New Zealand Walks; Tramping and glamping Tarawera style
Really? Egyptian cotton sheets in a queen-sized bed in a camp at the end of a tramping track? With geothermal lake-edge bathing thrown in? Not forgetting gas cooker, solar lighting , flush toilet and hot shower?
It’s true. For those wanting to walk Rotorua’s Tarawera Trail, and who might have moved on from toting the tent, food and cooker on their back, there’s now a stunning ‘glamping’ option, pitched discreetly on a lakeshore terrace at the trail’s far end.
Walking NZ has previously featured the Tarawera Trail. This is the 15km forest walk that starts near Te Wairoa, The Buried Village, and meanders part way around Lake Tarawera to Te Rata Bay – otherwise known as Hot Water Beach for the geothermal springs that heat the lake here.
The trail is gently undulating. Views unfold through the trees across Lake Tarawera to the brooding Mt Tarawera. There’s also a glimpse of Rotopounamu, the lake famous for its Pink and White Terraces until they were buried in the cataclysmic Tarawera
eruption, back in 1886. The Trail is managed by the Tarawera Trail Trust, a unique partnership with DOC and local landowners. It opened in 2013 as the first stage of a proposed walk to be developed right around Lake Tarawera, one potentially destined to become New Zealand’s next Great Walk.
For now, the trail ends at Te Rata Bay. You can either walk back (or run, and many do), return by water taxi or, you can “glamp”. Even better Dave, the water taxi driver, will deliver supplies right to your glamping tent door.
Te Rata Glamping might be new but the tradition of hosting visitors here is not.
In the late 1800s, New Zealand’s first ever tourism venture began when entrepreneurial Guide Sophia led tours to the Pink and White Terraces.
Guests travelled from Te Wairoa Village, boated across Lake Tarawera, walked over an isthmus to Rotopounamu, then boated to the Terraces.
All came to a tragic end on June 10, 1886, when Tarawera erupted. A 17km rift was blasted out of the mountain and the Terraces lost in the depths of Rotopounamu. Te Wairoa and other local villages were buried in ash and mud, the survivors moved away.
That early spirit of hospitality is not only now rekindled, it runs in the same
whanau. Te Rata Glamping has been established by Karen Walmsley, a direct descendant of Guide Sophia, and her husband Dave. Their company, Totally Tarawera, also runs the Tarawera Water Taxi, plus the couple guide eco and cultural tours in the region.
There is also a DOC camping area at Hot Water Beach, popular in summer. Karen says she’s camped here, many times. ‘I’ve actually been camping all my life but now I’m getting older. I need some comforts. So when we were planning our glamping site I thought about what I would like to have in a campsite now. And I think we’ve pretty much nailed it.”
In fact, Te Rata is the first glamping site to have a concession on DOC land, and meets strict environmental standards. There is a sleeping tent, with a double bed (with fluffy duvet and those Egyptian cotton sheets) set on a wooden platform, with veranda.
The bathroom tent comes with hot water shower, twin basins and a composting toilet. All waste is carried out.
The ‘wharekai’ (sleeping/dining tent) is fully equipped with gas cooker, sink with gas hot water, a gas fridge and barbecue, all the utensils you’d need, plus table and chairs and reclining deck chairs, perfectly located to watch the sun set on the mountain.
Dinner and breakfast baskets are supplied on request. Traditional steam cooking in the geothermal water is also an option, no kidding. Ask Dave for his recipe book. As an example you can cook that freshly caught trout in the ground in 40 minutes. While you are waiting just relax and enjoy the lake edge hot water bathing.
Guide Sophia would be proud.
Above: Looking across to the Mountains of Tarawera.. Left: It might be under canvas but the kitchen and dining room at Te Rata Glamping has all the mod cons.
Above left: A comfortable bed in a tent. Above right: Dave and Karen Walmsley, of Totally Tarawera, at Te Rata Bay, Lake Tarawera. They run Te Rata Glamping, the Lake Tarawera Water Taxi, Kanuka Glamping (at Oneroa) and guided eco and cultural tours. Karen descends from Guide Sophia, of Pink and White terraces guiding fame. Below left: Kanuka Glamping adopts a Maori theme.
Tramping and glamping, Tarawera style Above left: Welcome to Te Rata Glamping. Above right: Glamping Te Rata style means a sturdy tent, wooden floor, quality bedding and a lookout across the lake. Wake up to the sunrise over Mt Tarawera. Middle left: The luxury feel of the bathroom at Kanuka. Below left: Hot water for bathing and, if you have the time, for cooking, is provided courtesy of Mother Nature at the geothermal water region of Te Rata Bay.