Lake Tarawera, North Island, New Zealand

Lake Locations:

New Zealand - North Island - Rotorua -

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.

Things to do at Lake Tarawera

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Birding
  • Museum

Fish species found at Lake Tarawera

  • Eel
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Trout

Lake Tarawera Photo Gallery

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Lake Tarawera Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 10,131 acres

Shoreline Length: 23 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 978 feet

Average Depth: 187 feet

Maximum Depth: 287 feet

Water Volume: 1,843,318 acre-feet

Drainage Area: 55 sq. miles

Trophic State: Oligotrophic

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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