Sitting in a tranquil reserve, lakeshore just ahead. That’s Lake Tarawera, and the impressive Mount (Maunga) Tarawera looming gently, omnipresently, in the background.
The picnic’s laid out, picked up along the way from some excellent stops in nearby Rotorua. It’s time to relax and enjoy the early morning efforts of a local bakery or two and epicurean store.
And it’s also time to enjoy the tranquility of this beautiful place. It’s one of the many drawcards of this lake. The dead end road to this special location makes it just that little bit out of the way and, with that, a sense of serenity and seclusion.
But it’s also the consummate time to reflect on a moment that shaped this part of New Zealand. That same now gentle mountain was not so gentle once, not so long ago. That village (Te Wairoa) - the buried one - that you passed along the way, is the reminder.
It was 1886. June 10. The early morning. A fire mountain. Roaring. Erupting explosively, fountains of rock. Spectacular columns of smoke and ash. A deadly six hours. The largest eruption in New Zealand in the last 500 years. A significant number of lives tragically lost. Villages destroyed, special landmarks devastated. People and places now to honour - and a part of New Zealand dramatically reshaped.
And there’s the story, too, of the spirit canoe, the waka wairua. Spotted on the lake a few days before the maunga’s eruption, ghostly and shrouded in morning mist. This mysterious, inexplicable, war canoe, paddled by Māori in traditional dress… and believed to portend great calamity…
So glimpses, now, toward that maunga, as you walk the lakeside track, are respectful. There’s an awesome power that now sits quietly, but perhaps intensely, in view just across the lake.
And silver linings
And there’s a moment here too for silver linings. That’s especially if your plans include eventually heading a little further south, to some of New Zealand’s stunning wine country.
In these wine regions you’ll hear mention of the soils, likely their gravelly personality. But there’s also their volcanic heritage, ash settling here from nearby eruptions, including Tarawera. A tumultuous moment of New Zealand’s past, reflected now in your glass…
And more good things to do nearby
Picnic’s done, time to move on. In nearby Rotorua you’ll find plenty of steam and boiling mud - if you’re after more of the area’s volcanic threads. And, with all the talk of wine, you’ll also find an excellent spot or two offering something nice to finish the day with…
To the makeshift kitchen
A place of fire, hot rocks and steam - not to mention lakes full of trout too - inspired a steamed fish idea for back at home base, find more here. And if you’re not up to catch your own, and you’re in the know, you’ll find an excellent local fish shop too.
Your road trip companion….
To find more on The FoodPath NZ’s handpicked eateries and food producers, and our collection of other spot on New Zealand moments, including what’s good to know on where we headed to on our day in Bay of Plenty and Rotorua visiting Lake Tarawera and other special spots nearby - our Lake Tarawera and more trail - you’ll find The FoodPath NZ guide (for mobile) here.