Guide To Walking The Lake Waikaremoana Track
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Located in the east of the North Island, Lake Waikaremoana is a clear blue gem surrounded by an abundance of lush native bush. Located in Te Urewera National Park, the entire area is protected and has become a sanctuary for endemic New Zealand bird species which you will hear as you walk though the trees.
Around the shore of Lake Waikaremoana is a 46-kilometre walking track, with huts for shelter perched along the way, and it’s this that brings so many tourists from around New Zealand as well as across the globe. Though it’s a 3-4 day walk, the trail is well formed and mostly flat (with the exception of the Panekire Bluff) so it’s a fairly straight forward hike.
The walking track is open at any time of year, though, you should always check on potential warnings in place for the region. Along the way you’ll find opportunities for swimming and trout fishing as well as stunning scenery all the way around the Lake.
10 Interesting Facts About Lake Waikaremoana
Learn more about the Lake Waikaremoana area, its wildlife and spiritual significance to the local Maori.
- How Big Is It? Lake Waikaremoana is found in Te Urewera National Park where it covers an area of 54 km2.
- Spiritual Significance. The area has long-held, intense, spiritual importance for the local Maori tribe, the Ngai Tuhoe, and many of their traditions are closely tied to the rhythms of the forest and the annual cycle of growing and food gathering.
- Special Identity. The forest was widely explored and therefore there is a spiritual identity for many trees, hills and the Lake itself.
- Sacred Land. The Waikaremoana Lake Track passes through pockets of extremely sacred land, which visitors are welcome to pass through, but it’s asked that they treat it with respect and stay on the path.
- Native Plants. The surrounding forest is filled with over 650 different types of native plants, including some species that are very rare.
- Reforestation. You’ll see multiple layers of reforestation and growth as you pass through the landscape as entire sections have been destroyed at different points in time, due to fires, volcanic activities, and introduced species such as possums and deer.
- NZ Bird Life. The area remains an essential habitat for a whole host of New Zealand native birds, including Kakariki, New Zealand Falcon, Morepork, North Island Brown Kiwi and the Kaka.
- On The Lake. You’ll find Paradise Ducks, New Zealand Scaup, Herons and Kingfisher and more great New Zealand wildlife.
- Pests. Unfortunately, introduced pests such as possums, deer and pigs are also likely to be spoted, none of these pose a danger to humans but there may be traps or poisons in place that you need to be careful not to come into contact with.
- Facilites. There are five huts and five campsites on the Lake Waikaremoana Track, these must be booked in advance if you intend staying in them. Camping is only permitted at the designated campsites.
Planning Your Lake Waikaremoana Hike
The track around Lake Waikaremoana is, for the most part, gentle and easy to walk for visitors of most fitness levels, though, you should only plan to do as much as you can handle.
There are multiple segments so you don’t have to do the entire walk and there are also shorter walks throughout the area. These are just as beautiful and are a good idea if you aren’t sure of your own fitness level. While the track is fairly easy to walk here are 6 simple things to remember to ensure you have a safe and fun trip.
1. Book Huts Or Campsites In Advance
The Lake Waikaremoana huts and camping sites are maintained by the Department of Conservation which means they’re for everyone to use but, due to the popularity of the track and the limited number of spaces, it’s essential that you book in advance. You must book both huts and tent sites, which can be done online. You must consider the location of the sites and make sure you have adequate time to walk between them – choose the direction you want to go in, and then research walking times, not just distance. It’s dangerous to be stranded in the bush at night, not due to predators, but because of the cold and disorientation.
2. Make Sure You’re Fully Equipped
Even though there are huts available, the facilities are simple and there is no bedding provided. Therefore you’ll need to bring your own sleeping bag and pillow, a portable cooking stove, cooking utensils, warm clothing (even in summer – nights can be cold and the weather can turn quickly), a waterproof raincoat and bottom layer, and enough fast-energy food (such as scroggin) to last your trip and an extra day or two if necessary. Even if the weather forecast is perfect, when you leave, it can change drastically by the end of the trip.
3. Tell Someone Where You’re Going – And When You Expect To Be Back
The sooner people become aware you’re missing, the sooner rescue efforts can get underway. This can make a huge difference for your chances for survival. Each of the huts contains a book which you can fill in with your arrival and departure details, which will help searchers form an idea of your location and where they need to search. If you do become lost, stay put and keep warm. Find shelter and try to stay as dry as possible. The track is clearly marked so if you stick to it there shouldn’t be any problems.
4. Check Warnings And Forecasts
The visitor centre will have updated information regarding any slips, poison traps or parts of the track that are compromised or you can check out the Metservice for the latest weather forecasts and the Department of Conservation website for track closures and warnings.
5. Boil All Drinking Water
If you aren’t sure whether water is safe to drink be cautious and boil it to remove any bacteria. Remember to prepare enough water to bring with you for the day’s walk.
6. Bring Suitable Footwear
Realising you’ve brought the wrong footwear halfway around the lake is a pretty difficult situation. Boots are highly recommended, as the track can get muddy and damp in places, and rain is likely to occur at any time.
Top 6 Lake Waikaremoana Safety Tips For Hikers
For the safety of yourself as well as the forest park, in general, there are a few rules that will keep the forest safe, green and a sanctuary for birds and wildlife for future generations.
- All Native Wildlife Is Protected. Do not approach any nests, and hunting native species is absolutely prohibited.
- Whatever You Bring In, Take Out With You. There are no rubbish facilities along the track so you must store and remove all of your own rubbish. Bring a plastic bag to store any food wrappers or other garbage.
- Observe Gun Safety. Hunting is allowed in the area to keep down deer, pig and possum populations but, if you are going to hunt, you must be extremely cautious of other track users and visitors. Store ammunition and bolts separately from your firearm and always disarm before entering a hut. Make sure you know where your gun is, at all times, and ensure that it can’t be found by other campers – especially children. To hunt, you must get a permit from the Department of Conservation Office nearby.
- Be Fire Safe. Fire can absolutely devastate a forest area in no time and in Te Urewera National Park you must have a permit in order to have an open fire. Instead, use a portable cooker powered with gas which is contained and will be must easier to use safely.
- No Animals. Many New Zealand native species are ground-dwelling, so they’re in major danger from dogs, cats and other animals. No animals are permitted along the track.
- Leave Native Plants Where They Are. Te Urewera is filled with native species, some of which are rare and need to be allowed to flourish in this protected environment. Taking a seedling might seem harmless but if everyone who visited the track did so there would be no bush left.
The Lake Waikaremoana Track
The track looping around Lake Waikaremoana is broken up into a number of segments in between the huts and campsites. There are five huts altogether, this means that if you plan on completing the entire circuit each day’s walk length will, pretty much, be decided for you. You need to make sure that you have enough supplies (and stamina) to complete each leg and make it to the hut safely. The track starts in either Onepoto or Hopuruahine, and you will need to book the huts and campsites along the way to ensure you have a place to rest.
The times between huts can vary wildly depending on the fitness and pace of you, or your group, as well as how often (and how long) you stop to rest. There will be lots of beautiful bays and outlooks along the way so you may wish to allow extra time to stop and relax. It’s far better to overestimate how long it will take than to underestimate as you don’t want to be caught out in the bush at night. For those who aren’t experienced hikers, consider starting from the Hopuruahine end as the track is much gentler and the times between accommodations are much shorter. There’s no rule that you have to complete the circuit either – you can start and leave by the same entrance, if that suits your level of ability better.
Onepoto To The Panekiri Hut
This is the most arduous and lengthy leg of the journey so some people may wish to get this over and done with first. It takes around 5 hours, climbing bluffs and following ridges to reach the hut. The views from the highest point do make the climb worth it, however. There is little water on this stretch so be prepared to carry enough for the day.
From Panekiri Hut To The Waiopaoa Hut And Campsite
This leg of the trip is much easier, it’s only 3-4 hours to the Waiopaoa Hut and Campsite. The walk is downhill most of the way through beech forest which provides good shelter and shade.
Waiopaoa Hut To Marauiti Hut
From Waiopaoa Hut, you can either walk to the Korokoro campsite, the Maraunui campsite, or the Marauiti Hut. From the Waiopaoa Hut to the Marauti Hut is 4 and a half hours so, depending on your fitness and stamina, you may be better to plan to stop at one of the closer sites. You’ll mostly be following grassy flats and beautiful forest on the lake shore and there’s a turn-off to Korokoro Falls which is absolutely worth a view – taking around 30 minutes each way.
Marauiti Hut To Tapuaenui Campsite
Leaving Marauiti Hut, you can reach Waiharuru Hut and campsite in 2 hours, or continue on another 1 and a half hours to reach the Tapuaenui Campsite. You’ll mostly follow the shoreline the entire way giving you stunning views of the entire lake and the forested opposite shore.
Tapuaenui Campsite To Whanganui Hut To Hopuruahine
From the Tapuaenui Campsite, it’s only an hour to the Whanganui Hut, and then another 45 minutes to the Hopuruahine Landing, which gives you stunning views over the Huiarau Inlet. Another 45 minutes will have you across the Hopuruahine suspension bridge which is the other exit/entrance point of the track.
Other Lake Waikaremoana Activities
Even if you don’t wish to walk the entire lake track, there are still plenty of other ways to enjoy the amazing scenery and the natural resource of the lake.
- Boating. Watercraft are permitted on the lake, but not jet skis, houseboats or float planes. If you’re using a boat, remember to bring proper safety equipment and a means of contact in case conditions change rapidly. A boat can be a quick way to reach certain points of the lake, if you want to only walk a certain part.
- Fishing. The lake is well known for its fishing, with both brown and rainbow trout making the lake their home. If you wish to try your luck, you’ll need a fishing license, which can be bought at the Waikaremoana Motor Camp.
- Hunting. You can also hunt introduced species such as pigs and deer but you must pick up a free hunting permit from the Aniwaniwa Visitor Centre.
- Short Walks. There’s also no reason you can’t walk along the section of the track for a day trip, even if you don’t book any accommodation. Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the scenery and majesty of the lake and forest.
Lake Waikaremoana is a treasure for everyone to enjoy, always respect the environment and do your part to keep it safe and clean for future generations.