Lake Tarawera's Hot Water Beach is unique in the world but perhaps expected in the Rotorua area because of its local geothermal activity. Not to be confused with the Hot Water Beach near Hahei that requires low tide to enjoy, this hot water beach is always available and hot. A boat is required to get there, but there are several options in the area including one at the lake itself.
We took the Lake Tarawera Scenic Experience from the lake. It included stops at both the hot water beach and a trail. These stops seemed a little hurried (about a 30-45 minutes each place), but the experience was great. The entire trip was approximately three hours.
Lake Tarawera is located off the junction of Hiway 30 and Highway 5 about 15 minutes from Rotorua. Follow Tarawera Road past beautiful natural park land. Stop at the lookout between Lake Tikitapu (Blue Lake) and Lake Rotokakahi (Green Lake) for a great view (and a hike if you have the time). Then follow Spencer Road to Lake Tarawera. On the way you can also stop at The Buried Village, an archaeological site related to the volcanic explosion that impacted the area. There is also a cafe at the Tarawera landing that serves decent food.