Picture yourself on a hiking trail winding through lush, dense forests, with glimpses of a mesmerizing turquoise blue lake peeking through the foliage. Sounds like a slice of paradise, doesn’t it? That’s how it felt while hiking the Lake Waikaremoana Track—a real-life fairy tale minus the mythical creatures!
Discover the breathtaking beauty of the Lake Waikaremoana Track with our comprehensive guide. Explore this stunning hiking trail nestled in the heart of New Zealand’s North Island. Uncover insider tips, must-see sights, and essential information for your unforgettable adventure. Embark on a journey through pristine wilderness, ancient forests, and crystal-clear lakeshores. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a nature enthusiast, Lake Waikaremoana Track promises an unforgettable outdoor experience.
During our search for multi-day hiking adventures in Australia and New Zealand, my friend and I stumbled upon the Lake Waikaremoana Track, nestled in the breathtaking landscapes of North Island. Despite scouring the internet, we found scattered information but no comprehensive guide. Determined to make planning easier for fellow adventurers, I’ve compiled all the essential details into this post. Here, you’ll discover everything you need to know to embark on your unforgettable journey along the Lake Waikaremoana Track.
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Overview of Lake Waikaremoana Track
Located in the heart of New Zealand’s North Island, Lake Waikaremoana rests within Te Urewera, approximately 60 kilometres from Wairoa and 80 kilometres from Gisborne. Translating to ‘sea of rippling waters’ in Maori, this picturesque lake boasts a rich cultural and natural heritage.
Did you know you can explore one of the oldest national parks in the North Island? Discover the Tama Lakes Hike in Tongariro National Park.
The Lake Waikaremoana Track spans four days and three nights, guiding hikers from Onepoto to Hopuruahine as it circumnavigates the lake. As part of New Zealand’s prestigious Great Walks, this journey offers a blend of stunning scenery and cultural significance. Remarkably, Lake Waikaremoana is believed to have formed around 2200 years ago, adding an intriguing layer of history to your hiking experience.
Venture along this trail at your own pace, as it can be tackled without a guide. Immerse yourself in the serene beauty of the landscape, where towering forests meet shimmering waters, and every step reveals a new facet of this ancient land. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a nature enthusiast, the Lake Waikaremoana Track promises an unforgettable adventure steeped in natural wonder and cultural heritage.
Also, Read Backpacking South Island
Legend of Lake Waikaremoana
Legend has it that the creation of Lake Waikaremoana is steeped in ancient Maori folklore. Long ago, the revered chief Maahu Tapoa Nui and his family resided near a sacred spring where the lake now lies. Initially, the area was not a lake but a deep valley, with streams converging into an ancient river beneath Panekire.
According to the tale, Maahu tasked his children with fetching water from a specific stream, but all but two disobeyed, drawing water from the sacred spring instead. Enraged by their disobedience, Maahu transformed the errant children into stone.
When Haumapuhia, one of Maahu’s daughters, also defied his orders, he seized her and plunged her headfirst into the spring. Desperate, Haumapuhia called upon the gods for aid. Moved by her plea, the gods granted her supernatural powers, allowing her to escape Maahu’s grasp and flee to the east, forming an inlet known as Te Whanganui-a-para.
Despite her efforts, Haumapuhia’s escape was thwarted, leading her southward in a bid to reach the sea from Onepoto. Though she made it to the Waikaretaheke River, her journey ended tragically as the rising sun’s rays fell upon her, transforming her into a rock for eternity. Thus, the legend of Lake Waikaremoana is intricately woven with tales of defiance, divine intervention, and the enduring power of nature.
Booking Process for Lake Waikaremoana Track
Huts and Campsites
Booking accommodations along the track is essential, as huts and campsites are limited and often require reservations. To secure your spot, visit the Department of Conservation website, where bookings can be made for huts or campsites. My friend and I reserved huts for our journey as we didn’t have camping tents. Planning and booking accommodations in advance ensured a comfortable and hassle-free experience along the track.
Reserving water taxis ahead of time is crucial for your hike. To secure your ride, contact the Te Kura Whenua Visitor Centre at +64 6 837 3803 to make your booking. Payment for the water taxi can be settled on the day you commence your hike. By arranging your transportation in advance, you can ensure a smooth and convenient start to your adventure.
How to Get to Onepoto (Starting Point)?
The hike begins at Onepoto, which is only accessible by car. Driving is the sole mode of transportation to reach the trail’s starting point.
Regular flights connect cities like Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane to Auckland. For budget-friendly options, Jetstar is often the preferred airline. Alternatively, travellers can opt for Air New Zealand for their journey.
By Intercity Bus
Travelling from Auckland to Rotorua Central is convenient with Intercity NZ‘s frequent bus services, priced at NZD 45 for a one-way ticket. Upon reaching Rotorua, the next leg of the journey involves driving to Onepoto.
The distance from Rotorua to Onepoto Bay spans approximately 168 kilometres, with a driving time of roughly 3 hours and 20 minutes for a one-way journey. To embark on this scenic route, travellers can rent a car or a campervan from reputable agencies like Jucy Rentals New Zealand.
For enthusiasts of road trips, delve into the adventure of a 3-Day Road Trip in North Island.
During your trekking expedition spanning four days, you can safely park your vehicle at designated free car parks, including:
- Waikaremoana Motorcamp
- DOC Visitor Centre
- Big Bush Holiday Park
- Byre B&B (4934 Lake Road, located 5 minutes before Onepoto)
Packing for the Trail
Having embarked on my third multi-day hike, I’ve gleaned valuable lessons from my previous adventures. This time, I adhered closely to the packing list I meticulously compiled from past experiences. The only adjustment was consolidating the contents of two bags into one, streamlining my gear for efficiency.
Additionally, the Department of Conservation offers a comprehensive packing list on its website, which I’ve downloaded and shared within this post for reference. Drawing from personal insights and official recommendations, I’m well-prepared for the journey ahead.
Details of Lake Waikaremoana Track
The Lake Waikaremoana Track is a renowned hiking trail in Te Urewera, a region of the North Island of New Zealand. This track offers adventurers a captivating journey through diverse landscapes, including lush forests, pristine lakeshores, and rugged terrain. Here are some key details about the Lake Waikaremoana Track:
- Location: Situated approximately 60 kilometres from Wairoa and 80 kilometres from Gisborne, Lake Waikaremoana lies within the Te Urewera region. Its Maori name translates to “sea of rippling waters.”
- Trail Length: The Lake Waikaremoana Track spans approximately 46 kilometres (28.5 miles) and typically takes around four days and three nights to complete.
- Difficulty: This track is moderately challenging, with some sections featuring steep ascents and descents. However, it is suitable for hikers of varying experience levels.
- Accommodation: Along the track, hikers can stay in Department of Conservation (DOC) huts or campsites. It’s essential to book accommodation in advance, as facilities have limited availability.
- Permits and Fees: While there are no entry fees for hiking the Lake Waikaremoana Track, permits may be required for certain activities such as fishing. It’s advisable to check with the Department of Conservation for the latest regulations.
- Water Taxis: Water taxis provide transportation to various points along the track, allowing hikers to customize their itinerary. Reservations for water taxis should be made in advance.
- Points of Interest: Throughout the journey, hikers will encounter stunning viewpoints, serene lakeshores, and ancient forests teeming with native flora and fauna. Notable landmarks include the Panekire Bluff and Te Whaiti Nui a Toi Canyon.
- Weather: The weather along the Lake Waikaremoana Track can be unpredictable, with rain and sudden changes in conditions common. It’s essential to pack appropriate clothing and gear for varying weather conditions.
- Safety: Hikers are advised to be well-prepared and adhere to safety guidelines while hiking the Lake Waikaremoana Track. This includes carrying sufficient supplies, informing others of your itinerary, and being aware of hazards such as slippery terrain.
Map of Lake Waikaremoana Track
Logistics of Lake Waikaremoana Track
- Total Distance: 46 kilometres one way.
- Total Hours: 4 days and 3 nights.
- Grade: Hard.
Day 1 – Onepoto to Panekire Hut
- Number of hours walked: 6-7 hours.
- Distance covered: 13 kilometres.
- Grade: Very Hard.
- Stay for the night: Panekire Hut.
Regrettably, due to my knees not cooperating, I had to return to Onepoto on the second day of our hike. As a result, my friend and I could not complete the following walks. Despite this, I’ve decided to include them here as I conducted extensive research, and I believe they will be valuable for individuals undertaking the hike.
Day 2 – Panekire Hut to Waiopaoa Hut
- Number of hours walked: 4 hours.
- Distance covered: 9 kilometres.
- Grade: Hard (it is a complete descend).
- Stay for the night: Waipaoa Hut.
Day 3 – Waiopaoa Hut to Marauiti Hut
- Number of hours walked: 6 hours.
- Distance covered: 12 kilometres.
- Grade: Moderate.
- Stay for the night: Marauiti Hut.
Day 4 – Marauiti Hut to Waiharuru Hut to Tapuaenui Campsite to Whanganui Hut
Marauiti Hut to Waiharuru Hut
- Unfortunately, this section was closed due to the storm recently.
Waiharuru Hut to Tapuaenui Campsite
- Number of hours walked: 1 hour 30 minutes.
- Distance covered: 2.1 kilometres.
- Grade: Moderate.
Tapuaenui Campsite to Whanganui Hut
- Number of hours walked: 2 hours.
- Distance covered: 4.2 kilometres.
- Grade: Moderate.
Elevation of Lake Waikaremoana track
The elevation ascent and descent is about 600 metres.
Food Required for the Track
Planning for this trip proved to be quite challenging. The huts along the trail do not provide cooking facilities, necessitating hikers to carry their food for four days. It’s essential to steer clear of perishable or wet food items, as they are prone to spoilage during the journey.
Ideally, hikers should consider bringing a portable stove and purchasing a canister in Rotorua for cooking. However, due to our travel from Sydney and time constraints, we opted not to carry a stove for this expedition.
Note: A huge lesson learned was that there are not many supermarkets or shops in Onepoto where one can buy things. There is just one shop that has a limited food supply.
Below are the food items we carried:
- Food like bread and sauce.
- Chocolates and energy bars.
- Paper plates.
- Water bottles.
- Energy drinks.
- Dry food.
I always buy travel insurance for my travels. It provides me with security.
- Provider: World Nomads Insurance.
- Type of Cover: Gold.
- Total number of days: 8 days.
Total Cost for the Entire Trip
- Sydney to Auckland: AUD 272 per person
- Auckland to Sydney: AUD 183.5 per person
- Auckland (1 night): NZD 47.5 per person
- Lake Whakamarino (1 night): NZD 60 per person
- Murupara (1 night): NZD 25 per person
- Rotorua (2 nights): AUD 62.5 per person
- Intercity bus (Auckland to Rotorua return): NZD 90 per person
- Car with insurance: NZD 191.5 per person
- Water taxi: NZD 0 per person
- Fuel: NZD 25 per person
- Huts for 3 nights: NZD 96 per person
- Travel insurance: AUD 75.32 per person
- Food & drinks: NZD 113 per person
- Waimangu Valley: NZD 40 per person
Total Cost (assuming AUD = NZD): NZD 1281.32
- Aiming for a lighter backpack is always wise, ideally carrying no more than 10 kilograms if feasible. When it comes to food, avoid packing bread to prevent monotony. Instead, explore alternative options like Heatomate, a product I recently reviewed, paired with noodle packets for variety.
- Try to purchase groceries whenever they’re accessible along the way to replenish your supplies. Additionally, take the hike leisurely, allowing time to thoroughly research and understand the trail for a more enjoyable experience.
While I couldn’t complete the entire walk this time, it’s not the end of the journey for me. There’s always another opportunity; I’m determined to be better prepared next time. Despite my incomplete experience, I must say that the track offers breathtaking lake views. I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone exploring the stunning Great Walks of New Zealand.
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