Rising some 180 metres (590 feet) out of the centre of Rotorua, the tiny Mokoia Island is the site of New Zealand’s most cherished love story and home to some of the country’s rarest birds. Visit the island to discover its rich Māori heritage, to explore the endangered wildlife sanctuary and to bathe in its geothermic waters. Mokoia Island is operated by the Te Arawa indigenous people and can only be accessed as part of a tour.
Board the Mokoia Island boat in Rotorua township to speed across the lake’s glassy water in the direction of the island. Listen to tour operators as they tell the legendary story of Hinemoa and Tutanekai. Their families separated these two young lovers before Hinemoa swam across the lake so the couple could be together. Listen to the famous Māori song that tells their story.
As you arrive you’ll receive a warm Māori welcome before being led onto the island. Bathe in the naturally heated pools located along the island’s shores for a truly relaxing experience. Sit back and gaze across the lake in the evening as the sunset provides glorious colours reflecting in the water.
Bring your binoculars for some of the best bird watching in the area. The endangered wildlife sanctuary at the centre of the 1.4-square-kilometre (0.5-square-mile) island is home to rare species, including the North Island robin and the papango. Afterwards, take a guided bushwalk across the island to learn about the local flora and fauna.
Back on the boat, enjoy circumnavigating the island to see its rocky shores and to capture photos of the island against the lake behind it.
Mokoia Island is located in the centre of Rotorua and can be reached via boat. Sign up for the Mokoia Island Wai Ora Experience in Rotorua. A fee applies for the experience. Visit the island year-round.