Rotorua Lakefront Walkway

The Rotorua Lakefront Walkway is part of the larger Rotorua Walkway.

Rotorua Lakefront Walkway

Rotorua Lakefront Walkway

The entire Rotorua Walkway spans 26 km and is split up into eight sections. This blog post will address two sections of the walk – Rotorua Lakefront and Motutara. Click here for a brochure on the entire walkway.

One of the first sites on the lakefront located opposite the Rotorua Central Scout Group hall is Te Arawa Waka Taua, a war party vessel built by hand in 1989 by local carver Lyonel Grant. The Waka, which is constructed from totara wood, is approximately 20 metres in length and weighs approximately 2.5 tons.

Te Arawa Waka Taua

Te Arawa Waka Taua

A dirt track and boardwalk travel around the lakefront to Motutara Point offering views of Mokoia Island. The island, which is administrated by four Te Arawa sub-tribes, was originally set aside as a wildlife sanctuary in 1921. In 1953 the island become a wildlife refuge. Three endangered native birds, the North Island Robin, North Island Saddlebacks, and stitchbirds have been introduced since 1991. Wekas were first introduced in 1958 and only recently have become common on the island.

The track is lined with kanuka and manuka bushes. It can be difficult to tell the two tea trees apart. But there are some key differences. Kanuka trees traditionally grow taller than manuka and the kanuka tree’s leaves are softer to touch. Also the flowers of the kanuka tree grow in clusters, whereas the flower of the manuka grows singly.

Looking out to Mokoia Island on a grey winter morning

Looking out to Mokoia Island on a grey winter morning

Rotorua Lakefront Walkway

Rotorua Lakefront Walkway

Motutara Point is on the eastern end of the Rotoroa Lakefront Walkway. It takes approximately 15 minutes to walk from the lakefront to Motutara Point.

As I continued around past Motutara Point the water became quite milky in colour. This is the start of Sulphur Bay, which is the southern most bay on Lake Rotorua and stretches from Motutara Point to Ngapuna.

Off the Motutara Peninsula is Timanga and Moturere Islands. Timanga Island was originally much larger and offered living space for a number of families. This small inlet is now home to roosting and nesting birds. Moturere Island was once host to a geothermal bath that was used for treating many illnesses. Lake levels rose over the years and today only a small part of Moturere remains above water.

Sulphur Bay

Sulphur Bay

From Motutara Point to the Polynesian Spa it is approximately 25 minutes walk. I exited the track and walked to Government Gardens and Rotorua Museum.

The Rotorua Walkway can be entered and exited at any point along the track and it is an excellent way to explore some of Rotorua’s geothermal areas, native wildlife, and historic sites.

Cruise Lake Rotorua

Lake Rotorua is the second largest lake in the North Island by surface area (79.8 km). Although it is quite a shallow lake with an average depth of 11 metres. Its deepest point is 45 metres.

Near the centre of the lake is Mokoia Island, which is widely recognised due to being the setting for the Māori legend of Hinemoa and Tutanekai. Legend has it that forbidden by her father from seeing her lover Tutanekai, Hinemoa swam across the lake to Mokoia Island guided by Tutanekai’s flute. Unlike Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet Hinemoa and Tutanekai’s love story had a happy ending. This story is one that will be heard many times while exploring the Rotorua region.

The Lakeland Queen is one way to see Lake Rotorua. They offer one hour cruises that take in the sights of Sulphur Bay, Kawaha Point and Mokoia Island with live commentary provided by the captain.



I took their one hour breakfast cruise, which departs at 7am and 8am. Onboard there was also an elderly couple from Tauranga for the long weekend and tour bus groups from China, Japan and Taiwan.

It was a grey and wet Queen’s Birthday morning, which did not provide the best photo opportunities. But the grey skies and old style boat did offer a charm to the cold winter’s morning.


At the back of the boat there were two buffet tables. On offer were a wide range of cereals, breads, fruit and yoghurt as well as scrambled eggs, hash browns, sausages, baked beans, and noodles. Tea, coffee, milk and orange juice were available at the front of the boat.

As well as the breakfast cruise Lakeland Queen offers a coffee cruise, one and two hour lunch cruises, and a twilight dinner cruise during the summer. Minimum numbers apply for lunch and dinner cruises. Bookings are essential for cruises I would recommend calling the office rather than booking online. They have a Freephone – 0800 572 784.


The Lakeland Queen, which is modelled after Mississippi style river boats, was built in Rotorua in 1986 and refurbished in 2006. It is stern-wheel paddle driven and has been specially designed for Lake Rotorua’s shallower waters.

The boat has two separate decks, outdoor viewing platforms and two licensed bars. It can host up to 240 seated dining guests or 300 guests cocktail style.

It departs from Lake Rotorua waterfront off Memorial Drive.


Essential Details:

Lakeland Queen

Memorial Drive, Lakefront, Rotorua

Ph: + 64 7 348 0265

Freephone: 0800 572 784