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Rotorua, New Zealand is a treasure trove of diverse historical sites, including both colonial and Māori legacies. Visit these sites for a look back in time to see how modern life in Rotorua (and beyond) has been shaped by a diverse and colourful history.
Rotorua’s complex culture, volatile geology and eventful history are summed up beautifully in this world-class museum, located in Rotorua’s iconic Bath House building. Rotorua Museum features striking exhibitions, rotating art galleries, multimedia activities and in-depth guided tours that bring to life the amazing stories of this unique region.
Ohinemutu /St Faith Anglican Church
Located adjacent to Rotorua’s CBD is the Māori village of Ohinemutu, home to the Ngāti Whakaue tribe, a sub-tribe of the Te Arawa waka (canoe) that first landed on the shores of New Zealand. With its lakeside setting and abundant geothermal resources, this was an ideal spot for early Māori settlers and a growing population.
A self-guided walking tour of the area is free to visitors, who are welcome to view the outdoor cooking arrangements and bathing sheds that are still utilised by the modern inhabitants. Towards the lake's edge is the historic and magnificently decorated St Faith’s Church, which was completed in 1914. The church combines a Tudor-style exterior with a strong Māori influence in the interior, including beautiful carvings, woven panels and a window etching of Jesus wearing a Māori cloak and appearing to walk across the surface of Lake Rotorua.
For over 200 years, the Tuhourangi/Ngati Wahiao tribe have welcomed visitors into their backyard, allowing them to experience the culture of Rotorua. Whakarewarewa Living Māori Village honours this legacy today, treating visitors to tours, cultural performances and demonstrations of traditional living that continue to provide a framework for day-to-day living. Treat yourself to a traditionally prepared hangi and re-live the history of this Māori village with stories from tour guides whose families have lived on site for more than five generations.
The Buried Village of Te Wairoa
Currently one of New Zealand’s most visited historic sites, The Buried Village has origins that can be traced back generations and is widely regarded as a birthplace of the New Zealand Tourism Industry. Originally the point of departure for visits to the world-famous Pink and White Terraces, the fate of the village changed dramatically with 1886 eruption of Mt Tarawera, which buried the village of Te Wairoa in ash and mud. In 1931, restoration and excavation of the site began, unearthing relics of the past and providing clues to the events surrounding the fateful eruption. Nearly 80 years on, in the tradition of generational duty, a third generation of caretakers continue the guardianship of the Buried Village. Building on the handwork of their forbearers, they have developed the site into an award winning heritage attraction that is visited yearly by thousands of people from all over the world.
The 1886 eruption of Mt Tarawera was one of New Zealand's greatest natural disasters. Rocks, ash, and mud bombarded the peaceful village of Te Wairoa, leaving a tomb of ash and mud. Now you can see what lies beneath at this carefully excavated site.