The Blue and Green Lakes of Rotorua

This is 'The Place to Go' to Enjoy Beautiful Scenery & Recreational Activities


Blue and Green Lakes, Rotorua - Māori names Lake Tikitapu and Lake Rotokākahi. These two lakes sit side by side and yes, one is blue and the other is green. Both can be viewed at a midway point, accessible by car and on foot. On a good day the difference can be quite marked.

The Blue Lake (Tikitapu), Rotorua, NZBlue Lake (Tikitapu)
Autumn at the Green Lake (Rotokakahi), Rotorua, NZ.Green Lake (Rotokākahi)

In terms of public access, the Blue Lake is open to the public for all sorts of recreational activities. The Green Lake is privately owned therefore no public activities can take place on this lake.


Blue Lake - (Tikitapu) Information

The Blue Lake, as it's commonly known, is one of our more popular recreational lakes. It caters for numerous activities, such as:

  • Walking
  • Running
  • Biking
  • Fishing
  • Swimming
  • Boating
  • Water skiing
  • Jet skiing

As a collapsed volcanic crater, the lake is shallow as lakes go with the deepest section being about 27m.

If you're looking at it from above, in certain lights it looks quite blue/aqua/turquoise in colour. This is due to a pumice and rhyolite bottom which the sun reflects up.

Blue and Green Lakes in Rotorua - Blue Lake ViewThe Blue Lake (Tikitapu) - View about 3/4 of the way around the 5km circuit in a clockwise direction.


Blue Lake Walk/Run Circuit

This area would have to be one of my favourite lake walks in Rotorua. It's roundish (about 5km) and takes about an hour to get around if walking at a brisk pace, or quite a bit faster when running.

TIP: I usually walk clockwise along the road first so that I'm facing into oncoming traffic. I don't like cars coming up behind me, especially if there are children present, because the track is right on the roadside.

Part way along the road the track branches. You've got the option of continuing along the road which gently climbs to the Green Lake car-park (better for prams), or taking the track running below the road level to eventually end up at the car-park too.

That section of track below the road gets quite rocky, and dips up and down as it winds through bush beside the water.

Lake Tikitapu, Rotorua, New Zealand - MistLake Tikitapu, Rotorua, New Zealand - Winter's Morning Mist


As the lake has no outlet, when there is a lot of rain the water rises over the track. In the past I have just backtracked until I could see a way to climb back up to the road.

This portion of the track eventually arrives at a steep lot of stairs (going up, I'm afraid). You'll be huffing and puffing by the time you get up to the Green Lake carpark.

Blue Lake trail sectionTerrain that can be covered by water
View one end of Blue Lake, Rotorua, to the otherSmall beach at base of the stairs leading up to Green Lake view carpark. Main swim area in the distance
Walking track around the Blue Lake (Tikitapu), Rotorua, New Zealand.A section of the track around the Blue Lake.
Steps Blue Lake to Green Lake carparkSteps from Blue Lake up to carpark where the Green Lake can be viewed & to continue the circuit

At the entrance to the Green Lake car-park (to the left of the top of the stairs) there is a small hill with a dozen or so steps. Here you can take in a spectacular view of both lakes if the shrubs haven't grown too big.

From the hill, head to the end of the car-park and go through the gate onto the forestry trail. There is signage so don't worry about getting lost.

A kilometre or so in, the trail branches, to the left is a steep road down to the Green Lake and the right continues around the Blue Lake.

In some places you're way up high above the waterline and in others right on the edge of it. The track can be wide, then it can be extremely narrow. When the lake is still and looks like a mirror, it's a magical place, good for the soul.

Blue Lake, Rotorua, NZ - LakefrontBlue Lake lakefront, the water isn't always blue
Blue Lake view from carpark in between Blue and Green LakesBlue Lake from carpark in between the lakes

If you're out there for swimming... the water is freezing. Yet it's still a popular place for swimming in the summer… can't say it's for me, I prefer Lake Tarawera as it's a whole lot warmer.

I've swum in the Blue Lake in the winter wearing a wetsuit (training for an event), and boy was it cold. Practically had hypothermia by the time I got out… not swimming fast enough huh?

I've also had family members and friends taking part in triathlons that involved a short swim in the lake (why in winter is my question). They were in swimsuits and could barely catch their breaths because of the iciness, brrrr.

Blue and Green Lakes, Rotorua - Blue Lake at the swimming/boating areaBlue Lake (aka Tikitapu) sign depicts swim/boat areas.
Blue Lake, Rotorua - Barbeque areaBlue Lake barbeque area


Green Lake - (Rotokākahi) Information

THIS LAKE IS PRIVATELY OWNED & TAPU (SACRED)

NO ACCESS for swimming, fishing, boating of any kind. As of December 2019, due to selfish idiots not respecting the nature of this lake, the Lakefront Road and walking/biking trails overlooking the lake, are now closed off to the public. Talks are ongoing. Many Rotorua locals are Not Happy (myself included) with those idiots.

Green Lake, Rotorua, New Zealand - SH5 End of LakeState Highway 5 end of the Green Lake

The Green Lake (Rotokākahi) and surrounding area is privately owned by Tuhourangi descendants who are a sub-tribe of the wider Te Arawa tribe. Control of the lake is managed by the Lake Rotokākahi Board of Control.

Prior to the eruption of Mt Tarawera, the lake was well utilised by the local Māori population, especially for the native Kakahi shellfish. Can you see where the name of the lake comes from now? Roto (n) means Lake. Kākahi (n) means freshwater mussel.

A small island on the lake, by the name of Motu-tawa, is the burial ground for not only numerous ancestors of the tribe but also Pae-o-te-rangi, a young Ngaphui chief and his party who were killed by the Tuhourangi people.

This led to a retaliation by the famous Ngapuhi chief Hongi Hika who subsequently attacked and killed, it is said, over 1000 Te Arawa people at Mokoia Island, Lake Rotorua.


Quick Facts

  • The Green Lake is 21m (69ft) below the level of the Blue Lake. An outlet from this flows into Lake Tarawera (further along Tarawera Rd) which is then 98m (322ft) lower again than the Green Lake.
  • In the right conditions the Green Lake is quite emerald green in colour due to it being more shallow than the Blue Lake and the fact it has a sandy bottom.

Blue and Green Lakes,Rotorua - Green Lake at the SH5 endGreen Lake (Rotokākahi) looking down to the wharf


Green Lake Walk

From the Green Lake carpark, access off Tarawera Rd, there is an 11km (2h.30min) return walk along Lakefront Road. It runs alongside the shoreline which goes all the way to the far end of the lake where there is a picnic area.

Signage for Rotokākahi/Green Lake walk.Signage


It's not frequented by too many visitors that I know of as the road is, or was, fairly rough plus it's a long way.

I took my mum and daughter in from the State Highway 5 end of the lake a while back because my daughter hadn't been there before and wanted to see it from this side.

My daughter Elise at the Green LakeMy daughter Elise at the SH5 end of Green Lake
My mum and Elise climbing stairs at SH5 end of the Green Lake

It took me a while to find the entrance as I hadn't been out there for years and there were no signs to indicate where to go. Once we found the right forestry road it took at least 5 mins on rough gravel road to get to the picnic area.

The reserve used to have barbecues and toilets but it's all overgrown and the toilets are broken.

Update: Since that time the gate off the highway has been locked to disallow public access, possibly due to vandalism.

It's a pity because this end of the lake is a beautiful area which still has wooden steps and viewing platforms with fantastic views.


Te Kōtukutuku Bike Trail

A family-friendly bike trail, Te Kōtukutuku, is an easy 2.8km downhill ride, accessible via the Green Lake carpark. You can return on Lakefront Rd. This trail has stunning scenery and rest stops to enjoy said scenery.

Tours That Include the Blue & Green Lakes


Directions To The Blue And Green Lakes Rotorua

Click on the google map below for directions to the Blue and Green Lakes from Rotorua City. It's a 16 minute drive approximately 11km (6.8mi) from Rotorua city via Tarawera Road.

As you get closer the Blue Lake comes into view and what a superb view it is on a still day.

On descending the hill you'll be on there's a big reserve area on your right with a beach, playground apparatus, barbeque facilities, toilets and parking.

Blue Lake (Tikitapu) Reserve and CarparkingBlue Lake Reserve and some of the carparking
Green Lake carparkCarpark in between Blue & Green Lakes

If you continue along the road, around a sharp left-hand bend there is a water ski club, another kiddies play area, beach area, more barbeque facilities, plus parking and toilets. There's also a Top 10 holiday park across the road from the lake. NB: When the lake is really full this beach all but disappears.

Blue Lake Top 10 Holiday Park, Rotorua, New ZealandBlue Lake Top 10 Holiday Park

Continue along the same road another 1.9km (1.18mi) to access the Green Lake carpark area.

IMPORTANT: The road out to the lakes winds in some places. During winter frost, including black ice, can be on the road.


View Blue and Green Lakes Rotorua in a larger map

Food & Drink

People mostly take picnic lunches, make use of the shop across the road at the Blue Lake Top 10 Holiday Park or use the lakeside gas barbeque facilities. There's often a caravan selling coffee at the holiday park.

A Blue Lake bumble bee - Rotorua, NZRandom I know, how do you like my bumble bee pic? Taken at the Blue Lake.

Parking & Toilets

Plenty of parking is available at the northern end of the Blue Lake and in between the two lakes. Toilets and changing rooms can be found at the northern end of the Blue Lake also.


Restrictions

Numerous events are held at the Blue Lake. If you would like to check in advance, upcoming event information can be found at the Bay of Plenty Regional Council website. Look for the 'Tikitapu' tab.

Enjoy

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