Rotorua Lakes

Our guide to the lakes of Rotorua

Rotorua city is surrounded by a plethora of beautiful lakes - 16 in all. Most of the lakes are open all year round, and if fishing is your thing, then you'll be spoiled for choice. 90% of the waters are filled with various trout, so they're a magnet for fly fishermen, anglers and holidaymakers. You can simply stand by the shoreline and throw your line in, or take a boat further out and make a day of it.

Each lake has its own unique personality, so it's worth hiring a car and doing a tour so you can discover your perfect picnic spot. Many of the lakes also cater for water sports and some have cafes and camping spots.

Here's our quick guide to Rotorua's Lakes, from the largest to smallest.

Lake Rotorua

The city's main attraction. 80sqkm of tranquil water, with a maximum depth of just 10m. The sacred island of Mokoia sits in the middle of the lake, and adds to the spiritual atmosphere. The waters have a high sulphur content, giving it an ethereal green-yellow hue. Popular with kayakers and fishermen, but not the best for swimming or watersports. View photos
Lake Tarawera

A fantastic fishing lake, Tarawera is fed by several other lakes either side. Various trout abound here, so it's usually busy with shore fly fishers and small boats. There's also a good camping ground, plus some hot water beaches. Gets busy in high season. View photos

Lake Rotoiti

The name means 'little lake' in Maori, despite its large size. The lake used to have a severe algae problem, because of nearby agricultural slurry. Since 2008, however, the richer waters of nearby Lake Rotorua have been diverted into Rotoiti to increase oxygen levels. Used more as a boating lake, than for fishing or watersports. View photos.

Lake Rotoma

Rotoma sits right between Rotorua and Whakatane, so it's a popular spot for visitors to both cities. In the middle of the lake is the sunken island of Motutara. When water levels drop, the top of the island can sometimes be seen. The lake's very clear waters make it possible to see the island even when it is covered. Attractions at Rotoma include an art gallery, tea shop, a holiday park and shop. View photos

Lake Okataina

Unique because of its central forest location, Okataina sits between Lakes Rotorua and Tarawera. It is also entirely self-contained, with no outlets or inlets. Okataina has a fantastic sandy beach, a large grassy area, and is known, quirkily, for its high wallaby population. View photos.

Lake Rotoehu

One of the more sparsely-visited lakes, visitors are guaranteed peace and quiet here. It's an ideal fishing spot, with good supplies of rainbow trout. Kayakers and boaters will also find serenity. Kokako and several other rare bird species can be seen in the bushes around the shoreline. View photos.

Lake Rotomahana

Sitting due south of Mt Tarawera, 25km east of Rotorua, Rotomahana was heavily affected by the volcano's eruption in 1886. There are rock walls that contain dramatic steam holes, and the famous Pink and White Terraces – once considered the Eighth Wonder of the World – were rediscovered here in 2011

Lake Rerewhakaaitu

A shallow lake, also beside Mt Tarawera, it can be quite windy here. Despite the exposed position, it's still popular with fishermen and kayakers, and the waters are famously clear. During summer, water skiers, yachters and jet skiers flock here. View photos

Lake Rotokakahi

Also called 'Green Lake', this is an emerald wonder of clear waters, waterfalls and shoals of shellfish. This lake is privately owned and entry onto the lake is not permited. However there is scenic lookout close by that gives you some amazing photo opportunities of both this lake and the nearby 'Blue Lake'. View photos

Lake Okareka

One of the few of Rotorua's lakes to sit next to a settlement, Okareka enjoys an air of exclusivity. Most visitors head to the larger Lake Tarawera nearby, but Okareka is more beautiful. With a circumference of just 6 miles, it's popular with day walkers, especially as the Waitangi waterfall sits half a mile further on. The lake is surrounded by high class lodges, day spas and boutique accommodation, so this is a lake for the well-heeled. View photos

Lake Tikitapu

Also called the 'Blue Lake', because of the high volumes of pumice and rhyolite in the waters, this is a small lake popular with watersport enthusiasts. Trout fishing is prevalent, as it is in most of Rotorua's lakes. Triathlons have found a home here, so check the sports schedule if you fancy a Sunday morning cheering on the area's more active residents. View photos

Lake Okaro

Also called Lake Ngakaro, this is a very small lake in a lovely rural setting. It's a great water-skiing spot, and is surrounded by pretty farms. It's the ideal spot to spend a couple of hours walking or horse riding around the paths that surround the shoreline. It's also close to Rainbow Mountain Scenic Reserve which has a couple of great walking tracks.

Lake Rotokawau

A small crater lake, Rotokawau lies about 1km east of Hell's Gate thermal park. It's popular mainly with walkers who want somewhere pretty to stroll around between tourist destinations. Not to be confused with the even smaller Lake Rotokawa, which is directly opposite Rotorua Airport. View photos.

Lake Rotoatua

Overlooked because of its proximity to Lakes Rotoiti and Okataina, Rotoatua is a crater lake off the Lake Okataina Road. If you're a keen walker, there's a great 45-minute stroll from Lake Okataina Road that takes in both Rotoatua and Rotongata, and is considered one of the area's finest short walks. View photos.

Lake Rotongata

Also called the 'Mirror Lake', this lake is found just half a kilometre west of Lake Rotoatua. It's a tiny lake, but very pretty and peaceful. It's a nice place to stop off for a picnic if you're also visiting the nearby lakes of Rotoiti and Okataina. View photos.

Lake Ngahewa

A small lake located opposite Rainbow Mountain Scenic Reserve which has a short walk to a couple of crater lakes and a 1.5 hour summit walk. The lake has a small area to park your car and basic picnic facilities of a table and bin. The views of the lake are limited with the best views actually found on the Rainbow Mountain Summit Walk starting on the opposite side of the road. View photos.