Kawerau & Tarawera

About Kawerau & Tarawera

The Tarawera River, threading its way from its lake outlet past Onepu to the coast, defines the Kawerau and Tarawera Virtually on Track gem. Clouds of steam and the volcanic peak of Putauaki (Mt Edgecumbe) which overlook the river are signs of the energy -  a vast dump of underground steam – that flows through this valley. It’s a mix that has provided the area with a wealth of opportunities to play outdoors always with a stunning new vista just around the corner. At the Lake Tarawera end, bush tracks and navigable waterways follow the flow until the river disappears underground before emerging through the Tarawera Falls and continuing onto Kawerau – a town just bursting with parks and reserves tailored for an active community. Working its way through a grade 2 kayak slalom course, the river then clears the town and heads for the edge of this Gem at Onepu, a mountainbiking and walking Mecca of sorts, before continuing its way to the coast. This is a gem of three playgrounds, linked but distinct, and all thriving on the energy that drives this place from the heart of the Earth.

In the footsteps of the Mount. Read about Cindy’s experience exploring this gem – Bay of Plenty Times

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With Mt Putauaki towering over it, Kawerau sits like the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow – a wealth of recreation resources signposted by one great big unavoidable signpost. Find Putauaki – find Kawerau; instructions over. At the heart of the town is the Monica Lanham Reserve, a huge area criss-crossed with tracks for both pedestrians and walkers. Linked to Monika Lanham, Stoneham walk offers further track and pathway alongside the Ruruanga stream. And if that’s not enough, most of the Tarawera River edge through Kawerau is also in reserve and public spaces. Of these, Firmin Field is one of the more useful ones to find. Essentially a rugby ground, it’s also the place kayaks and rafts can be launched into the Grade 2 Tarawera River slalom course. Access into the Tarawera Forest is also provided from here, the Waterhouse St bridge taking visitors towards the 820m Mt Putauaki and eventually Lake Tarawera. Both can be accessed by permit from the Kawerau Visitor Centre. This is a town where there’s enough to do to fill any day – but if you do find yourself looking to top off your activity in style, pop round to the town’s pools. Heated and free all year round, they are an ideal way to sooth away an ache or a pain – or even knock off a few lengths if you're still buzzing from the town’s energy.


Lake Tarawera and Surrounds

Defined by the most dramatic eruption of NZ’s recorded history, the area around Lake Tarawera is dominated by new forest established since 1886. It’s a mix of pohutukawa and rata as well as naturally occurring hybrids of the two which is home to tui, tomtits, fantails and many other native birds. Camping facilities at the outlet, where the Tarawera River leaves the lake on its way to the sea, provide a good base for exploring the bush along several tracks and trails, or for launching into the lake for waterborne adventures. Facilities include toilets, cooking shelter and a boat ramp. The water supply is from the river and requires boiling before use. Downstream from the outlet, the river disappears underground before emerging dramatically through the face of rock wall which creates the 65m Tarawera Falls. Access to the outlet and falls is by permit from the Kawerau Visitor Centre. Mt Tarawera is private property and is not open to the public.

Onepu Community Recreation Park

A suite of three separate titles merged into a single recreation area, Onepu Community Recreation Park includes a wetland, an arboretum, a lake and a large area of pine plantation with a network of around 17km of tracks and trails. Just a spit away from the Tarawera River on SH30, Lake Tamurenui is a small, sheltered body of water around which community volunteers are doing restoration planting and pest control. Adjacent to that the Otipa block is covered in mainly kanuka and other native vegetation providing cover while larger species establish. At the western end of the park a small manmade wetland provides a gentle walking track which is also wheelchair friendly. Wrapping around the wetland and joining p the rest of the park is pine plantation which hosts the majority of the mainly Grade 2 mountainbike tracks. Some of these are Grade 3 and parts of the network are shared use with dogs also permitted. Tracks in the Lake Tamurenui part of the park are closed during duck-shooting season. Carparking and toilets are provided.

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