Near Tarawera Mountain on the shores of Lake Rotomahana’s silica-rich waters, warmed by the magma below, slowly formed two glistening terraces.

Cascading into remote Lake Rotomahana, the beautiful silica terraces attracted people from all over the world. Visitors travelled by steamer to Tauranga, taking a bridle track to Ohinemutu on the shores of Lake Rotorua. A coach trip to Te Wairoa, a two-hour canoe journey and finally a walk over the narrow isthmus separating the swampy shores of Lake Rotomahana from Lake Tarawera took them to the foot of the fabled terraces.

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Te Tarata, (The Tattooed Rock) or the White Terrace was the larger. Covering seven acres, it tumbled to the lake from a from a height of 30 metres, fanning to a frontage of 240 metres. The terraces of Otukapuarangi, (Fountain of the Clouded Sky) or the Pink Terraces, were smaller and lower. The steps gradually ascended to the crater platform where three metre-deep basins were filled with clear blue water of around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, making superb bathing places.

Victorian travellers recorded their experience in a rich legacy of art, photographs and words.
Writer Anthony Trollope enjoyed a bath in one of the pools of the Pink Terrace in 1874: “In the bath, when you strike your chest against it, it is soft to the touch, you press yourself against it and it is smooth…..The baths are shell-like in shape, like vast open shells, the walls of which are concave and the lips ornamented in a thousand forms.”

Significant views were captured by notable photographers such as John Kinder, Alfred Burton, Charles Spencer and Josiah Martin. They recorded the fragile wonders with the heavy cumbersome gear of plate photography. In 1885 Charles Blomfield the ‘artist of the terraces’ pitched camp on the edge of Lake Rotomahana and worked to capture images on canvas.

FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENED TO THE PINK AND WHITE TERRACES, READ THE TARAWERA STORY CLICK HERE