Where else could you find thermal foot pools; a raised and railed walking trail amid Manuka scrub and serious hissing, steaming, bubbling volcanic activity including a broiling lake; a beautiful duck pond surrounded by native and exotic gardens, plus a children’s paddling pool and playground in the middle of town and all completely free? Possibly the only place in the world is at Rotorua’s famous Kuirau park.
Situated along Ranolf Street and between Lake Road and Pukuatua Street, Kuirau Park is a favourite with locals and tourists alike. Many local residents can tell a tale of a youthful clandestine swim in the park’s wonderful steaming foot pools.
But take care to stay within the cool side of the side of the safety fences. When we say it’s an active geothermal area, we really mean it! In 2001 a new steam vent announced its arrival in the world by spewing mud and rocks 10 metres up into the air. Two years later it happened once more. Who can tell when it might happen again?
Legend has it that in the past, the park’s boiling lake used to be much cooler and had the name of ‘Taokahu’. Tamahika, the son of Tutea who was the first person to set up a home at the spot, had a beautiful wife called Kuirau. One day, when the beautiful maiden was bathing in the lake, a Taniwha (monster) grabbed her and dragged her down to his watery lair below the lake.
The gods saw the struggle between Kuirau and the Taniwha, and became angry at the audacity of the water monster. They used their powers to make the lake boil so that the Taniwha would be destroyed forever. Unfortunately, this also killed Tamahika’s wife, so from that time the lake and the park surrounding it has been known as Kuirau in her legacy.