Rotorua an answer to parents' school holiday prayers
School holiday cabin fever? Head to Rotorua for some wet weather fun.
Two weeks of school holidays can seem like an eternity if the weather doesn't play ball. If your kids are climbing the walls and need to get outdoors, Rotorua is an easy day trip offering family-friendly activities that can be just as entertaining in the rain.
Destination Rotorua Marketing general manager Oscar Nathan says the city is well-known for its outdoor action/adventure attractions, but what people don't always realise is that it is a great place to visit if the weather isn't too flash.
"In reality, when it's overcast and even a little drizzly, these places take on a magical quality that help cement the experience in kids' minds.
"The July school holidays are a perfect time to hop in the car for a short drive to Rotorua and give something new a try," Nathan says.
Many activities are free, so check out these ideas for a winter family fun in Rotorua.
READY, SET, BIKE! Mountain biking under the giant Redwoods canopy is beautiful on a drizzly day. Whakarewarewa Forest offers 130km of biking trails suitable for all abilities including beginners and family groups. The forest is free to enjoy and explore, so bring your own bikes and a picnic lunch, or hire gear from Mountain Bike Rotorua and grab something to eat from their Waipa Café or the new Redwoods Café at the Redwoods Visitor Information Centre.
There are also great walking tracks beneath the canopy where you can see and hear the forest come alive in the rain.
A HOT SOAK AND A SPLASH Thermal pools are perfect when it's chilly outside. Your kids will love the slides and exploring different pools at Polynesian Spa and you won't have to worry about them freezing to death.
Rotorua also offers a number of free thermal pools your family can enjoy. Directions to Kerosene Creek and ‘the Secret Spot' in Waiotapu Stream can be found online. These hidden gems are all the more fun in the rain when you're surrounded by billowing steam.
FLY THROUGH THE FOREST
If you want to give your kids a thrill they'll never forget, Rotorua Canopy Tours is an absolute must. This eco-tourism venture is the only native forest zipline canopy tour in New Zealand and the rain adds a whole new dimension to the evergreen forest.
The stunning ferns come alive, and the smell and damp feeling in the air lets you know you're in a place just as nature intended.
The forest is incredibly sheltered and your tour guides will provide super warm wet weather gear so you can enjoy the 1.2km network of ziplines (flying foxes), swing bridges, treetop platforms and walking trails.
GO OFF ROAD
Buckle up and tackle Off Road NZ's 4WD tours - incredible fun when there's lots of mud and deep fords to drive through! This rugged, volcanic landscape features steep hills, tight bends, deep muddy holes and all sorts of challenges for you and your family to negotiate. Off Road NZ offers monster 4x4 thrill rides and 4WD bush safaris so if your teenagers are after some white-knuckle action this is the perfect place to go.
FIRE AND ICE
Rotorua's annual Fire and Ice winter festival is on throughout the July school holidays and features the Harcourts Outdoor Ice Rink. This undercover rink is set up on the village green (lakefront) and is a great way to have some winter fun with the kids. Free lantern-making workshops are also being run at 1225 Tutanekai St every Sunday afternoon and Tuesday/Thursday 4pm-8pm in preparation for the Fire & Lights Ignite Lantern Parade on Saturday, July 26.
EXPLORE THE MUSEUM
Rotorua Museum has a host of activities if you want to stay warm and dry inside. Craft activities are available daily between 10am and 3pm, and an interactive discovery trail and family arts trail will keep kids occupied for hours while they search through the museum looking for hidden objects and quirky ceramic artworks. Also open in time for the school holidays is the opening of the Great War Stories exhibition, which commemorates the World War I centenary.