March 25, 2018

New Zealand has some of the most unspoilt nature in the world. 

Whether it is to experience Maori culture, geothermal earth forces, spa rejuvenation, thrills and adventure, or any of the other natural assets such as the 18 lakes, some of the world's best mountain biking trails, fantastic trout fishing and a myriad of forest walking tracks 
- Rotorua delivers it all!

Rotorua, a town on the North Island of New Zealand has been a tourist spot for hundreds of years already thanks to its famous healing waters and the famed Pink and White Terraces. The town has a deeply rooted Maori culture, and has in later years become The #1 Eco Activity Destination in New Zealand. And no wonder!

The town of Rotorua, and its tour operators have really done a fantastic job presenting the best their nature has to offer, while only making a small footprint. Many of the activities on offer have an education element to it as well, thoughtfully executed in a way that makes you engaged, and which is interesting to both young and old.

Totally Tarawera Ecotours - Lake Tarawera

Above: Gorgeous Lake Tarawera. Photo Credit: Totally Tarawera.

The area surrounding Lake Tarawera has been famous since the 1840s after Ernest Dieffenbach published a book about his travels in New Zealand. Tourists came from all over the world to visit the Pink and White Terraces, often described as "the eigth wonder of the world", sadly lost in the devastating eruption of Mount Tarawera in 1886.

Pink and White Terraces were known as the "Eight Wonder of the World"

Sophia Hinerangi, also known as "Guide Sophia" was the principal tourist guide of the Pink and White Terraces at Lake Rotomahana before the eruption of Mt Tarawera in 1886, and probably one of the first female guides of New Zealand. She inspired many other young women to go on and become tour guides. Sophia, of Maori and Scottish decent, was well-educated and bilingual. She arranged the tour parties, supplied visitors with information, settled accounts, organised the other workers and was 'guide, philosopher, and friend' to thousands of tourists. At the time of the Mt Tarawera eruption in 1886, she had been a guide in the area for some 16 years. A few days before, she saw an omen and knew that something was about to happen. On the night of the eruption, on 10 June 1886, Sophia sheltered 62 people in her whare (house) at Te Wairoa. Its high-pitched roof and strong walls reinforced with extra wood enabling it, unlike other buildings there, to withstand the enormous destruction. She no doubt saved these peoples lives.

Guide Sophia was the most famous woman of her time in Rotorua and Sophia Street in Rotorua bears her name (excerpt from here).

Totally Tarawera Ecotours operate in this historically significant area today. A family operation, the small team offers a range of exciting, educational and scenic tours around the area.

Totally Tarawera Ecotours

Some of the Inspiring Journeys on offer are:

  • Guided Cultura & Geothermal Lake Discovery Tour (2 hr) 
    The most popular option. This informative fun lake cruise tour includes a hot water beach stopover with a chance to enjoy geothermal bathing in a natural outdoor pool entwined with the cultural and volcanic stories of Tarawera.
  • Tarawera Falls/Hot Water Beach (6 hr)
    The ultimate day out. Part freedom walk, part guided tour this option incorporates boat transport drop-off for a 3.5hr return walk to the Tarawera Falls using a supplied map. Afterward visit Hot Water Beach for a natural hot pool soak before transferring back to Tarawera Landing.
  • Tarawera Trail (4-5 hr)
    Water taxi drop-off or pick up service for walkers on the 17km Tarawera Trail. Average walking time 4.5 hours.
  • Walking Tracks
    Water taxi drop-off or pick up service available for walks. All water taxi trips depart from/return to the landing unless prior arrangements are made. Visit the website for more information (
  • Hot Water Beach
    Water taxi transport for people and camping gear to the popular 30 site Department of Conservation (DOC) campsite at Hot Water Beach. No road access.
  • Ancestral Footprints (6 hr)
    A full day personalised Maori guided tour that includes the geothermal tribal village of Te Whakarewarewa, ancestral house, Maori cultural performance and traditional food tasting. This is followed by a lake excursion to the sacred mountain of Tarawera, Hot Water Beach, and an opportunity for geothermal hot pool bathing.
  • Sophia's Journey (Combo)
    The guided Cultural and Geothermal Lake Discovery Tour with the addition of the Buried Village. This authentic 18th century village was excavated from beneath the mud of the Mount Tarawera eruption.
  • Glamping
    Experience glamorous camping at one of the spectacular Lake Tarawera lake edge sites.

When we visited, we did the Tarawera Falls 3.5 hour walk. Starting off with a shared water taxi transport over Lake Tarawera to the start of the trail, it was a great way to get perspective of the area before we set out. Our guide, the son-in-law of the Totally Tarawera founders, gave us all the insights, including an introduction to the area and its fascinating history, pointing out landmarks as we went. We were equipped with a map, and then dropped off at the landing on the other side of the lake for our self-guided walk. This was really nice, as it offered us a chance to walk in our own pace, and stop whenever we wanted to look at something. We were totally alone and the forest was pretty and peaceful, with changing scenery many times along the walk. This is not a very challenging hike at all, except one or two steep bits, so it is suitable for the whole family - young and old.

Totally Tarawera Ecotours Water Taxi on Lake Tarawera

Above: Water Taxi picking us up to take us across Lake Tarawera to the start of the track. Photo by Style by Asia.

The vegetation has developed since the 1886 Tarawera eruption and both pohutukawa and rata are found. The trail highlight is the truly spectacular Tarawera Falls at one end of the track where water surges out of fissures in a large cliff-face surrounded by native bush. The cliff is the end of an ancient rhyolitic lava flow that is believed to have poured from an erupting Mt Tarawera about 11,000 years ago! An abrupt stop to the flow produced these high cliffs. You follow the river until it disappears underground, and then next time you see it you will have descended more than 65 meters, looking at the waterfall from below.


Enroute to and from the falls you will encounter several smaller falls, each with its own charm and allure. The "Swimming Hole" is a place where the water flows calmer, and it is a perfect pit stop for a dip or for lunch. There is even a simple swing (for both big and small kids) to play with.

  Totally Tarawera Ecotours - Tarawera Falls waterfall Totally Tarawera Ecotours small waterfall enroute to Tarawera Falls Totally Tarawera Ecotours Swimming Hole enroute to Tarawera Falls

Above from left: Waterfalls. The Calm Swimming Hole with a swing. Photos by Style by Asia

The Swimming Hole is a perfect pit stop for a dip

After a hot walk, the cool but not cold waters provide with excellent refreshment.
We really could not recommend Totally Tarawera and the team enough.
Spend a day in nature and learn about the culture and history of this fascinating place. 

Totally Tarawera is the only dedicated pickup and drop-off water taxi service operating on Lake Tarawera. Booking is essential.
See more on and contact the team on +64 7 362 8080.

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