McLaren Falls & Lower Kaimai
About McLaren Falls & Lower Kaimai
The McLaren Falls and Lower Kaimai Virtually on Track gem is a surprising mix of new and old, of the natural and the manmade, and of the tranquil and seriously wild. The Gem is built around two main features; the manmade lake at McLaren Falls Park and the Wairoa River which was dammed to make it. While the river retains some of its wild character below the falls, it’s the power scheme that dictates the terms in this Tauranga area playground. When the spillway is opened, the river’s water escapes from Lake McLaren as a raging torrent – as often as not bubbling along with a host of rafts and kayakers thrilling in the adrenalin of a grade 5 white-water ride. Surrounding this mix of natural and created waterways is a similarly mixed landscape with bush tramping in native forest in the Kaimai Mamaku Forest Park contrasted by gentle walks amidst the superb collection of exotic trees within McLaren Falls Park. As if this set of contrasts wasn’t enough, the Gem site is accessed just a few minutes’ drive on SH29 from Tauranga, the city lights of which sparkle on the horizon in the evening just a short distance away from McLaren Falls Park’s older, more natural but equally charming glow-worm grotto.
Hidden Gem-McLaren Falls. Read about Cindy’s experience exploring this gem – Bay of Plenty Times
McLaren Falls Park
Ten minutes drive out of Tauranga City on SH29, McLaren Falls Park is 190 hectares of pastoral and horticultural parkland set alongside Lake McLaren. The lake itself was manmade to form part of the hydro power schemes which saw Tauranga City equipped with electric lights as early as 1915. While electricity generation is still its main function, the lake is these days also the centrepiece to a fine area of public space. With a host of walking tracks providing short and picturesque walking and running opportunities, the park also features one of the best botanical collections of trees in the North Island. Another highlight is the Waterfall Track, part of which is wheelchair and mobility scooter friendly, where you can see glow worms after dusk. The park is accessed via McLaren Falls Rd from SH29and is open 7.30am to 7.30pm in summer with closing time two hours earlier at 5.30pm in winter. There are a small number of gas barbeques located around the park which are free to use. There is also a café by the information centre. Be aware that around 300 sheep roam through the grassed areas so dogs are not permitted within McLaren Falls Park. A ranger is on duty seven days a week.
Omanawa Falls Power Station Reserve
Famously the site of the first underground power station in the southern hemisphere, Omanawa Falls Power Station Reserve is a small public space offering short bush walks and waterfall views. The reserve includes an historical power station (not open to the public) and access track and native bush planting. It is reached by following Omanawa Rd for 12kms from State Highway 29 west of Tauranga.
Lower Kaimai Mamaku
The 37,000ha Kaimai Mamaku Forest Park is a living museum of natural and human history being the northern limit of kamahi, red and silver beech, and the southern limit of the huge kauri. The park was extensively logged in earlier times and today’s walking and tramping tracks are a mix of those used by miners and sawmillers and even older Maori trails. Most tracks in the lower Kaimai area are suitable for fit, experienced and adequately equipped people. Some are quite remote and require river crossings, so always check the weather and let someone know your plans before setting out. As Kauri Dieback Disease is a serious threat to this regenerating forest, visitors should also be careful to clean their footwear before and after entering the forest. The Lower Kaimai area can be accessed from SH 29 20km from Tauranga.
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