Mt. Tarawera’s claim to fame is its historic 1866 eruption that destroyed the iconic Pink and White Terraces. Today it is the center of a geothermal wonderland and a compelling attraction in its own right. Take a guided tour to the mountain’s peak, or visit the many valleys and lakes carved out and altered by the 19th-century eruption. The Basics
The 1866 eruption of Mt. Tarawera remains one of the largest volcanic eruptions in New Zealand’s history. The eruption buried several villages (including the ash-preserved Te Wairoa), demolished the Pink and White Terraces, and irrevocably changed the surrounding landscape. In particular, it created the Waimangu Volcanic Valley, a scenic reserve and geothermal hot spot that covers much of the area around nearby Lake Rotomahana.
Tarawera’s peak is privately owned and has been off-limits to independent hikers, cyclists, and general visitors since early 2010. Plenty of tours can take you up there, though, whether it’s by guided hike, mountain bike, four-wheel drive, or helicopter. There’s also plenty to do in the mountain’s shadow: walk to nearby Tarawera Falls or between Tarawera and Rotomahana lakes, mountain bike around Lake Okataina, or cruise across Lake Rotomahana. If you want to stay on Lake Tarawera overnight, campsites dot the northern, southern, and eastern tips of the lake. Things to Know Before You Go
How to Get There
- Mt. Tarawera is ideal for nature and outdoor enthusiasts.
- The entrance fee for Lake Rotomahana and the Waimangu Volcanic Valley supports this extremely rare and protected ecosystem.
- Obtain a required access permit for Tarawera Falls or Tarawera Outlet online or in person at Maori Investments Limited in Kawerau, or on weekends at the Kawerau i-Site Visitor Centre.
- Because much of the Tarawera area is rugged forest, make sure to wear sturdy footwear and appropriate clothing.
Mt. Tarawera is about 15 miles (24 kilometers) southeast of Rotorua. Because it is private property, Tarawera is closed to independent visitors; the best way to get there is to book a guided tour. When to Get There
Tarawera’s peak is exposed, so the best time to visit is likely in early or late summer, when the sun is out but not too unforgiving. This is also a good time to visit the rest of the area, as the nature walks and beaches tend to be less crowded and more temperate.
Swimming in Lake Tarawera
Lake Tarawera sits at the foot of the mountain, but don’t make the assumption that it’s also privately owned and off-limits. The lake has several beaches and bays that are great for swimming and boating. Its best-kept secret, though, is accessible only by ferry or by walking the Tarawera Trail to Hot Water Beach, where thermal activity heats the water and the sand.