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Volcanoes & Lakes Near Rotorua


Rotorua, Taupo and much of the central North Island lie in an area geologists call the Taupo Volcanic Zone. It is a very distinctive area of mountains, lakes and a landscape that everywhere bears the trace of volcanic activity. Gerald Cubitt and Les Molloy, the authors of "Wild New Zealand", have the following to say about the area:

"The Taupo Volcanic Zone can be thought of as a southern terminus of the great Pacific Ring of Fire which extends down the western Pacific from the Tongan Islands through the Kermadec Islands to the Bay of Plenty. The Zone contains, in White Island and Tongariro National Park, some of the most continuously active volcanoes in the world."

Within the Taupo Volcanic Zone there are 3 volcanoes still active: Ruapehu, Tongariro, and Ngarahoe (all are located in Tongariro National Park). All three have erupted fairly often in the last few hundred years. Ruapehu and Ngarahoe are two of the most continuously active composite volcanoes in the world.

Volcanic eruptions have been the cause of 2 very well known disasters in the last 150 years. The Mount Tarawera Eruption in 1886 killed over 150 people near Rotorua, and destroyed the famed Pink & White Terraces. On Christmas Eve, 1953, an eruption of Ruapehu caused a mud-lava flow that destroyed a railway bridge. This led to an horrific rail crash that killed 151 people.

Recent Volcanic Activity Near Tonga

"An undersea eruption began about two weeks ago, at first sending a plume of smoke and steam more than 2600 metres into the air above Tonga's Ha'apai group of islands. Days later when some of the smoke cleared an island has appeared. "It's quite a sizable island - it must be between 12 metres and 15 metres above sea level at its highest point", Mr. Faletau said. "Tonga has about 150 islands, but whether the new one sticks around to be the 151st remains to be seen."

There is some talk of naming this volcano after NZ's rugby sensation - Jonah Lomu (top scorer in the rugby world cup 1995, dest royed the English rugby team, an absolutely explosive player, being chased by Wigan for zillions of dollars.)


Lakes are as much part of the landscape of Rotorua as volcanoes, and in fact are closely connected to volcanic activity. The area is dotted with them, and Rotorua is sometimes described as the "lake district" of the North Island. Most of these lakes are situated in the depressions formed from volcanic eruptions (Lake Taupo is the most extreme example of this). Rotorua itself lies on the edge of a large volcanic lake (lake Rotorua).

Lake Rotorua
This picture shows a Rainbow over lake Rotorua. Mokoia Island which lies at the centre of the lake can be seen in the background. To the south of Rotorua lies lake Tarawera, surrounded by some beautiful bushlands and displaying a landscape that everywhere bears the imprint of the 1886 eruption of Mount Tarawera.

The Waikato River & Huka Falls
The Waikato is the country's longest river (425 km), and is about 30 minutes drive south west of Rotorua. The Huka falls and Aratiatia rapids are also on the Waikato, and are pretty spectacular. Jetboat rides and white water rafting are very popular on the Waikato. Jetboating and rafting in this area is supposed to be among the best in the world.

Lake Taupo
Lake Taupo, New Zealand's largest lake at 600 square kilometres, is about 90 kilometres south west of Rotorua. It is the product of a huge volcanic eruption that took place some 1800 years ago (the explosion is estimated to have been the most violent volcanic eruption anywhere in the world in the last 5 millennia). It is formed from the crater of an ancient volcano (called Taupo volcano), and is situated over a thousand feet above sea level. It is deep, (160 metres in parts) cold, full of trout and often used for wind-surfing, water-skiing and a host of other water sports.

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