Rotorua’s Green and Blue Lakes

Before our relocation to Australia, I took the girls on a weekend getaway to Rotorua to check off some must-do activities like Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal WonderlandRedwood Treewalk, and Buried Village of Te Wairoa.  We found the Green and Blue Lakes by accident on our drive out to the Buried Village. 

Rotorua area is known for its many lakes producing great spots to trout fish, boat, water ski and swim.  Lake Rotorua being the largest of the lakes and located in the heart of the region.  Though it seems to have a blueish color… it is not the Blue Lake I am referring to in the title.

Rotorua Lake

Rotorua Lake

To find the Green and Blue Lakes viewing area, you can follow Tarawera Rd from Rotorua about 12km.  You will arrive at the Blue Lake first but if you continue along this road, you will find a turn off for the viewing platform. We had not planned to stop along our drive but this day was too stunning not to have a look.  I was unaware that there were two lakes both with distinctly different coloring. Once you are parked, a small hill and about a dozen paved steps lead you to best spot to view both lakes.

Rotokakahi/Green Lake

Known as Rotokakahi (it’s Māori name) or commonly called the Green Lake. It was my favorite to photograph do the angle of the sun and the surrounding colors.  I only had my cell phone available at the time but the picture still came out great!

Green and Blue Lakes Rotorua

They say the color is a green due to the shallow waters and sandy bottom.  This sacred lake is privately owned by the local Māori tribe which forbid swimming, boating and fishing. The small island, known as Motutawa Island, holds significance as the burial-place of many ancestors of the tribe.

Green and Blue Lakes Rotorua

The sign reads:

  • Named lake of the shellfish (kakahi)
  • 440 hectares in size, deepest point is 32 metres
  • Flows to Lake Tarawera via Te Wairoa stream
  • Formed approximately 13,300 years ago
  • Emerald green from above due to shallow, sandy bottom
  • Privately owned by local iwi (Māori), this lake is sacred (tapu). No swimming, fishing or boating permitted

Green and Blue Lakes Rotorua

Tikitapu/Blue Lake

Directly across from the Green Lake is the Tikitapu Lake or commonly called the Blue Lake. The lake can be found roughly 15 minutes from Rotorua town center and smaller than the other surrounding lakes.  It is popular during the summer months for swimming, boating and trout fishing. There are BBQ grills, playgrounds, sandy beaches, and toilet facilities also available.

Green and Blue Lakes Rotorua

The day we drove by the area there were plenty of swimmers, paddle boarders and boaters enjoying the sunny day. This lake holds several sporting events each year: triathlon, waterskiing and rowing competitions to name a few.  A fairly easy walking track circles the lake and takes roughly an hour to complete (maybe less for runners). Along the walk you can admire the sandy beaches, lake views and native bush.

The sign for Blue Lake reads:

  • Named as the place where the daughter of a high-born chief lost her sacred greenstone neck ornament (Tikitapu)
  • 150 hectacres in size, deepest point 27.5 metres
  • No surface outlet, probably drains via underground to Lake Rotokokahi
  • Formed approximentaly 13,500 years ago
  • Turquoise blue from above due to reflection from white rhyolite and pumice bottom

Green and Blue Lakes Rotorua

I took a short video of both lakes from the center point.

I am told the coloring is better observed from directly above the lakes though I could see the difference on this particular day. Worth the short stop in my opinion  (especially on a clear day).

Definitely continue to the Buried Village of Te Wairoa next!


Amber Herden

My name is Amber and I am finally tackling my bucket list all while relocating countries and raising two beautiful girls with my incredible husband.