Rotorua City Walk

Editorial Family Fun Inspiration

Our guide to the best short walk in Rotorua

A great way to see many of the best scenic spots of Rotorua is with a short walk around the city.  We embarked on a 90 minute loop walk that takes in Sulphur Bay, Lake Rotorua, Ohinemutu Maori Village, Kuirau Park and the Governemnt Gardens.
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We think it’s the best short walk in Rotorua and will now share what you can expect if you have a couple of hours to spare…

Rototua City Walk - The Start:

We start the walk on the pathway between the Polynesian Spa and Government Gardens.  There’s a number of parking places close to the Polynesian Spa.  Follow the path as it leads towards Government Gardens and into ‘Sanatorium Reserve’.

Sulphur Point:

The walk first leads to ‘Sulphur Point’ a wildlife sanctuary and a good view of the Polynesian Spa nestled on the Lake’s edge. The path winds round an active thermal area with beautiful views of the lake. 

Yellow and black colours in the rocks are sulphur crystals that have been formed by rising hydrogen sulphide gas.  Sulphuric gas has carbonised the wood, and like fire, turned the wood black.  At this part of the lake, the waters are milky coloured, caused by sulphur particles suspended in the water.  The combination of these colours and the active steam rising close to the path create ‘from another world’ feel.

Cameron’s Laughing Gas Pool:

Further along the path you’ll soon pass by ‘Cameron’s Laughing Gas Pool’, called due to the similar effect to laughing gas that the rising hydrogen sulphide and carbon dioxide gas create.  It is believed that this was one of the very first commercial bathing areas in Rotorua.

Sulphur Bay Wildlife Reserve:

The southernmost bay of Lake Rotorua is home to many of the lake’s waterbirds and one of the most significant wildlife habitats in New Zealand.  Declared a game reserve in 1904 for native and imported birds, in 1967 Sulphur Bay became a wildlife refuge.

Mokoia Island:

Walking past Eucalyptus trees, the path brings Mokoia Island into view.  Maori legend tells that the island was once home to lovers Tutanekai and Hinemoa which an information panel explains in more detail.  Today, the uninhabited island is a sanctuary for many of New Zealand’s endangered wildlife and rare New Zealand birds. The island spans an area of 1.35 square kilometres, rising 180 metres above the surface of the lake.  There are a trio of statues situated in front of the lake, ‘The Waters of Rotorua’, ‘Waiwera’ and ‘Taniwha’

Lakefront Reserve:

The path soon turns into a boardwalk that leads towards the Lakefront Reserve and where all the lake’s activity operators can be found.  From the boardwalk, you’ll also be able to see Mount Ngongotaha in the distance and home to the Skyline Gondola ride.

The walk then continues to the Lakefront Reserve.  Scenic flights, jet boat rides and the Lakeland Queen cruise all operate from here.  Behind and across from the park area is ‘Eat Street’, the main dining area of Rotorua and a good place to grab lunch or, just a stop for coffee.  Closer by, ‘The Terrace Kitchen’ is also good option with views of the lake to add to the good food.   
Pukeroa Hill:

Carry on past the Lakefront and head up ‘Pukeroa Hill’ on your left.  The hill passes around Rotorua Hospital with postcard views of the lake, St Michael’s Catholic Church, and Ohinemutu Maori Village.  It’s quite a sight to see the steam rising up from below with views of Ohinemutu Village and Mokoia Island in the distance.
Kuirau Park:

Following the path behind the hospital, brings Kuirau Park into view. This park in probably the best free geothermal area in Rotorua and you’ll be able to see the steaming as you look out from your elevated view point. It’s well worth a visit to the park to get up close to the geothermal activity.
Government Gardens:

The walk now heads back into the city centre. Turn left onto Awawa Street, pass by the historic Princes Hotel that has been going since 1897 and into the Government Gardens main entrance.  The perfectly landscaped gardens feature the beautiful and much photographed Rotorua Museum building (currently closed for earthquake damage repairs), a bowling club, petanque and croquet. 

Within the gardens, you'll also come across various points of interest that include the 1927 Arawa Soldiers Memorial, a number of geothermal features and the Kwaqiulth Totem Pole. 

The walk ends back where we started, just past the restored Blue Baths where the public can enjoy a dip in the warm waters and relax in an architecturally stunning building.
More Info:

Click on the photo gallery below to view all the photo highlights of the walk.  Our 'Rotorua Walks' guide offers more suggestions for short walks around the Rotorua region.