Rotorua has a surfeit of lakes to explore including the scenic route past magnificent redwood forests to the crystal-clear Blue and Green Lakes. Just past the Buried Village, we catch our first glimpse of Lake Tarawera and Mt Tarawera, the latter’s brooding gaze a forbidding reminder of the havoc it caused during its eruption in 1886. But today the mountain is a sleeping giant that oversees the picnicking families on the lake shores and anglers practising their casting in eager anticipation of the season.
At Tarawera Landing, there’s the option of a lake cruise aboard the MV Reremoana, but we've already booked a pick-up by Clearwater Charters from the wharf at Pukeko Landing, a well appointed three-bedroom cottage overlooking the Otumutu Lagoon. Reached via a pretty garden path that zigzags down to the water’s edge, it has its own private jetty.
At 2.30 pm sharp, we hear the hum of an engine, and a quick glance out the window confirms the arrival of Paul from Clearwater Charters, behind the wheel of Clearwater Pride. As we motor out into the lake, Paul provides details of the history of the area and points out the best fishing spots. I'm told all Clearwater vessels are equipped to cater for the novice through to the experienced angler, whether for trolling, jigging, or casting a fly – in season of course.
We motor into Ariki Arm past Red Beach and Wattle Bay, where splashes of the yellow flowers contrast sharply with the native bush, to the steaming waters of Hot Water Beach in Te Rata Bay. Here you can dig your own hot pool in the sand, or if you wish, wrap your catch in tin foil and steam it in the sand. Paul also recommends eating trout from Lake Tarawera as sashimi, fresh off the line.
Before heading back, we call into Te Wairua just south of the bay, dock, and walk a short distance to a magical private hot pool set in a tranquil glade amongst the trees. It’s an idyllic place to visit for a private hot spa and an unforgettable experience.
After a hot splash about, it’s back to Pukeko Landing for the night to enjoy yet another soak, this time all bubbles and water up to the chin in the enormous spa bath, pinot in hand, and the windows fully open, framing picture-postcard views of the sunset.