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Five great walks in Rotorua

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of completing a beautiful walk in nature, especially when the views along the way are magical. In Rotorua, there are lake walks, a majestic forest trek, and a couple of mountains with amazing views from the summit that are unrivalled. Destination Rotorua has some great suggestions for hikes in the region . . .

Mt Tarawera

Get an up-close and very personal experience with New Zealand's own Grand Canyon.

When Mt Tarawera erupted in 1886, it left in its wake an incredible volcanic valley with a rift 17km long.

The summit of this historical mountain provides amazing 360-degree views, and on clear days you can see the east and west coastlines, Whakaari/White Island, Mt Putauaki/Edgecumbe, Mt Ruapehu, and several of the lakes within this volcanic valley.

Mt Tarawera is on private land and access is restricted, so going up with a tour operator means you won't have to slog up its entire 1111 metres.

There are two ways to get to the crater's edge: via helicopter from the Rotorua Lakefront with Volcanic Air, or via 4WD with Kaitiaki Adventures Aotearoa.

If you choose the latter option, Kaitiaki guides will take you for an experience like no other as you walk along the mountain and finish the tour with a fun scree run down into the heart of the volcanic crater.

Rainbow Mountain

Speaking of craters and amazing views, Rainbow Mountain is another one for the must-do list. The trail to the summit is 743 metres above sea level and free to enjoy.

The trail through this public reserve is well marked and takes you past two colourful crater lakes, through native bush that is still regenerating following the Mt Tarawera eruption, and along bare, colourful steaming ridges. Be sure to bring your camera for some epic selfies.

The trail is roughly 2.5km one way and if you're reasonably fit, it should take around two hours to reach the summit by foot.

Mt Ngongotahā

Two free tracks are accessible here, offering a couple of ways to reach the summit of Mt Ngongotahā which is just over 750 metres high.

The Nature Loop Track is a 2.5km loop perfect for families or groups who have about an hour to enjoy the beautiful native flora and fauna covering the maunga (mountain). The gentle grade and even surface of this track takes you through the native bush and to an incredible rata tree that stands 40 metres tall with an impressive 1.8 metre girth.

The Nature Loop Track intersects with the Jubilee Track which takes you to the summit. As this area is forested, there is no view from the summit but the sense of accomplishment and being in nature are rewards of equal merit.

If you believe in fairies, listen out for the mythical tribe of fairy people some believe live on the mountain.

Legendary stories say their flutes can still be heard on days when mist rolls down over the slopes.

Tarawera Trail

The Tarawera Trail around Lake Tarawera takes in stunning lake views and lakeside bushland with intermittent climbs that finish 15km later at the secluded Hot Water Beach and campground.

The 15km trail is considered advanced, and takes average trampers five to six hours to reach the end. A water taxi is available from there to take you back to the start, if you don't feel like doing the trail again in reverse.

Beginning at Te Wairoa carpark, off Tarawera Road, follow the lake-side trail through Katukutuku Bay and, 5km along the trail, stop at Hawaiki Bay to enjoy lake access and a picnic area with toilet facilities.

After an uphill climb to reach the Rotomahana lookout point, descend into Te Rata Bay to enjoy a soak at Hot Water Beach — but be careful, some patches of sand are very hot.

Lake Ōkareka Walkway

Continuing with the lake theme, grab a coffee with one hand, your bestie's hand with the other, and take a morning stroll along the beautiful Lake Ōkareka boardwalk. Lake Ōkareka is one of 18 lakes in the Rotorua region. It's just 12km from the city centre but you'll feel a world away in this small lakeside community.

Starting from a lakeside reserve on Acacia Road, the boardwalk continues for 2.5km around the shore to the outlet. The 90-minute return walk winds through native vegetation, farmland, beach and lake and wetland scenery, and features expansive views and wildlife, including our much-loved dabchicks.

The walkway is pushchair and wheelchair accessible as far as Silver Beach — around 2km from the start. Past Silver Beach, the walk includes some small, slightly steeper parts before descending to the lake outlet.

The 15km Tarawera Trail takes in stunning lake views and pristine lakeside bush. Pictures by Destination Rotorua
The Rainbow Mountain Trail takes hikers past two colourful crater lakes, through native bush that is still regenerating following the Mt Tarawera eruption, and along bare, colourful steaming ridges.
Experience New Zealand's own Grand Canyon on Mt Tarawera. Pictures by Destination Rotorua
Finish the Mt Tarawera tour with a fun scree run down into the heart of the volcanic crater.