The Onepu Wetlands Boardwalk and Lake
I have to tell you something, the Onepu Wetlands Boardwalk isn’t an Insta-ready location...yet. In fact, a lot of the track is currently overgrown. The trees and plants are still a fews years away from being fully grown so that we can truly appreciate the beauty of this area. If you’re a mountain bike rider, you should also check out the Onepu Community Mountain Bike Park which is in the same area. Many of the tracks are multi-use, including horses and walkers/runners.
How to get there
From Whakatane, head towards Rotorua on SH 30. About five minutes from the Te Teko shops you’ll pass the Kawerau turnoff - keep going straight and you will see the blue Onepu MTB Park sign on your left. If you get to the Braemar Rd turnoff, you’ve gone too far. The entrance to the wetlands boardwalk is a wooden sign that’s just a few metres from the MTB Park, although you can access the wetlands from the base track too. In saying that, there were a few small trees that had fallen across the track.
The wetlands boardwalk is a community initiative - it was built and maintained by the Onepu Park Care Group. Onepu is a farming community a few minutes from Te Teko and Kawerau. I was contemplating walking one of the MTB tracks (make sure to check the run of the track and if it’s suitable for walkers and runners) but was short of time. I did run into a local walking her dog and we got chatting about other local tracks and her recommendations.
Walking to the lake
As you enter the boardwalk, keep the track to your left and you should find yourself walking up the hill where you will come to some stairs. There are plenty of stops along the way to admire the view of the wetlands and surrounding farmland. Walk up the stairs until you reach a junction, go left and follow the Oh Mai Mai track. Keep walking straight and head down the hill, where you should see some stairs. The lake will be to the right.
If you don't want to walk to the lake, it's also accessible by car.
Walking along the wetlands and alongside the lake, I only came across a handful of people that day - single riders or young families. In a world where we are pressured to be Insta-worthy and constantly bombarded by beautiful locations, the Onepu wetlands is a humbling place to be. The area was created with the intention of serving the community and providing free outdoor activities that is accessible to everyone. That's what I want you to take away from your visit, that this place is for the love of nature, at grassroots level, and is already being enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.