Surprise! How to plan the most unpredictable Rotorua weekend getaway

Sure, planning a surprise day out or date night can be fun – but why not take a step further and organise a surprise trip for someone special in your life? Whether for a birthday, proposal, elopement or just for fun, here’s some hidden gems in Rotorua and beyond that’ll sweep your lucky travel companion off their feet. Plus, you’re bound to earn lots of brownie points!

Get your nature fix

Escaping into nature is good for the soul – and Rotorua’s geothermal wonders, picturesque lakes and lush forest mean you’re spoiled for choice. Have you ever been to Lake Tarawera? Take a water taxi to the iconic Hot Water Beach, or strap on your boots and hike the scenic Tarawera Trail. Dig yourself a DIY-hot spa and swim in the geothermally-heated springs, or simply laze back on the lake’s shores. If you prefer a good climb, then head to the summit of Mt Tarawera on a guided walk and experience a scree run into the heart of the crater.

The Mamaku Plateau is another hidden gem, not far from the city centre yet what feels like an entire world away. This regenerating forest holds a surprising mix of adrenaline-filled activities – like a self-drive 4WD bush safari through to monster truck thrill rides. Get off the beaten track and venture into the wilderness, as you tackle obstacles, explore rugged and remote terrain, and have plenty of laughs along the way.

Paddle through paradise

Kayaking in the tranquil Lake Rotoiti is full of surprises. Learn the myths and legends of the lake, as you glide towards the treat awaiting you – a dip at the secluded Manupirua Hot Pools that can only be reached by water. With colourful birdlife, cliffs and coves and even a hidden canyon full of magical glowworms – there’s no wonder why this corner of the country is referred to as one of New Zealand’s best-kept secrets.

Take to the skies

Appreciate the vast beauty of Rotorua’s landscapes and get a bird’s eye view with a thrilling helicopter or floatplane tour. Witness spectacular geothermal scenes from above and be awed by aerial views of crater lakes and cascading waterfalls. You can even add on a landing next to gushing geysers or on a crater edge for a one-of-a-kind volcanic experience.

Stay in style

Look beyond the typical city hotel – there’s plenty of unique glamping sites across the region that’ll make this getaway one to remember. Nestled in charming forest valleys and farmlands, sleep in style under the canvas while still enjoying the usual cosy comforts. Canopy Camping’s Kokako Retreat and Kanuka sites are just two of the many locations where you can rest and recharge in nature. Or go all-out with a lakeside luxury lodge – many offer private spa pools and fine dining on-site to transform your trip into a five-star retreat.


As you can see, there’s so much to see and do in Rotorua beyond the classic postcard spots and ‘top 10’ activities. Dive deeper and surprise yourself and your partner (or the whānau) as you see Rotorua with a fresh new lens this summer!

November 14, 2022


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