Adrenalin adventures in Rotorua: raft waterfalls, ride the Schweeb, bungy jump, then soak in natural hot pools

The thermal area of Rotorua in New Zealand has plenty of adventures on offer

Rotorua is New Zealand’s coolest hot spot and it is easy to see why. The region is renowned for its geothermal activity with geysers, mud pools and hot springs not to mention 18 lakes, rushing rivers and majestic native and exotic forests. It offers a veritable feast of adrenalin and nature-based adventures.

Rafting the World’s Highest Commercially Raftable Waterfall with Riverrats

For the ultimate natural thrill, raft the highest commercially raftable waterfall in the world, on the Grade 5 Kaituna River, just 15 minutes from Rotorua township.

The river churns through a narrow gorge with spectacular native bush clinging to the walls. Navigate a total of 14 rapids, with each rapid followed by calm water so you can catch your breath and prepare for the next adrenalin rush.

Rotorua has a host of adrenalin activities in the North Island of New Zealand

The grand finale is the spine-chilling, seven-meter Tutea Falls where the raft goes vertical and the bow paddlers are completely immersed in frothing whitewater. A professional photographer captures all the exhilaration and excitement of navigating the big drop so you can have proof of your bravado.

Riverrats furnishes everyone with life jackets, wetsuits and helmets and there is 20 minutes of training that covers paddle commands and safety information.

If you would prefer something a little more mellow, there are gentle scenic raft trips, grade 3 and 4 rapids to negotiate as well as kayak hire and guided kayak trips to gorgeous destinations such as the Manupirua Springs Hot Pools on Lake Rotoiti, which are only accessible by boat.


Rotorua's Agrodventures has a host of adrenalin activities like Freefall Xtreme

Tackle five of New Zealand’s iconic adrenalin adventures at unbelievable value in Agroventures bucolic location just outside Rotorua.

Start with the Shweeb, which means ‘to suspend’ in German, the only racing suspended monorail in the world. Created as “drive innovation in public transportation,” it was selected by Google Inc. as the world’s most innovative eco-friendly public transportation. It also happens to be an uber-efficient human-powered machine, which makes it very fun to race.

You lie down inside a clear suspended bullet-shaped racing pod under one of two inverse weaving 200 meter-long tracks and race up to 50kph against your friends or foes. You can also win prizes for breaking age and country records.

Then learn to fly like a superhero on the Freefall Xtreme, New Zealand’s one and only wind tunnel. You don a flight suit then staff set you up above the vertical 20-metre high tunnel whose twin turbo engine creates wind speeds up to 220 kph. It’s just like freefall flights from a plane, with arms and legs outstretched — only longer — and, as a bonus, staff will even put you through a few twists, spins and barrel rolls.

Other adventures include the Swoop, New Zealand’s favorite sky swing; Agrojet, New Zealand’s only commercial jet sprint (and the fastest jet boat in the country); and last-but-not-least the country’s best-value Bunjy Jump.

The Tarawera Falls are just outside Rotorua

Tarawera Eco Tour

Enjoy the very best of Rotorua’s natural environment on this informative eco tour which includes a walk to Tarawera Falls, widely considered one of New Zealand’s best short walks, as well as soaking in geothermal waters at Hot Water Beach and the Natural Bush Hot Pool.

Transporting you from Boat Shed Bay in his all-weather boat, David Wormsley tells wonderful stories about the Maori, geothermal and natural history of Lake Tarawera as well as pointing out local bird life on the 25-minute boat ride to the Tarawera Falls Outlet. He furnishes you with a walking map, including the best and safest places to swim, and you walk 1 ½ hours each way through the forest alongside the river to the falls. Some of the river’s water whirlpools down through the rock and cascades with a huge roar from fissures in the rock face, 35-metres above the ground. After rain, part of the flow also passes over the top of the cliff as a spectacular 65-metre companion fall.

David then takes you to Hot Water Beach, where you might like to try cooking a meal of, say, trout and vegetables in the hot sand and corn on the cob in the 86 degree stream water that feeds into the lake. Toast the sunset in the pools formed by natural rocks where the thermal water and lake water merge. He can leave you to camp overnight in the DOC campground or you can hop in his boat for the quick trip to the Natural Bush Hot Pool where you immerse yourself in hot springs tucked in the forest just 58 meters from the lake.

You can even cook your food at Hot Water Beach outside of Rotorua



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Rotorua -38.136848, 176.249746

Sue Gough Henly

Sue Gough Henly is award-winning travel writer and photographer whose bi-line has appeared in The New York Times, Travel & Leisure, The Guardian, The Toronto Star and all the major Australian publications. Her travel blog, Genuine Journeys, is full of insider tips on the best places for authentic experiences and luxury splurges. She is also the author of Australia’s Best Places travel app. When she doesn’t have sand between her toes or a pack on her back, she writes about food, wine and culture.

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