Rotorua Eastern Lakes
About Rotorua Eastern Lakes
Defined by a series of volcanic lakes, the area that forms the Rotorua Eastern Lakes Virtually on Track gem is the home of adventure tourism in New Zealand. From the 1880s onwards, visitors made the intrepid journey across Lake Tarawera by waka to marvel at the geothermal wonders of the Pink and White Terraces. Now long buried under ash and Whakarewarewa’s forest of exotic trees - known as one of the world’s leading mountainbike destinations - this is nonetheless still a rich playground for anyone who likes their sports to have a bit of adventure. From short and gentle walks to bruising trail marathons, whether exploring the terrain under the power of a horse or using one’s own horsepower to explore by water or bike, there’s an almost endless range of options that makes the Rotorua Eastern Lakes Gem every bit the visitor attraction it has long been known for.
Take time to embrace our Redwoods. Read about Cindy’s experience exploring this gem - Bay of Plenty Times
The Redwoods / Whakarewarewa Forest
Whakarewarewa Forest is one of Rotorua’s most spectacular natural assets and one of its best recreational assets rolled into one. Covering an area of more than 5600 hectares, the forest is famous for the magnificent stand of Sequoia Redwood trees but also renowned for its network of superb mountain biking, walking and horse-riding tracks. For the two-wheeled brigade, the main access point is off Waipa Mill Road just south of the city towards Taupo. From here the trail network presents a dizzying array of choices as some 200km of trails covers the range, from those suitable for beginners with trainer-wheels to those that carry a Grade 5+ rating to keep the most experienced riders smiling. Tracks are all well marked and signposted, with maps also widely available. Equestrian areas and walking tracks are mostly accessed off Long Mile Road from Tarawera Road. Once again, there’s something to suit everyone with pathways near the Redwoods Visitor Centre being flat and easy and those further away being steeper and more challenging.
With its steep, bush clad slopes and crystal blue sparkling water, Lake Okataina is a scenically magnificent body of water set inside the Lake Okataina Scenic Reserve - a pristine natural area with native bush down to the water’s edge. The reserve is rich in birdlife and contains fine examples of rimu, totara, rata and kahikatea. There are numerous walks in the Lake Okataina area, ranging from short walks to day tramping with the Western Okataina Walkway also open to mountainbiking . All tracks and trails are accessed from Okataina Road. The lake is safe for swimming and generally sheltered, making it suited to less experienced paddlers in kayaks and canoes. Lake Okataina is reached by road 30 kilometers along the Whakatane Highway from Rotorua, by boat and a short walk from Lake Tarawera, or by land using the Okataina Western walkway.
Tikitapu (Blue Lake)
Tikitapu (Blue Lake) is one of the closest lakes to Rotorua and is popular with water-skiers, swimmers and other water users. An easy grade of track about 5.5km long circles the lake taking in beautiful beaches, native bush and the exotic conifers of Whakarewarewa Forest. There are good views over Blue Lake and the nearby Green Lake (Rotokakahi). Swimming is safe at the broad pumice sand beach. The water slide is popular with children. Toilets, barbeques and carparking are all well catered for.
Once a very different looking place, tragedy shaped the remarkably beautiful Lake Tarawera into the broad, branching lake it is today when the 1886 Tarawera eruption raised the lake level by 12 meters. The eruption left another legacy too, in the still young trees that cloak the hills around the lake and in other wonders, such as Twin Streams and Hot Water Beach, which are found around its fringes. While the lake itself, and the opportunity to take to the water, is the major temptation, the 15km Tarawera Trail opens the door to those on foot to explore this recovering landscape. Lake Tarawera is reached via Tarawera Road from Rotorua either past lakes Tikitapu and Rotokakahi, or past Lake Okareka.
At 430 hectares, Lake Okareka is the second smallest, after Tikitapu, of the Rotorua Eastern Lakes gem site. The lake is sheltered and generally calm and therefore suited to flatwater paddling and swimming. The picturesque setting, with bush laden hills and farmland surrounding the lake, is enhanced by a 5.5km wetland boardwalk, complete with bird hides to take a breather and observe the wildlife at close quarters. Nearby the lake, the Okareka Mistletoe Walk is a short walk designed to showcase the endangered mistletoe and built with the whole family in mind. The lake is located on Okareka Loop Road which runs off Tarawera road. A boat ramp at Acacia Bay allows access to the rest of the lake.
For more information check out the Lake Okareka Community Association website.
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