Lake Tarawera, located just 15 minutes from Rotorua, is home to some of New Zealand’s most beautiful landscapes. This article will introduce you to Lake Tarawera‘s history, formation, walking trails, and camping.
Lake Tarawera: One of New Zealand’s largest lakes
Lake Tarawera, which means “Burnt Spear,” is one of New Zealand’s largest lakes. Until the Tarawera eruption in 1886, the lake was home to several small Maori villages and mission communities.
It is also a beautiful lake known for its large and healthy rainbow trout. Several lakes in the vicinity drain directly or through groundwater into it, as do geothermal springs on its southern and northern sides. Besides, Lake Tarawera is a deep lake and any water that flows into it stays there for around ten years.
History of the lake
Mount Tarawera’s volcanic eruption in 1886 significantly affected the landscape. It was home to many small Mori communities and missionary settlements prior to the eruption. According to legend, a “waka wairua” (phantom canoe) emerged on the lake a few days before the eruption as a harbinger of doom.
The region gave rise to New Zealand tourism. Visitors would pass through Tarawera on their route to the nearby Lake Rotomahana’s Pink and White Terraces. These geothermal lakes, formed from silica deposit formations, were designated as the World’s 8th Natural Wonder, and word of this ‘geothermal wonderland’ traveled to the distant Victorian world.
Tarawera people would host these guests in missionary housing houses and entertain them with Mori cultural shows and traditionally cooked hangi meals, thereby beginning the hosting and guiding tradition that Rotorua is still known for today.
Mount Tarawera’s eruption entirely destroyed the area, burying the towns and the Pink and White Terraces beneath muck and ash. Many of the surviving guests relocated to neighboring Whakarewarewa Village, and the valley’s guiding heritage continues to this day. Te Wairoa Buried Hamlet, where vestiges of the original village have been excavated, tells the stories of the Pink and White Terraces and the Tarawera eruption.
Camping on Lake Tarawera, Rotorua
Hot Water Beach in Te Rt Bay gets its name from natural hot springs along the lake’s side. There is a cooking shelter and toilets at this campsite. Besides, prior reservations are necessary. The campsite can also be reached by boat or on foot through the Tarawera Trail. Totally Tarawera also operates two glamping sites at Hot Water Beach.
Walking Trails Around The Lake
The 16km Tarawera Trail circles the lake from the Landing to Hot Water Beach in Te Rt Bay, providing breathtaking views of the lake and Mount Tarawera. A strenuous day hike is better done in one direction and returned by water taxi. Additionally, this must be reserved in advance through Totally Tarawera.
Besides, a short walking pathway on the north side of the lake leads to the beautiful Tarawera Falls, which can be reached via a private road from Kawerau.
Another boat-accessible walking road connects Humphries Bay to the Eastern Okataina Track and the Tarawera Falls Track from the Tarawera Outlet.
Swim at the lake
Punaromia is the nearest point of entry to Lake Tarawera. The region is ideal for swimming with children and also serves as a traditional landing and departure point for boats on the lake and those wishing to access Lake Rotomahana. A short stroll will take you to the mouth of the Te Wairoa Stream or the old Tuhourangi rock paintings. Trout fishing is also very popular in the fall.
Hot Water Beach: Hot spring in Lake Tarawera you must visit
Tucked away on Lake Tarawera’s southern side, a hot spring trickles down a small stream and into the lake, forming our very own hot water beach at Te Rt Bay.
Previously, Te Rt Bay and Hot Water Beach were only accessible by boat. The bay and beach can now be reached by experienced trampers via the 15km Tarawera Trail.
Begin cautiously and exercise caution while dipping your toes into the water near the lake’s edge, as there may be hot spots. Dig your hands into the velvety sand to experience the wonder of geothermal magic at work. To restrict the hot water from escaping, dig a sandy trench or construct a rock pool.
Are dogs permitted on Lake Tarawera?
Dogs, horses, cars (including bicycles and motorcycles), fires, plant or animal removal, camping outside approved areas, and hunting without a permit are all prohibited.
How to get there
The Lake has two entry points.
Firstly, direct driving access to the Tarawera Forest, Falls, and fishing is available from Kawerau township (off SH30 between Rotorua and Whakatane) via private forestry roads that require permits, which can be acquired at the Kawerau i-SITE. During the hours of darkness, the forest gate is locked. When the fire danger is severe in the summer, the woodland route may be blocked.
Secondly, public (non-permit) access to the rock paintings, Tarawera Trail, and the water taxi is available at Tarawera Landing, a 17.5-kilometer drive south of Rotorua via Tarawera Road off SH30. Te Rt/Hot Water Beach is accessible through the 16 km Tarawera Trail or by water taxis that often run from the Landing across the lake. The rock drawings are a short distance from the Landing parking lot. The Isthmus Track connects Lake Rotomahana and Lake Tarawera and may be accessed by Waimangu Volcanic Valley (Waimangu Road, off SH5) at Lake Rotomahana or Rpatu Bay at Lake Tarawera.
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