The sun shone on the Rotorua lakefront as a karakia signalled the completion of the first stage in the $40 million project.
Te Pūkenga Koeke o Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa chairman Monty Morrison welcomed guests to the opening ceremony with pride and called the event "a fantastic opportunity".
"This was the Friday the shoreline of Rotorua was returned to her pristine state."
Ngāti Whakaue representatives Bryce Murray and Kingi Biddle led the procession along the boardwalk as Murray recited karakia.
Kingi Biddle, who is also a Te Arawa Lakes Trust representative, said the Rotorua lakefront would be a space that strengthened the connection between people and the water.
"Our stories are here. Our ancestors are here. Great landmarks of time are here for Ngāti Whakaue," Biddle said.
"Our relationship to the stories is now not romantic or poetic or even a legend or a myth. It becomes a historical account of who we are. That for us is the beauty of [this project]."
HEB Construction project manager Cole Meiring said the stories of Ngati Whakaue had played an important role in the project.
"Understanding the meaning and the stories has enriched our process.
"Everybody's proud of what we've delivered."
Part of HEB Construction's approach to the lakefront has included hiring 80 per cent of contractors locally.
Isthmus associate architect Travis McGee said he was lucky to be one of the architects working on the Rotorua lakefront project.
"This is not a standard project for us. The value and the impact this has on our local community makes it very special.
"We've taken inspiration from the unique environment of Rotorua. We've redefined the way the lake and the land connect in a way that brings people back to the water.
"You won't see this anywhere else."
Isthmus' other projects include Auckland's downtown ferry terminal and the Wynyard Quarter's playspace.
McGee said he looked forward to the next stages of the project.
In her speech at the event, Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said the project was about "creating a world-class lakefront experience".
"This is a really exciting milestone for us all.
"I can't wait to see our community enjoying this fantastic space. We're all going to enjoy this together."
Also attending the opening were students from Rotorua Primary School, Te Rangihakahaka and Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Koutu.
The students filmed the events on iPads as part of a lakefront engagement programme, which seeks to involve children in the lakefront development.
The council and local lakefront operators are also running a social media competition to encourage the community to explore the new lakefront during the school holidays.
Visitors who enter the competition will go in the draw to win more than $1000 worth of prizes from Volcanic Air, Lakeland Queen and Katoa Lake Rotorua.
Rotorua Primary School principal Fred Whata said he wanted to continue using the lakefront as an extension of the classroom.
"In the summer the kids are going to be out here doing maths and reading."
Whata also said he had plans for a waka ama programme on the lake.
The boardwalk area of the Rotorua lakefront is now open to the public.
Lakefront visitors can access the new lake edge via three entry points; the lake end of Memorial Plaza, next to the lakefront operators, and at the Motutara Point end of the reserve, during 7.30am and 5pm.