Located 18 kilometres to the east of Rotorua, and five kilometres to the west of Mt Tarawera, Lake Tarawera is a hidden treasure. It takes in some of the area’s most spectacular scenery including hot water beaches, lush native bush and forests, magnificent waterfalls bursting from fissures in sheer rock faces and the lake itself, teeming with rainbow trout.
This incredibly beautiful lake was witness to nature at its catastrophic best in 1886 when Mt Tarawera erupted, killing over 150 people, raising the lake by 12 metres, destroying the famous Pink and White Terraces and burying Te Wairoa village on the lake’s southwest shore. Today Mt Tarawera is a bush clad sleeping giant but from the air you can see the massive chasm created by the eruption.
Visitors have the opportunity to encounter nature at its very best. Lake Tarawera is revered by ornithologists for its plentiful and varied bird life, the setting for many incredible bush walks and is popular for fishing, boating, kayaking, water-skiing, picnicking and mountain biking.
First on the list of places to visit is the Lake Tarawera Scenic Reserve which includes the Landing, the Orchard, Hot Water Beach, Humphries Bay and Tarawera Falls.
The area where the Landing is situated was the original departure point for journeys during the 19th Century to the famous Pink and White Terraces. Today the Landing is the departure point for scenic lake tours, fishing charters, water taxi services, self drive boats, kayak tours and pedal boat hire. The Landing Cafe is one of the few lake-side dining options available in the Rotorua Lakes District and is a great place to enjoy a casual meal while admiring the views over the lake and Mt Tarawera.
Just a short distance from the Landing and of archaeological significance is the Orchard where early traditional Maori rock paintings can be seen.
Lake Tarawera is the ultimate picnic lake with many idyllic and private picnic spots dotted around its shores. One of the most popular and only accessible by boat is Hot Water Beach. Natural hot springs under the sand bubble up creating hot areas where you can dig your own sandy, heated outdoor bath followed by a quick dip in the lake to cool off.
Humphries Bay, at the southern end of Lake Tarawera is another pleasant picnic and camping spot accessible by boat or by foot along the Northern Tarawera Track. This moderate tramping track begins at the Tarawera Outlet which is also the starting point to view the spectacular Tarawera Falls.
While most waterfalls flow over the tops of cliffs, Tarawera Falls surges straight out of the middle of a tall rock cliff-face surrounded by native bush. Tarawera Falls is off the beaten track via private forestry roads that require permits but this all adds to the sense of remoteness and pristine beauty. Of further interest is a set of massive boulders, a legacy of the Tarawera eruption that destroyed the Pink and White Terraces.
Lake Tarawera is an angler’s haven and is famous for its trophy trout. The Te Wairoa stream mouth, just a short walk from the Landing, is a spawning area and known for its excellent winter fly-fishing. However, there are fabulous fishing spots all over this lake for fly and boat fishing plus local fishing guides who can help you find where the fish are biting.
From the Landing, you can head left along Tarawera Road to the Buried Village or right along the scenic Spencer Road.
Te Wairoa Village was wiped out by the 1886 Mount Tarawera eruption which also destroyed the famous Pink and White Terraces. Today visitors can visit this sombre, yet beautiful place to see the remains of many of the excavated buildings and recount the drama of that terrifying event.
Also of interest is the Buried Village Museum with displays of household items that survived the eruption and the straightest lines of trees in the world. These trees were once fence posts that have grown into fully fledged trees.
The main road to the Lake Tarawera settlement, Spencer Road, is noted for its many picturesque picnic and lake-side spots. If you take the short walk from Boatshed Bay through to Rangiuru Bay, you’ll come across the Spencer Mausoleum. This steep-roofed shingled structure with glass and rock walls tucked away in dense bush was built by Reverend F.H Spencer on the site of the missionary station started by his father Seymour Mills Spencer. Rangiuru Bay is a lovely spot to rest and relax and is locally considered to be one of the most reliable fly fishing spots on Lake Tarawera.
Further along Spencer Road lies Stony Point Reserve with its children’s playground, picnic and safe swimming areas and Cliff Road Reserve with its large grassy areas and beautiful clear water for swimming.
People are drawn to Lake Tarawera because of its timeless natural beauty. Come here to enjoy the serenity of the lake, go fishing or boating, take day walks into the native bush and stand in awesome wonder at the sight of the magnificent Mt Tarawera.