The Buried Village of Te Wairoa review

5 of us walking toward a half buried house - real thing - in The Buried Village of Te Wairoa, Rotorua (NZ). The lava from Mount Tarawera really did it.

The Buried Village, on its outdoors part, one of the half-buried houses. That’s how the whole village was after the eruption.

We visited The Buried Village of Te Wairoa in August 2016. We received 50% discount on our family entry. The opinions are 100% ours.

The Buried Village is a museum in Rotorua, but it’s not a regular museum. It combines an inside and an outside area.

It gets its name from the village of Te Wairoa.

Our visit to The Buried Village of Te Wairoa with kids

The boys inspecting a waka - Maori wooden war canoe, at The Buried Village of Te Wairoa (Rotorua, NZ). They have a good collection of artefacts that were buried by the Tarawera explosion.

Boys looking for a clue near the waka – māori war canoe. It’s one of the recovered items from the excavations

From their website, ‘Te Wairoa was established by the Christian missionary in 1848 as a model village, however, Te Wairoa survived for fewer than 40 years before it, and the nearby Pink and White Terraces were obliterated by the eruption of Mt Tarawera.

At the entry, the kids were given the first clue of the Treasure Hunt from Margaret. They didn’t even see the museum, just skipped from clue to clue, so eager to finish it. We started by the inside museum, which is very informative and has a little part for the kids.

The whole indoor part is full of models, items recovered from the excavations. It’s small and full of written information. It’s also a little bit dark. Coral was a bit scared at the beginning, but she did get used to it.


A lovely waterfall in the middle of the jungle of The Buried Village (Rotorua, NZ). We took the stairs to watch the waterfall from below - lovely thing!

Wairere Falls, a beautiful thing – you can visit only the trail leading to the waterfall for a smaller price


Then we got to the outside part of the museum, full of the half-buried houses. It’s 12 acres of the archeological site. They dug out the entrance of the houses, now people can enter them. It’s pretty cool to see how deep they ended up buried.

There are also lots of things, like a working manual water pump (which the kids loved), a house, replicas of the terraces, a waka (māori war canoe), trees, and other fun things.

The place is great. I thought it would be morbid, gloomy and dark but it isn’t. Not even close. Especially the outside part of it is very well thought of, informative and beautiful.

A cute fantail (bird with a hand-fan like tail) on the grass outside the Buried Village, in Rotorua, NZ.

The cute fantail greeting us. They’re the cutest little birds and this little guy kept us company throughout most of our time there

More to do at the Buried Village of Te Wairoa

We met a cute little fantail (an NZ bird with a tail that resembles a hand fan, the one from the photo below) and it kept on flying around us, so adorable! It stayed with us for around 30 minutes.

There’s a route to follow at the outside part, with clear signs. It’s a very easy, flat, and pleasant walk, it should take around 40 minutes to go all the way. As a bonus, there’s the Wairere Waterfall Trail. It takes around 20 minutes and it’s not that easy: it was muddy, slippery and full of steep stairs.

It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, it was a lovely walk – just not for everyone. Nice exercise for us, and Coral, at the height of her 4 years, did all the walk all by herself (with some help on the stairs). The waterfall is beautiful and the scenery is breathtaking.

raibow trout river

The rainbow trout river – there are lots of rainbow trouts! They’re easily spotted due to their colorful bodies!


You can see Tarawera lake from far away, but it’s not even close to being the highlight of the walk. I mean, waterfalls, waterfall water spray, mud, and birds. The lake didn’t stand a chance!

At the river, we saw many rainbow trouts and it was a lot of fun finding them. Coral loved it.

The boys were really into the treasure hunt. They had to really look for the clues and they found them all. In the end, Margaret gave each of the kids (even though Melissa and Coral didn’t participate in the treasure hunt) a chocolate coin. They were incredibly happy. It’s amazing what an unexpected act of kindness can do.


buried village museum

The indoor museum at The Buried Village

To finish it…

To finish, we had hot chocolate for the kids, coffee for Angelo and a tea for me on the outside area of the café. It’s covered, so we were sheltered from the rain – that was pouring by that time. We had a lovely afternoon at The Buried Village of Te Wairoa. We highly recommend it. It surprised every one of us, in good ways.

The regular family pass costs NZ$ 75 for a family of 4 (in 2018).

  • What / Where
  • Minimun Stay
  • $ ~ $$$
  • Child-friendlyness
  • Best local transport option
  • Safety
  • Do we recommend it?
  • The Buried Village / Rotorua, New Zealand
  • 2 hours
  • $$
  • Super child friendly!
  • Car
  • Safe – unless the volcano erupts again
  • Yes!
The family entering the museum of The Buried Village of Te Wairoa, in Rotorua, NZ. This museum is enormous, combining the real excavation sites, waterfalls, walking trail, and an incredibly informative indoors part about how it came to be The Buried Village.

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