Te Wairoa Falls

Lake Tarawera / Buried Village, North Island, New Zealand

About Te Wairoa Falls

Hiking Distance: 1km loop
Suggested Time: 20-30 minutes

Date first visited: 2004-11-14
Date last visited: 2004-11-14

Waterfall Latitude: -38.21281
Waterfall Longitude: 176.36494

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Te Wairoa Falls (also called Wairere Falls) was our waterfalling excuse to check out the tragic Buried Village of Te Wairoa.

At a reported cumulative height of about 30m, it was one of the taller waterfalls that we visited in the greater Rotorua area.

Te_Wairoa_016_11132004 - Te Wairoa Falls
Te Wairoa Falls

It was also essentially a private waterfall as we had to visit the archaeological site of Te Wairoa.

The Pink and White Terraces and the Mt Tarawera Eruption

Like the ancient Roman city of Pompeii being buried by the pyroclastic flow of Mt Vesuvius, Te Wairoa was buried by the fatal 1886 eruption of Mt Tarawera.

In addition to the tragic loss of human life, the volcano also destroyed the famous Pink and White Terraces.

The series of geothermal terraces appeared to be a much larger version of what the Minerva Terrace in Yellowstone National Park was like.

At a cumulative height of over 250m, it anecdotally earned the title of the Eighth Wonder of the World. During its heyday, the terraces had attracted artists and visitors from around the world.

Reportedly, two separate boatload of tourists traveling between Lake Tarawera and Te Wairoa village had reported seeing a ghostly war canoe with mourning Maoris on the morning of 31 May 1886.

A tohunga (Maori priest) had interpreted this as an omen of the volcanic eruption that eleven days later would come to fruition.

Touring Te Wairoa and the Te Wairoa Falls

Julie and I paid the $20 NZD per person admission price as of our rainy visit in November 2004.

Then, we stayed mostly out of the rain as we strolled through the museum-like displays and outdoor exhibits that displayed the lifestyle of the villagers before being buried that fateful day.

Te Wairoa Falls sat towards the end of our one-way stroll through the village. It was merely a side attraction even though it was the primary reason why we came for a visit.

Te_Wairoa_004_jx_11132004 - Thick foliage surrounding Te Wairoa Falls made it difficult to get a complete view of it during our visit
Thick foliage surrounding Te Wairoa Falls made it difficult to get a complete view of it during our visit

Once we had gotten past the ruins and displays, we then found a fork in the path where we choose the one that took us on a boardwalk with wooden steps descending into the thick bush.

That path then descended alongside the impressive waterfall where we got the views you see on this page.

Given the thick foliage around the waterfall, we could only see maybe only 20m of it at any given time so it didn’t appear as tall as the measurements would suggest.

After the waterfall detour ended, we passed by one lookout that should have allowed us to gaze at the imposing Mt Tarawera.

Unfortunately, due to the rain during our visit, the clouds had stubbornly kept the mountain from our sight.

Overall, it took us a little over an hour to go through the village. However, we very easily could have taken more time here to slowly go through the exhibits and better understand what Maori life was like back then.


Te Wairoa Falls resides in the Buried Village of Te Wairoa Archaeological Site. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Te_Wairoa_002_11132004 - Partial view of Te Wairoa Falls as we took the bush walk detour towards the end of our excursion
Te_Wairoa_003_11132004 - Partial view of Te Wairoa Falls as we took the bush walk detour towards the end of our excursion
Te_Wairoa_005_11132004 - Our first clean look at the front of Te Wairoa Falls
Te_Wairoa_007_11132004 - This view of Te Wairoa Falls was seen further downstream from the footbridge going over the river
Te_Wairoa_019_11132004 - Looking back at the wooden boardwalk that took us close to Te Wairoa Falls
Te_Wairoa_020_11132004 - This lookout was supposed to be of Mt Tarawera, but the clouds were hanging low during our rainy day visit


From the town centre of Rotorua, we headed east on SH30A, then continued east along SH30 for another kilometre past its junction with SH30A. At that point, we turned right to go onto Tarawera Rd, and we followed it for about 12km to the well-signed Buried Village.

Rotorua was about 3 hours drive southeast of Auckland or just about 90 minutes drive east of Hamilton.

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Tagged with: wairere falls, buried village, tarawera, eruption, pink and white terraces, terraces, lake tarawera, bay of plenty, north island, new zealand, waterfall, rotorua

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