THE BAY OF PLENTY REGION
Some of New Zealand’s most spectacular geothermal fields are located in the areas around Rotorua and the city has become the centre of one of the best known thermal areas in the world. The New Zealand Government developed and promoted Rotorua in the early 1900s as a spa resort and today the city has retained and restored many of its historic buildings from this period which, combined with more modern attractions, have made this one of the main tourist attractions in the North Island. The first Maori settlers are thought to have arrived in the Rotorua area as early as the 14th century. These people were descendants of the first navigators who had sailed into the Bay of Plenty from their homeland Hawaiki. Maori legends tell of a priest, Ngatoroirangi, who is said to have prayed to the gods to keep him warm in this new land, which is how volcanic activity was introduced to the region. The people who settled in the area took their tribal name from the Arawa, their original tribal canoe. As the population grew in size, warfare between the increasing numbers of subtribes eventually became a way of life and by the mid 19th century, not long after European settlers had established themselves in the country, the Arawa were fighting with the colonial government troops against the Waikato tribes. By the 1870s the fighting was almost over and increasing numbers of tourists were beginning to arrive in the region to view the hot geysers and boiling mud pools as well as to bathe in the hot mineral waters.
One of the main attractions were the beautiful Pink and White Terraces which were acclaimed as one of the natural wonders of the world. The terraces were engulfed during the eruption of Mt Tarawera on 10 June 1886, which tore a huge cratered rift, almost 17 km across the top of the mountain. A series of explosions followed a number of large earthquakes on the day of the eruption, creating a cloud of ash that could be seen from Gisborne 140 km to the east. An even higher column of steam erupted from the Lake Rotomahana basin which exploded to become twenty times larger than its original size, smothering the surrounding landscape with mud. The eruptions ended almost as quickly as they had begun, leaving nine deep craters in the mountain and spreading a layer of black basalt scoria and ash across most of the Bay of Plenty all the way south to Hawke's Bay. Many of the natural features that can be seen today are the result of this massive eruption, providing a fascinating insight into an intriguing active volcanic landscape that stretches south to Wairakei, Taupo and beyond into the mountains of the central North Island's volcanic plateau. Today the powerful forces of nature that created this unique landscape are still at work and can be experienced first hand at a number of scenic locations in and around Rotorua.
Most of these geothermal areas are located on a fault line where two of the Earth’s continental plates meet and were formed by immense pressure deep beneath the surface of the Earth where these two plates are slowly moving past each other. You can take a drive out to Whakatane on the coast, visiting the spectacular Tarawera Falls which surge out of huge lava tubes in a cliff face below Lake Tarawera. Waiomungu and Waiotapu along with Tiketere-Hells Gate are some of the more spectacular thermal areas around Rotorua while Whakarewarewa is one of the main attractions within the city. The Agrodome combines shearing and farming attractions with adventure rides while Skyline Skyrides provides a gondola trip up to a scenic lookout and the option of an exhilarating luge ride back down the mountain. There are numerous lakes in the region providing excellent trout fishing as well as numerous forest walks. Rotorua is an area packed with attractions.