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Lake Tarawera in the Rotorua District of the Bay of Plenty Region is a highly prized vacation lake. This deep and clear volcanic lake lies in the Okataina volcanic center. Eleven miles east of the City of Rotorua, the lake occupies the Haroharo caldera with Mount Tarawera just over three miles from its eastern shore. In keeping with its volcanic origins, geothermal springs enter the lake on both the southern and northern shores. The majority of its water comes from the nearby Blue (Lake Tikitapu) and Green (Lake Rotokakahi) lakes, much from underground seepage. The several smaller lakes in the area, along with Lake Tarawera, are home to the summer cottages and year-round homes of the well-to-do from Auckland and the Australian mainland. However, much of the shoreline of Lake Tarawera is protected public lands, and homes have been built only along one road on the western shore.
The Lake Tarawera area has been the vacation destination of travelers nearly since European settlement of the Bay of Plenty area. The region had been settled by several Maori tribes hundreds of years earlier. The late 1800s saw many visitors to the once-famous 'Pink and White Terraces'. These geological features had been formed on the slopes of nearby Lake Rotomahana due to geothermal activity and were a famed destination. Travelers flocked to the area to gaze in awe at the spectacular white terraces and bathe in the pink terraces. Unfortunately, in 1886 Mount Tarawera erupted, burying at least one Maori and European settlement with the loss of 150 lives. The area of the terraces became a huge crater, which became the basin of Lake Rotomahana. The area of the 'Buried Village' has been partially excavated and is open to visitors with interpretive paths and a museum.
The Lake Tarawera Scenic Reserve area contains many walking trails and access to fishing. The primary fish caught are rainbow trout and eels, with specified fishing regulations for several bays and inlet streams. Lake Tarawera is an angler's dream; it yields the largest number of trophy trout in the Southern Hemisphere. Part of the lake is protected as a spawning area, clearly marked and prohibiting any boat traffic. Most trout fishing is performed from boats, but some areas along the shoreline yield some great fish. Most fishermen enter the water at a marina called The Landing within the scenic reserve. All water sports are welcome here, with regattas often held by Rotorua area sailing clubs. Visitors come to water ski, power boat, canoe, kayak and paddleboat; most of these watercraft are available for rent locally. Guides are available for fishing and to historic locations around the lake. Luxury cruises can be scheduled on the lake, or one can rent a kayak or canoe to paddle to Hot Water Beach for a swim in the warmed waters. As there are a couple of campgrounds along the shoreline, many visitors paddle or sail to a campsite for the night and move on the next day. Other boat launch areas are found at Boatshed Bay and Stony Point.
Vacation rentals are plentiful in the area around Lake Tarawera, many right on the west shore. Since there are activities rear round to satisfy every appetite, real estate in the area goes quickly. A lakefront cottage or executive rental right on the water can meet all of your party's needs from one home base. When not fishing, sailing, swimming or boating, one can trek the many miles of trails around the area bird watching or admiring nature's handiwork in the diverse geological formations. A short distance from The Landing, traditional Maori rock paintings can be viewed at Tarawera Orchard. Several picnic areas are provided in the Reserve area including at Humphrey's Bay near the outlet of Tarawera River. Those who are serious hikers will want to take the trail to Tarawera Falls, accessible only from Kawerau township via private forest road. Permits are available in Kawerau. These spectacular falls spring from the middle of the rock face; the Tarawera River travels underground for some distance to exit here on its way to the Bay of Plenty.
Hikers can climb Mount Tarawera on one of the maintained paths or mountain bike on trails provided for that sport. A rainy day gives one an excuse to head to Rotorua to learn the area's history at the Rotorua Museum, followed by a variety of nightlife or cultural activities. Certain local Maori villages provide visitors with an authentic Maori feast cooked over geothermal vents. There is never a shortage of things to do in the Rotorua Lakes region, but heading back to Lake Tarawera may quickly become your favorite.
Seize the first opportunity to visit Lake Tarawera. Reserve lodgings as soon as possible to take advantage of all this beautiful lake has to offer. Spend a week or a month in one of the convenient vacation rentals along the west shore. You may find it hard to leave.
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