Lake Tarawera area for great nature walks
Lake Tarawera including Lake Rotomahana was were tourism in New Zealand started.
People came from all over the world to visit what was known as the Eighth Wonder of the World, The Pink and White Terraces. They not only came for the beauty the Terraces beheld, but in those days, many were looking for relief or hopefully a cure from their ailments by bathing in the pools of the Terraces.
Well, that all changed on the 10th of June 1886 with the eruption of Mt Tarawera, an event that lasted only five hours. I n doing so it split the mountain open its entire length, continued through the hydrothermal of Lake Rotomahana with a fissure of more than 17km.
What nature had created over a 1000 years; it had also decimated in the blink of an eye. The Terraces were gone. The eruption was the largest natural disaster to have occurred in the commonwealth up until that time.
Forward 134 years to the present day and Lake Tarawera and the surrounding area has once again become one of the most stunning places of natural beauty in New Zealand.
Large clusters of pohutukawa, mamaku and rewarewa surround the lake, right down to its waters edge with housing taking in only a small portion on one side of the lake.
The backdrop to Lake Tarawera is still dominated by the awesome presence of Mount Tarawera itself. More correctly Tarawera is made up of three mountains, from the left, Wahanga (the sacred mountain), Ruawahia in the centre and Tarawera being the right-hand side. Up until around 20 years ago people freely walked Tarawera, but this was halted by the Ngati Rangitihi mountain top owners.
In 2013 the Tarawera Trail was opened. This was a first in New Zealand as a joint project between DOC and six Maori block owners which the trail now crosses. The trail itself is 15km long starting at the Te Waiora – Tarawera Trail car park 400m south of the Buried Village.
It takes an average of four to five hours to walk to Hot Water Beach for moderate walkers which is the end point of the trail. There are many highlights along the mostly bush covered walk that make it pretty special, finishing with a soak in the thermal waters at Hot Water Beach after your walk.
There are many beautiful viewing spots of Mt Tarawera and a couple of great beaches for lake swimming or a lunch-stop along the way.
There is the option to camp at the Hot Water Beach DOC campsite at the end of your walk or take the water taxi back including the free shuttle back to your car. If you decide to camp you can get the water taxi to deliver your gear to save you having to carrying it in. You do need to pre-book your campsite on www.whakarewarewa.com. If you would like a glamourous camping option for a couple of nights you could book to stay at the Totally Tarawera glamping site which could include your dinner and breakfast hamper. View this on www.totallytarawera.com.
One of the lesser known walks at Lake Tarawera, although rated by DOC as one of the best short walks in New Zealand, is the Tarawera Falls walk. Accessed via Kawereu, after obtaining a permit from the local Kawereu I-site, it allows you to drive the forest road to within 15 minutes of the falls themselves or you can organise a water taxi to drop you off at the Outlet (Te Tapahoro) for the one and a half hour walk to the falls. The falls are spectacular, but the walk to and from the lake is equally stunning as you follow the river down from Lake Tarawera. There are three additional waterfalls along the walk, and if you look carefully you will see where the water disappears underground prior to it emerging through a hole in the cliff, that makes up the Tarawera Falls themselves.
There are several other combination walks around Lake Tarawera, one being via Lake Okataina to Humpheries Bay and on to the Outlet, a walk of around five hours. From there you can stay at Te Tapahoro DOC campsite for the night or catch the water taxi out to the Landing. Added to that could be a walk from Lake Okeraka along the Western Okataina, then eastern Okataina walkway ending up at the Outlet a walk best taken over two days. Camping is an option at Humpheries Bay and at the Outlet.
Totally Tarawera is a family business at Lake Tarawera that links back to the Maori tribal guides who hosted and took care of international visitors across Lake Tarawera to The Pink and White Terraces. This family legacy continues on the lake today where they provide water taxi service, guided cultural tours, glamping and lake cruises.
Karen says It is about manaaki, caring for our visitors and ensuring they have a memorable experiences with us. A legacy that has with stood over 150 years.