Lake Tikitapu

Lake Tikitapu

Lake Tikitapu

The blue lake

Picture Perfect with a violent past.

Twenty minutes out of Rotorua on the Tarawera road lies picturesque Tikitapu. An undulating track meanders around the lake and it takes 1.5 hours to complete if you stop to admire the stunning views. 

The scenery is 20, 000 years in the making and each hill and cliff face marks a significant volcanic event.

The hill that looks like a cuddly neck collar worn on long haul flights exploded into life 21000 years ago and is a rhyolite dome. Rhyollite is a thick viscous lava that melts at around 800 degrees celsius. It is simply referred to as North Dome.




Smooth and rounded or a bit crumpled.

Depends on which side of the lake you find yourself.

North Dome on the eastern shore has a beautifully rounded sculptured look. The lava flows appear this way because they have been liberally dusted with tephra (literally anything that falls from the sky) Dutch masters used the same technique, adding layers of paint till they got it right.

It is a slightly different story on the other side of the lake.  The lava front cooled and solidified forcing the rest to back up and crumple leaving a noticeable rib structure more typical of rhyolite flows. This happened about 18000 years ago.


Tikitapu lies on the fringe of the Okataina volcanic centre.

Not far away, Mount Tarawera was the scene of New Zealand’s most violent eruption in the last 500 years.

A rhyolitic dome split apart with very  little warning. Earthquake tremors were first felt in Rototrua  about 12.30am on 10 June 1886. Around 2am basalt lava rather than the usual rhyolite began erupting from the central dome of Mount Tarawera. 

Two hours later pyroclastic eruptions were occurring on Taraweras three main peaks. 





Better than a selfie

This work was painted by Charles Bloomfield who was renowned for his meticulous attention to detail. We can be reasonably certain this is an accurate representation of events

Towards the right of the painting Bloomfield has caught the moment basaltic lava at over 1000 degrees Celsius came in contact with the hydrothermal system underneath the old lake Rotomahana.

Like dropping water on a BBQ hotplate with gas turned up max the instantaneous production of colossal volumes of steam resulted in a phreatomagmatic explosion.

What goes up must come down. The column of scoria ash mud and steam reached a height of 10 kilometres .

The catastrophic collapse of this column would have projected hurricane speed surges of scalding hot debris outwards from the base destroying everything in its path

New Zealand Journal of Geology and Geophysics

I. A. Nairn (1979) Rotomahana—Waimangu eruption, 1886: base surge
and basalt magma, New Zealand Journal of Geology and Geophysics, 22:3, 363-378, DOI:
To link to this article:






Rotorua attractions, the Redwoods quarry lookout track.

Rotorua attractions, the Redwoods quarry lookout track.

Redwoods quarry lookout track

Haere mai ki te wao Tapu nui a Tane, Nau mai haere mai.

Welcome to the sacred forest.

Close to the Rotorua Central Business District on the main Tarawera highway lies a magical spot known to locals as the “Redwoods”

Insulated from a busy world by giant living statues of Californian Redwoods It’s a perfect spot to disconnect and let nature be your friend.

The canopy soaks up showers. When i’ts grey and wet outside it’s often green and dry on the walking tracks below.

I followed the quarry lookout track today. It climbs steadily up through the bush on well maintained paths to a vantage point overlooking the old rhyollite quarry, now a picnic area. On a clear day you would have magnificent views out over Rotorua and it’s lake. Although green and dry inside today the outside world was obscured by mist.

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