Our top 5 Rotorua lakes

There are a whopping 15 Rotorua lakes in area, so we thought we would tell you about our 5 favorite Rotorua lakes and why we love them. Rotorua has so much to offer and the lakes are all so different. They incorporate some of the famous geothermal features, Maori culture, and lots of on water activities too. Below are 5 of the best Rotorua lakes, in no particular order.

5 best Rotorua Lakes:

  1. Lake Rotorua
  2. Lake Okatina
  3. Lake Tikitapu (Blue Lake)
  4. Lake Rotoiti
  5. Lake Tarawera

1. Lake Rotorua/ Te Rotorua nui ā Kahumatamomoe

Lake Rotorua is the largest lake in the district, and the second largest in the entire North Island (by surface area not by volume as it only has an average depth of 10m), after Lake Taupo. The name Rotorua means “second lake” (roto = lake,  rua = two).

Nestled on the southern shore of the lake is Rotorua city. Rotorua is a magnet for travellers due to its rich history and culture, and the incredible adventure activities on offer. When you get to Lake Rotorua, you should consider visiting the most famous lake island in New Zealand, Mokoia Island, which sits at the centre of the lake. Now home to many species of birds some of which are endangered, Mokoia Island is also associated with New Zealand’s most famous love story, the legend of Hinemoa and Tutanekai.

Last but definitely not least, fishermen will be right at home at Lake Rotorua. It is the most productive trout fishery in New Zealand! The lake has healthy populations of rainbow trout and brown trout.

lake rotorua and mokoia island

2. Lake Ōkataina/ Te Moana i kataina ā Te Rangitakaroro or Ōkataina

Lake Ōkataina is a beautiful lake located to the east of Lake Rotorua. Completely encircled by native forest, it is a great place to find tranquility and peace of mind.

Over the last 30 years, Lake Ōkataina’s level has risen and fallen in a range of 5 metres, due to the fact that it has no inlets or outlets. The lake is accessible by road, and at the end of the road a large and nice sandy beach awaits the visitors.

Ōkataina lake in rotorua

3. Blue Lake/ Lake Tikitapu

Lake Tikitapu (Blue Lake) sits alongside Lake Rotokakahi and was formed 13,300 years ago as the result of a lava dam. The lake has a flat bed and, because it is a collapsed volcanic crater, it only has a maximum depth of 27.5m.

The lake is a stunning aqua blue colour. This is due to the pumice and rhyolite that lays on the lake bed.

Unlike its sibling, Lake Rotokakahi, where recreational activities are not allowed, Lake Tikitapu is open for recreation, and water skiing, swimming and fishing are popular at this lake. There is also a 5km loop track that runs around the lake making it a popular location for triathlons.

blue lake - lake rotorua

4. Lake Rotoiti/ Te Rotoiti-kite-a-Īhenga

Lake Rotoiti is located to the northeast of its famous neighbour, Lake Rotorua. These two lakes are connected through the Ohau Channel. The lake’s full name is Te Rotoiti-kite-a-Īhenga, which means “the small lake discovered by Īhenga”. Īhenga was an explorer who also discovered Lake Rotorua.

Lake Rotoiti is another of Rotorua’s lakes that is popular for many recreational activities. The lake is littered with small beaches, swimming spots, hot springs and fantastic fishing.

At the far end of Rotoiti is Hinehopu (Hongi’s) track. It is a 2.2km (1.5 hours one way) track. The track is a pleasant walk through native forest with important historic and cultural value. Along the way, you can take a short loop walk to the sacred mataī, or carry on to Lake Rotoehu. There is a beautiful beach at Korokitewao Bay for swimming and picnicking.

Lake rotoiti

5. Lake Tarawera

Lake Tarawera, meaning ‘Burnt Spear’, has a surface area of 39 square kilometres (15 square miles). Even though it is about half the size of Lake Rotorua, it actually contains much more water. This is because the lake reaches a maximum depth of 87.5 meters (287 feet).

The eruption of Mount Tarawera on June 10th 1886 dramatically affected the lake, as its outlet was blocked for around 20 years. This led to an increase in the lakes water level. Nowadays, the beautiful Lake Tarawera is famous for the abundance of rainbow trout that can be found. Anglers from all over the world come searching for trophy fish here.

Fishing is not the only draw card for this lake. The Tarawera Trail is a 15km walk that leads you through the forest on the lake edge to an incredible hot water beach.

Tarawera trail

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