Rotoroa, the Drunk Island

Back in 1911 this beautiful wildlife sanctuary used to be a rehabilitation center for drug and alcohol abusers.  The Salvation Army owned and operated a very successful center in Rotoroa servicing over 12,000 New Zealanders.  The locals refer to this as the “drunk island” but I’d like to think of it as a truly beautiful natural wildlife preserve.  This island was largely self sufficient with vegetable gardens, farms, and orchards being cared for by the patients.  

In 2005 the program and center were shut down.  Now the land is being leased and brought back to its former glory with natural plants, vegetation, and wildlife.  There are 6 tracks around the island that make it most inviting to visit.

Our friends on Yum Yum (Daniela and Mirko) come with us as we circumnavigate around Rotoroa.  We decided to take the North Tower Loop track (light blue) from the center of town to the Southern Loop track (red), then on to the Walking Track (orange) which connects back to the Southern Loop Track (red) and finish on the original North Tower Loop (light blue). A total of 9200 steps, 3.1 miles and 50 floors.

The Rehabilitation Town

We took Sweetie to the jetty and hauled her out on shore and then made our way into town.  We found the jail which had two detention cells built before 1918.  These cells were to dry out rebellious drunkards on their arrival.  Super small quarters.  We also found the butchery and a beautiful church which was all closed up.

The Beautiful and Rare Takahe Birds

From 1898 to 1948 the absolutely beautiful takahe bird was thought to be extinct. Now, there are about 400 in New Zealand and we had the privilege of seeing 5 of them!  They are sort of shaped like the native Waka birds, but they have the most colorful feathers that remind me of a peacock.

Before and After

We stood in the same spot where a photo was taken in 1910.  Obviously it has changed a lot with only a few buildings left standing.  A marked improvement in my opinion.

The Tracks

We continue on our tracks and have some beautiful views of the south anchorage.

We come across the unique sculpture by Chris Booth in memory of Jack Plowman. 

The North Track

We make our way around to the North Loop track where we stop to enjoy Men’s Bay.

And just when Daniela and I were feeling left out we came across Ladies Bay

We found the island cemetery which has a headstone dating back to 1911.  There are 19 marked graves of patients and staff, and one unmarked grave.  And a few more views just because they are so pretty.

It was a truly beautiful day for a walk or hike.  It was not a particularly strenuous walk and the tracks were well marked.  I’d recommend it if you are visiting Rotoroa.

Our blog posts run 10-12 weeks behind actual live events.  This blog post occurred in the middle of February.  Did you read about Stony Batter in our last blog post?

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One thought on “Rotoroa, the Drunk Island

  1. jgallin

    Thanks for sharing. Had to look at a map for this one:) Glad I signed up for your blog. Jill & Michael SV GERTY

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