In One Day!
As I drove into the Okere Falls Park parking lot, I immediately felt a sense of deja vu. I couldn’t quite put my finger on that feeling until I was walking down Hinemoa’s Steps that I realised I came here a few years ago to do river sledging.
Okere Falls is a small town on SH 33 between Rotorua and Tauranga, along the Paengaroa Gorge. Google Maps told me that the SH 30 or SH 33 (from Rotorua) drive is about the same time, and being a beautiful day, I decided to take the more scenic lakes drive. If you’re coming from Rotorua, the turn off to Okere Falls is a left turn on Okere Falls Rd, just minutes down the road from the Okere Falls Store. It’s very well signposted, and I didn’t get lost once. That’s saying a lot!
On this trip, I actually got to see three waterfalls - yes three!
With the tropical heat not yet ready to give way to the Autumn chill, it wasn’t surprising to find the car park full on a Sunday. The tracks are well maintained, and an easy walk suitable for the whole family. There were plenty walking in jandals, to be honest, you can probably even walk it in bare feet!
Maybe I’ve just been lucky, but many of the bush walks on my Local Tourist travels have been mostly on my own, and taking photos has been relatively easy. Being popular with adventure seekers, tourists and locals alike, it was clear early on this visit that I wouldn’t have the luxury of having the place to myself. That’s not to say I didn’t appreciate the beauty and admire the incredible force of nature, in fact, it made me want to explore a few of the tracks where I had seen local swimmers head down. I spoke to a few locals who were making the most of the lingering humidity.
There are many viewing platforms on the track to admire the power of the Okere River (also known as the Kaituna River), and if you’re lucky, you can catch river rafters and sledgers make their way downstream. I didn’t see any on my visit, but as I watched some of the swimmers get carried by the current, there was no doubt in my mind that you should be a competent swimmer if you head in for a dip.
The highlight for me was Tutea Falls, both from the viewing platform above, and from the bottom of Hinemoa’s Steps by Tutea’s Cave. I spoke to a couple of Aussie tourists who were wondering why there were overhead wires and a gate by the rock face, and I explained to them that it was the jump off point for river sledging. The might of Tutea Falls is certainly a more intimidating sight close up, I would love to come back after a heavy rainfall!
This is an easy walk, nice little Sunday adventure. There are toilets, picnic tables, as well as a big grass area at the car park, great for a picnic afterwards. If you didn’t pack your lunch, drive back to the Okere Fall Store and park up by the lakefront.