Sitting at the base of Mount Tarawera, Lake Rotomahana is steeped in history and surrounded by geothermal features like geysers, fumeroles and colourful steaming cliffs.
Visitors have been travelling to Lake Rotomahana for hundreds of years, originally to visit the famous Pink and White Terraces, large silica deposits which formed bathing pools in the hot mineral spring water from geothermal systems around the lake.
Rotomahana, which means “warm lake” in te reo Māori, was dramatically altered by the 1886 eruption of Mount Tarawera. Previously a much smaller lake, it was blasted to more than 20 times its original size by a hydrothermal eruption, combining with neighbouring Rotomakariri (“cold lake”) and becoming the region's deepest lake.
The Pink and White Terraces were buried in the eruption and are resting around 60 metres below the lake's surface.
Tourism returned to the lake in 1900, when the Waimangu Geyser started to erupt in the volcanic valley created by the 1886 eruption. Waimangu means “black water” after the black appearance of the geyser, caused by rocks, mud and ash, which led to the area being named Waimangu Volcanic Valley.
Access to the lake is limited by the surrounding private land. Public access is available through Waimangu Volcanic Valley who offers boat cruises on the lake over the Pink and White Terraces site and around the lakeside geothermal activity.