Lake Tarawera Trail to natural hotpools New Zealand

If you’re keen to start getting a little more adventurous with your tramping and you’re looking for something longer than a day trip, this trail at Lake Tarawera is a perfect intro to overnight hiking. It’s a relatively easy-going hike in the North Island of New Zealand.

The Tarawera Trail lies near Rotorua, 2 hour 20 min away from Raglan, which is where I live.  It is one of the most popular overnight hikes to do in this area.

Lake Tarawera hike
Juliette looking at the Lake from above
Hiking Lake Tarawera, Rotorua
The day was a bit rainy but this didn’t stop us

The crew for this one was Jai, Juliette and Myself.  Although the trail itself was not high or difficulty, it is “off the beaten track”, which meant two things: 1. No running drinking water available at the site so we had to carry the water.  2. No hut, so we had to carry tents and sleeping gear. This was my first overnight tramp in years so I borrowed my flatmate’s backpack and a mate’s tent. I definitely over packed, as I could barely lift my bag onto my back! This was due me carrying 10 liters of water, a 3-man tent (I couldn’t organize/find/buy a one-man tent in time) and a small blow-up mattress.  I wanted to be comfy, but this was over the top. I suffered with every step.

Hiking Lake Tarawera, Rotorua
The crew Juliette me and Jai

Some backpacks have water proof sheets that you pull over your back-pack. Juliette had one. Lucky her. Jai and I didn’t, but we didn’t want our stuff to get wet so we brought rubbish bags from the petrol station and put them over our bags. We were novices for sure.  This trip was definitely a learning curve, but it made it fun, and made us laugh a lot.

Hiking Lake Tarawera, Rotorua
Rubbish bags to cover our bags so they didnt get wet.


The hike was 15kms there and 15kms back. Even though it was along a Lake, the track went up some steep inclines at times.  We were all definitely challenged.   It took us 5 hours to get there, and once we got there we set up our tents.

Lake Tarawera Rotorua
Two minutes away from finishing the hike on day one
Hiking Lake Tarawera Rotorua
A tent each why not

Because the area is managed by the Whakarewarewa Village, we had to book our campsite online before we arrived. We did this online at under BOOK NOW “hot water beach”. It cost $40 for the three of us to camp for one night.


We were all keen for a hot pool once we had set up our tents, so off we went towards the steamy water to have a soak, which was about 1 min walk way.  Little did we know, it was either extremely hot or extremely cold the water.  We struggled to find an in-between and keep jumping up out of the water as we got would get burnt for a split second by the hot water rushing in from land and meeting the lake water!  We were all a bit gutted.

Lake tarawera Rotorua
desert time having some dark chocolate

The next day I chatted to the ranger of the camp who lives there on a boat most of the year.  I asked him if he knew of a better hot pool than this one and he said he knew of a perfect one for us.  He said that on the way back to the trail stop 10m before the first toilet you come to (about 1 hour away) and on the right you will see a track with branches across it to stop people going this way.  Follow it and you will end up at a perfect hot pool with a lovely temperature.  We followed his directions and found the hot pool. It was amazing! We were stoked! We stayed here and relaxed for an hour. Here, we bumped into the water taxi guy.  There is an option of getting dropped off at the camping spot by a water taxi for $25

Hiking Lake Tarawera Rotorua
Relaxing in the hot pools

Jai had borrowed a pack off me which was pretty old and he decided it was hurting his shoulders, so he asked the water taxi guy if it would be possible to have his pack taken back to the landing café:

This is a spot 40 min away from the car park. I decided to do the same as I had packed too much stuff and was getting a sore knee. We were falling apart! Juliette was determined to carry her pack and said no to the water taxi option. Jai and I were free of our bags, yay! We were stoked, and we headed out to continue the rest of our trip.

Hiking Lake Tarawera Rotorua
13 km to go

Then it dawned on us, 3 and half hours in to our walk back that we were going to get back when the café would possibly be closed. That meant our packs would be locked inside the cafe. I asked Jai if  he wanted to run back. Jai is always up for a challenge, so he said “yup I’m keen”, and he was off.

Hiking lake Tarawera Rotorua
View on the way back

One and half hours later we met Jai at the café, looking after our packs. The café was still open and it was 6pm; Phew!

Hiking Lake Tarawera Rotorua
Veiw from the cafe

Jai wanted to head back the road way to the carpark which was 3km and I wanted to head back through the forest, so we decided to have a race back to the carpark.  Jai won, my way was harder than I had anticipated; up and down “millions” of stairs for 40 min. I was knackered when I got to the car! Jai was happy as Larry that he had won and when I saw him he had a big grin on his face.


Overall, it was a great time and I would highly recommend this hike.


Top Tips from Amber!


  • Make sure you take a 1-2 man tent – a light one! – and a light mattress/mat
  • Remember water. There is none when you get there. Some places on the internet say you can use the lake water but you definitely can’t.  Or bring water tablets to treat the water.
  • Take Mosquito repellent!

For more infomation you can call Amber on 027 294 6949.