Finding Lake Rotoiti

Discover the important historic and scenic Lake Rotoiti in New Zealand.

Lake Rotoiti is a crater lake situated in the Bay of Plenty region of New Zealand. It sits at the top of a chain of lakes that formed within the Okataina caldera. Lake Rotoiti is connected to its more famous neighbour, Lake Rotorua via the Ohau Channel and flows to the Kaituna River and out towards the sea at Maketu. The lakes were created as the result of a volcanic eruption about 240,000 years ago.

Rotoiti is really two lakes in one. The western half is actually a drowned valley and was formerly an outlet for Lake Rotorua. The eastern half of Lake Rotoiti sits in the north of the Okataina caldera and it is here you will find many hot sulphur springs.

Lake Rotoiti flows to the coast at Maketu, a historically significant New Zealand landmark as it is  the landing site of the Te Arawa waka (canoe), in around 1200 AD. Legend has it that Lake Rotoiti was discovered by the Maori explorer Ihenga, an early ancestor from the Te Arawa canoe. He named it Te Rotoiti-kite-a-Ihenga, which translates to “The Small Lake Discovered By Ihenga”, because when he first saw the lake, he was only able to see a fraction of it and thought the lake was smaller than it actually was. For hundreds of years Lake Rotoiti was the ancestral home and source of food for the Te Arawa people.

Today various maori tribes, most linked to Ngati Pikiao, have rights around the lake. In 1920, Ngati Pikiao gifted land to the Crown meaning that much of the lake shore remains untouched and undeveloped. A rich Maori culture still exists there, with many marae still sitting along the shores of the lake.

You can discover this important historic and scenic lake on one of the many walking tracks in the area, or better yet discover the fascinating myths and legends of the lake from local guides, such as the Pure Cruise New Zealand crew. Sailing on Lake Rotoiti with local experts will ensure you don’t miss out on experiencing the ancient village sites, Maori burial grounds and sacred caves.

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