During the 1800’s, rich and famous international tourists from around the world travelled in droves to visit the world-famous Pink and White Terraces, which were considered to be “8th Natural Wonder of the World”. The spectacular silica structures sat near the Village of Te Wairoa, New Zealand, in the shadow of Mt Tarawera. The journey from as far away as Europe and England took up to three months and could only be described as harsh and unpredictable.
This did not deter visitors and the growth in popularity of Te Wairoa Village over a short period of time caused the area to become recognised as the birthplace of New Zealand tourism. In 1901, the New Zealand government established the world's first tourism office, the Department of Tourist and Health Resorts located in nearby Rotorua.
On June 10, 1886, a fateful event buried the Pink and White Terraces in ash. The violent and unexpected eruption of Mt Tarawera left a trail of devastation in its wake and altered the course of New Zealand history forever.
Today, this historic event has left an indelible mark on the surrounding region, located within the famous Rotorua and Tarawera Lakes District. In the area, several fascinating historic sites pay tribute to the eruption. Tourists can visit these sites and get a deeper understanding of this natural disaster, as well as the seeds of development that grew in the aftermath.
Te Wairoa – The Buried Village
Visit the most impacted settlement and heart of the early New Zealand tourism industry at The Buried Village. Originally established as a model European and Maori village in 1852 by the Rev. Seymour Spencer, the Village of Te Wairoa was the resting place and launching point for journeys across the Rotomahana Lake to the Pink and White Terraces.
On the night of June 10th 1886, Te Wairoa lay in the direct path of the Mt Tarawera eruption. Metres of ash and mud fell on the village, killing over 120 people and destroying surrounding settlements.
Today, you can witness the raw power of this cataclysmic event found within the ruins of the archaeological dig sites and showcased in the award-winning museum exhibition. Over the past 80 years, the Smith family legacy has been to restore, preserve and share their stories of human resilience, tragedy and heroism. As a privately owned and funded visitor attraction, it remains today as New Zealand’s most visited archaeological site.
Waimangu Volcanic Geothermal Valley Rotorua
Waimangu Valley was formed in the Mt Tarawera eruption, making it the world’s youngest geothermal ecosystem. The explosion opened the earth along a 17km rift, splitting Mt Tarawera in two, expanding Lake Rotomahana to 20 times its original size, drowning the Pink and White Terraces, and creating the seven craters that make up present-day Waimangu Volcanic Valley.
Today, Waimangu is a unique environment of natural beauty that provides a range of nature walks, guided tours and a boat cruises through volcanic activity and Technicolour geothermal features.
Whakarewarewa Rotorua's Living Maori Village
The Whakarewarewa Living Maori Village is a geothermal reserve and home to the Tuhourangi/Ngati Wahiao people, who have been sharing their unique way of life with visitors for over two hundred years. Following the1886 eruption of Mt. Tarawera, the people of Whakarewarewa (Ngati Wahiao) took in the displaced Tuhourangi tribe, whose lands had been buried in volcanic ash. Both groups suffered from the loss of life and livelihood following the eruption. Together, they worked to regrow the nascent tourism industry that had suffered in the wake of the Mt Tarawera eruption and the loss of the Pink and White Terraces.
Since then, the people of Tuhourangi/Ngati Wahiao have been the trail blazers of the tourism industry in Rotorua and New Zealand. Today, the Whakarewarewa geothermal lifestyle continues to fascinate tourists who visit Whakarewarewa to experience its hot springs, mud pools, village life and geothermal cooking.
Stand a top the sacred mountain itself, which is a still-active volcano. There are options to either take a 4WD tour, guided hike or private plane to the top of Mt Tarawera. Either transport option covers the unique landscape and history of the area.
On the mountain, enjoy unmatched panoramic views of the surrounding lake region and see the craters and domes formed by the eruption. This unique activity is ideal for all ages and a spectacular experience for locals and visitors alike. Most tours include an optional run in to the heart of the volcanic crater.
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