We wandered off the backpacker’s beaten path a little (again!) after our visit to the Mahia Reserve and found ourselves at Te Urewera’s famous Lake Waikaremoana.
Those of you who are into hiking will probably already know about this area but for anyone who doesn’t, Lake Waikaremoana is home to one of New Zealand’s many great walks. This particular one will dance you around the edge of the lake in the space of 2 – 3 days but that’s not all the area has to offer. There are also plenty of short walks around Lake Waikaremoana, and that’s what we’re going to talk about today!
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The weather looked a little sketchy while we were at Te Urewera – plus we’re not equipped for multi-day hikes – so we checked out the information centre for some alternative short walks around Lake Waikaremoana and it turns out there’s plenty to choose from!
We didn’t get around them all in our quick visit to Lake Waikaremoana, but we did manage to tie together a few of the really short walks and make a day of it – you’ll see what I mean – but don’t worry, we’ve included a small round-up of the some of the other short walk alternatives at the bottom of this post to help you know what to plan for!
Quick facts about Lake Waikaremoana
We did a little digging about Lake Waikaremoana and found it is a really fascinating place steeped in Maori history. Here are a few quick facts about Lake Waikaremoana to tickle your curiosity;
Getting to Lake Waikaremoana
Lake Waikaremoana is just over two hours South from Gisborne. This would be the furthest inland we’d been so far on this trip and I loved how these roads got more and more scenic the further we drifted away from the coast – so much so I was straining my neck trying to see everything. We passed endless fields of cattle but also beautiful cliffs and rivers, there just never seemed to be a pull-in spot when we wanted one!
Once we hit State Highway 38 and got closer to Lake Waikaremoana the road changed from wide sealed road to narrow winding gravel, any big vehicles heading this way need to be conscious to pull over if traffic builds up behind them as keeping up any form of speed was difficult on this road. However, we managed it in our motorhome so unless you’re in a lorry you should be fine.
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Lake Waikaremoana walks;
Blacks Beach Track – 30 minutes one way
Blacks Beach Track was the first of the Lake Waikaremoana walks that we explored. Mostly because it starts directly opposite the Lake Waikaremoana campsite and meanders through the woods in the right direction for the rest of our plans.
This was more of a practical walk than one chosen for its scenery but part way along we were treated to a couple of mini waterfalls and a small lookout that gives views of the lake. While it was pretty overgrown, it was a good opportunity to admire the size of Lake Waikaremoana.
Aniwaniwa Falls Track – 30 minutes one way
Once we reached the end of Black Beach Track we followed the road up and over the white bridge, on the left is where the Aniwaniwa Falls Track starts. This track follows the river downstream for roughly 30 minutes towards the spectacular Aniwaniwa Falls, the first lookout point was again quite overgrown but luckily the main one provided beautiful views from the front.
Although it’s commonly referred to as Aniwaniwa Falls, this 15m waterfall is made up of three cascades, Momahaki, Te Tangi-o-Hinerau and Bridal veil falls. I can imagine it gets quite busy here in summer but thankfully we had the whole place to ourselves and were able to relax and have a somewhat soggy pic-nic in the rain.
If you don’t want the added 30-minute walk from the campsite (via Blacks Beach Track), there is a small car park before the white bridge. Plenty of space during winter but might be a bit of a squeeze in the busier months.
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Papakorito Falls – 30 minutes one way
Our final of the Lake Waikaremoana walks for the day was Papakorito Falls. The track for this starts just before the white bridge at Aniwaniwa Road. First, you’ll have to walk (or drive) 2km before reaching the official track, from here it’s only a couple of minutes to the magnificent 20m Papakorito Falls.
The track ends at a very small viewing platform right at the base of the falls, making the plunge pool accessible for a little dip if the weather calls for it. It’s a lovely shaded spot so it’s ideal for those warmer summer days too.
Other Lake Waikaremoana walks nearby;
The Onepoto Caves track is a 2-hour return that will take you through a series of caves, from small cavities to tunnels and overhanging rocks, the landscape varies to create a really interesting walk. This is one of the Lake Waikaremoana walks that we wanted to do, but the storm rolled in on the morning we planned to do it so unfortunately, we headed back to the coast instead.
Don’t forget your torch! Some of these caves are easy to explore but obviously, you’ll need a way of seeing and a phone torch might not be up for the job.
Image of the track leading to Onepoto Caves from this website
This is a 45-minute return walk to a stunning vantage point looking over lake Waikaremoana. The walk will take you through lush forest and past old boulders and landslides that date back to when the lake was first created!
If you’re looking at these Lake Waikaremoana walks and find yourself wanting something long, without having to do the multi-day hike, Sandy Bay is a good alternative!
It’s an 8-hour return that takes you to Lake Waikareiti. If you want to extend the walk, you can book a night at the Sandy Bay hut through the DOC website.
One of the easiest Lake Waikaremoana walks that starts at the holiday park. In just 20 minutes, this track takes you to a giant Rata Tree that is said to be 1000+ years old!
Extending from the Hinau Track, the Ngamoko route is a 2,5hour one-way walk that will show you the areas dense virgin forest as you climb the steep track to the summit. I hear there are more beautiful views over the lake from here!
The old Maori Trail
Named after the tribes who used this route to get to Lake Kaitawa, this walk will take you 2 hours one way. Starting at Rosie Bay you’ll walk through more beautiful forests before resting at the side of the Lake.
Even though we only spent a short time at Lake Waikaremoana, it was enough to see the beauty of the area. If you have time to spare you have to do some of these Lake Waikaremoana walks. You could even make this your route to Rotarua if you don’t mind (or more to the point – if your car doesn’t mind) long gravel tracks.
Have you visited Lake Waikaremoana or Te Urewera Park? What did you think to its natural beauty? Drop us a comment below!