart of town and Eat Streat. A popular spot for local walkers and cyclists alike, the track is accessible to most with its paved pathway (Opened in July 2021). The walkway follows along the lake looking over the sparkling waters with Mokoia Island standing in the middle. The lake hosts a number of water activities during the day, including: Waka Paddle Rotorua, A geothermal dining cruise, volcanic air’s helicopter and hydroplane tours, and jet boat rides. One option is to make a trip out to Mokoia Island itself, boats leave daily from the lakefront.
The volcanic Mokoia Island has a rich history tied to the local Te Arawa iwi, specifically in the story of Hinemoa and Tutanekai. The two lovers Hinemoa and Tutanekai were forbidden to marry, let alone meet. Guided by the sound of Tutanekai’s flute playing, and rebelling against her father, Hinemoa swam to the island. This is captured in the iconic Maori love song, “Pokarekare Ana”. The Te Arawa iwi used the island’s rich volcanic soil to grow Kumara. Currently run in conjunction with the DOC and local iwi, it is a bird sanctuary home to endangered kiwi, kokako, and north island saddleback.
You can learn more about Hinemoa and Tutanekai from the interpretive panels dotted along the walkway.
4. The Redwoods/Whakarewarewa Forest (30 mins - 3h 30 mins)
Redwood Memorial Grove Track
Length: 2 kilometres. Time: 30 minutes Difficulty: Very easy, suitable for children. This walk takes you through the Californian Redwoods and includes a board walk through a thermal pond.
Quarry Lookout Track
Length: 4.8 kilometres. Time: 1 hour 30 minutes Difficulty: Moderate, suitable for active children. This track consists of a reasonable climb up through beautiful bush to a lookout with a spectacular view of Rotorua, then steps back down to the car park.
Tokorangi Pa Track
Length: 11.5 kilometres Time: 3 hours 30 minutes. Difficulty: Average fitness required. There is a steady climb up but the rewards are the beautiful forest and spectacular views of Rotorua city, the lake and Mount Ngongotaha. Once at the Pa, the track continues on down to "The Wash", then past the wastewater treatment ponds before taking you up and over Nursery Road back to the car park. Well worth the time and effort!
The Redwoods and Whakarewarewa Forest today are an important part of the Rotorua Landscape and New Zealand’s wider history. The forest served as a testing ground for a number of tree species to see which would be most viable in New Zealand’s conditions. While 170 varieties were planted in the early 1900’s, only a few are standing today. The Radiata Pine which proved best adapted to growing in New Zealand is common in commercial plantations across the country.
If you’re willing to pay, there is a really great night time Treewalk suspended high above the forest floor. The intricately designed lights match the stunning natural environment.
5. Rainbow Mountain-Crater Lake Walk (1h 30 mins)
Rainbow Mountain Scenic Reserve sits just outside of Rotorua. The mountain named Maungakaramea (Mountain of coloured earth), the beautiful turquoise lake is surrounded by steep red and white cliffs. As you arrive you’ll find picnic tables and a pavilion with information about the reserve. There are 3 main tracks, the Crater lake track, Te Tiho o Ruru (The summit track), and Te Ara Ahi (the regional cycle track that runs 4.7 kilometers to Waiotapu).
Start off hiking up the dirt track through young trees and brush, Kanuka and Manuka provide some shade, and ferns are laced through the surrounding bush. Soon you will reach the Crater Lake Lookout. Here you’ll be able to see the lake and Rainbow Mountain’s sheer cliffs. The unique mineral composition of the soil and thermal activity means this site has unique geothermal vegetation.
After you reach this point, it’s worth continuing upwards along the path. See the coloured ridges emitting hot steam, and sparse bush.There are some points with views of the countryside, but once you reach the top you’ll find an epic panoramic view. Gaze across from the peak to see Mt Tarawera; Lakes Tarawera, Rotomahana anda Rerewhakaaitu to the north; the Paeroa Range to the west; the Urewera Ranges and Kaimanawa Forest to the east; and Mt Tauhara, Lake Taupō and the volcanic peaks of Tongariro National Park to the south.
At the eruption of Mt Tarawera in 1886, life in this region was significantly affected. The vegetation was largely destroyed, with only small patches of the original trees native to the area surviving. In recent times however the thermal activity has reduced resulting in increasing vegetation cover or rare volcanic plant life. Nevertheless, the unique colours and landscape shaped by the past remains.
Near this track you’ll also find Kerosine creek. This is an awesome spot to checkout after a long day's walking.
6. Lake Okareka Boardwalk
This Rotorua walk is both accessible and picturesque. On the shores of Lake Okareka, Acacia Road, about 9 kilometres from Rotorua, this walk is awesome for seeing a wide variety of aquatic birds. The well maintained walkway starts at on Acacia Road and continues for around 2.5 km until the outlet. The track features a hide for birdwatching, and showcases native plants, farmland, beach, lake and wetland scenery, as well as expansive views of the surrounding scenery. For families with wheelchairs or prams the boardwalk is accessible as far as Silver Beach. At this point,the walkway inclines higher, and then descends to the lake outlet. Interestingly, the outlet connects underground with Tarawera to form the Waitangi Waterfall.
Okareka means “Sweet Food”. This is telling of the important role this water body played to the iwi who lived here. Cultivation of the fish and wildlife was commonplace, including: whitebait, koura crayfish and toitoi.
This lake is great for fishing!
Where to stay while you explore our Rotorua Walks?
We're proud of our Rotorua walks, and would love to share them with you. If you're keen to get out there and into it there's no better place to stay than our very own Holden's Bay Holiday Park. Our expert team and facilities are perfect for setting you up for any other adventure our region has to offer. We offer a bed for every budget.
Book Now if you're planning to come through our part of the world!