The Onepu Wetlands
I have covered the Onepu MTB Park, Onepu Wetlands and the Karaponga Reserve in previous posts - and this one is just a morning explorer with my Mum. She had been in the Philippines for a couple of months, and now that the weather is warmer in New Zealand (just coming into Spring), it was nice to show her some of the places I had been to. It was also a chance for me to see the wetlands again as Bill Clark (and the Onepu Community Group) had been doing some work in there recently.
If you’re coming from Whakatane, the entrance to the wetlands is on the left hand side as you head to Rotorua on SH 30. It’s less than ten minutes drive from the railway crossing after the Kawerau turn off. You can Google the Onepu MTB Park as they are in the same area. Both have clear entrance signs (the wetlands has a carved wooden sign), although the MTB Park is easier to spot the first time. If you pass Braemar Rd on the right, you’ve gone too far.
The walk itself is a flat, easy stroll, great for families or even for those who just want to be out in nature and enjoy the scenery. You can easily do the loop at a steady pace in less than 30 minutes. The path is a combination of pumice, hard soil and some wooden bridges - as long as there hasn’t been a significant amount of rain, the path should be OK for strollers (those with smaller wheels may struggle in the pumice).
As the wetlands is relatively young, most of the path is exposed so make sure to wear a hat and sunscreen. There is plenty of bench seating along the path which I really liked, so if you just want to sit and listen to the birds, it’s a great place to do that.
The path all loop back onto each other, so you can walk it clockwise or anti-clockwise and won’t miss anything. If you walk in a clockwise direction, keep walking on the path that leads uphill (keep left if it splits) and you will come across the Rongoa Rakau - this is the medicinal and edible garden. It is free to the public, though only take what you need. The overgrowth has been cleared since my last visit and many of the plants look juvenile. There are labels which include their medicinal or edible uses.
If you do link up to the MTB Park and its various tracks, double check that the track is OK for walkers and runners. Some of the tracks are grade four or five and as the days get warmer, it will only get busier. There’s a map at the start of the MTB Park that shows information on each track. Onepu as it develops will surely become an all-day destination for exploring the outdoors - a hidden gem between Rotorua and Whakatane.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY RONNA GRACE FUNTELAR
Ronna Grace Funtelar is a thirtyish storyteller, creative, writer and slam poet currently based in New Zealand. She is a hobby hiker, photography and sunrise enthusiast with a passion for mindfully helping others live beyond their comfort zone.
Basically, a shorty who knows her life purpose.