History of Rotorua: Rotorua’s Greatest Story

Pink and White Terraces - Rotorua attraction Tarawera Legacy - Rotorua attractions. Maori culture and traditions.
Maori women - Maori history and culture Pink and White Terraces - history of Rotorua

For generations the Tuhourangi people lived in the shadow of Mount Tarawera, the enigmatic mountain that looms above the lake of the same name.

Nearby Lake Rotomahana, was the focus of a 19th century tourist boom. Rotomahana was the site of a spectacular geothermal phenomenon – a vast expanse of silica formations that became world famous as the Pink and White Terraces.

In the neighboring village of Te Wairoa, the Tuhourangi people prospered from ever increasing visitors to their land to view this natural wonder of the world.

It was a way of life that was to end abruptly in the early hours of June 10, 1886. Without warning, Mount Tarawera became violently active and in the hours that followed a choking layer of scoria, ash and mud buried the surrounding landscape. Many of the villages close to the mountain disappeared without trace and the Pink and White Terraces, the livelihood for so many, were obliterated. For the Tuhourangi people these were hours of loss and total devastation.

Family members took in survivors of the eruption at the little village of Whakarewarewa, located in central Rotorua. Whakarewarewa was becoming a popular tourist destination in its own right for its geothermal activity. Most of the Tuhourangi homeless eventually settled at Whakarewarewa where they were able to rebuild their lives and continue welcoming visitors to experience Rotorua’s natural wonders.

Today guests join the descendants of the Tuhorangi people to experience their unique lifestyle and history – a history rich with the traditions and legends of a strong people that survived a long sea voyage to Aotearoa New Zealand. Hear the legends of a people exploring a new land making it their home, living in harmony with a sometimes harsh environment and living with the legacy of the great mountain, Tarawera.