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Author And Researcher
I'm Marios, delivering the best of Aotearoa's nature walks to your device.
I've personally walked hundreds of New Zealand's tracks and spent months in libraries uncovering interesting information on New Zealand/Aotearoa. And you'll find a slice of that research on this page - enjoy!
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One translation of Okataina means ‘Lake of Laughter’. It’s a happy place and the mix of forest and calming lake views should send you to your happy place too.
The track is signposted from the western side of the carpark at the end of Okataina Road. There is a lodge and parking area behind the beach at Tauranganui Bay.
The track is well formed and occasionally marked with orange triangles. It passes through shaded forest for its entire length.
The track meanders above the lake shore for 15 minutes to a fork. Right is a 20-minute-return detour to the beach at Te Koutu and the pa. You can follow the track right before the beach, cross the stile and wander around the pa to view the food storage caverns. Please respect the burial site and do not enter the caverns.
The main track continues to hover above the lake, descending to Kaiwaka Bay after 30 minutes.
For the next 1½ hours the track traverses a protrusion into the lake through varied forest types before rejoining the lake edge.
It’s 45 minutes to Otangimoana Bay, from where the track climbs a narrow neck between Lake Okataina and Humphries Bay on Lake Tarawera.
To continue to Tarawera Outlet is a further 2¾ hours via the Tarawera Outlet to Humphries Bay Track.
Seepage from Otangimoana Bay into Lake Tarawera is the main outlet for Lake Okataina, which is approximately 20 metres higher than Lake Tarawera.
One translation of the name ‘Okataina’, a shortened form of ‘Te Moana-i-Kataina-a-Te Rangitakaroro’, means ‘Lake of Laughter’. It echoes the story of chief Rangitakaroro, who was resting with his warriors near the lake. One young warrior exclaimed how the lake resembled a sea, a comment which caused great amusement amongst his fellow tribesmen. Their laughter was carried around the lake and remains in it’s name.
The natural amphitheatre around the headland at Te Koutu Pa is known as a ‘soundshell’ as noise echoes and travels in its vicinity.
The headland was the site of Lake Okataina’s most prominent pa. The numerous caverns hewn into the hillside were probably used for the storage of kumara.
The track was used as a portage route between Lakes Okataina and Tarawera.
North Island ▷ Rotorua Region ▷ Tikitere
Nice for the first hour, then this track tends to just go on and on and on and on and on, with not much change in view. The lake level is really high so beach access is really limited. DOC has done a good job of fixing up the tracks that had been eroded away. Nice views of pohutukawa trees. This would be a good trail run as opposed to a touristy walk.
Thanks to all the good people working for the NZ Department of Conservation - for all your hard work - making NZ more beautiful, accessable and healthy! Cheers 😍