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Rotorua Lakes & Mokoia Island

Rotorua Lakes
& Mokoia Island  (1st page)
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Rotorua Lakes

Photographs courtesy: Rotorua District Council

There are 20 lakes within 20 miles of Rotorua, though some are small and not well known. All are of volcanic origin, filling craters, calderas, or valleys blocked by lava flows.

To the east of Rotorua are Rotoiti, Rotoehu and Rotoma. These are popular with anglers for their rainbow trout but they are also fringed with forest which supports good numbers of birds. All are easily reached from State Highway 30.

Mokoia Island, 2km off-shore, in the middle of Lake Rotorua, has become home for some of New Zealand's most endangered species and is one of the most important wildlife refuges in the Bay of Plenty.

Kaharoa and the adjoining Onaia Ecological Area are renowned for kokako, once common in lowland forest but now endangered.


Rotorua, a Maori word meaning literally "second lake", was originally settled by the Maori of the Te Arawa tribe.

Rotorua is the heartland of New Zealand Maori culture, and visitors have many opportunities to experience Te Maori. It is rich in history, both Maori and Pakeha.

The founder of Rotorua was a Maori explorer named Ihenga in the 14th century. The first Maori inhabitants arrived shortly after his discovery, transported by canoe from Hawaiki in Eastern Polynesia.

Mount Tarawera 1886 eruption destroyed the world renowned Pink and White Terraces and many of the lakes surrounding Mt Tarawera had their shapes and areas dramatically altered because of the explosion.

It was to the shores of Mokoia Island, that Hinemoa, the daughter of a famous chief, defied her family, and swam 2 1/2 kilometres from the shores of Lake Rotorua in the dark and guided by the sound of Tutanekai's flute to be with him.

Mokoia has for hundreds of years been occupied at some time or other by members of nearly all the sub tribes around Lake Rotorua who valued it both as a defensive sight and as an ideal place to grow kumera or sweet potato. The Island was once home to a thriving village with an estimated peak population of 2000 or more.

(page last updated  16 July 2007)