Lake Waikaremoana: A great place for a great walk in New Zealand

September 27

One of New Zealand’s Great Walks, the multi-day Lake Waikaremoana walk on the North Island takes in a prehistoric rainforest, wetlands, beautiful birdsong, spectacular views and stunning waterfalls.


Take the one hour side trip to the Korokoro Falls – it’s worth it! The turn off is just before the Korokoro campsite.

The Lake Waikaremoana track is set in Te Urewera, an area that hosts the most vast remaining area of native forest in New Zealand. It used to be a national park, but since 2014, its has be managed by the Te Urewera Board which has joint Crown and Ngāi Tūhoe representation.

Every species of North Island native bird can be found in the forest.

The Te Ureweras are the homeland of the Tūhoe people, or Nā Tamariki o te Kohu (the “children of the mist”) – keep a look out for the Tūhoe wardens at each of the huts during the high season, and have a chat about the region’s stories and natural assets.


How long is the Lake Waikaremoana walk?

New Zealand’s Lake Waikaremoana track is 46 kilometres long and takes three to four days. There are five huts and five campsites operate along Lake Waikaremoana, and you definitely need to book ahead, they fill up quickly. Booking can be made at DOC Visitor Centres nationwide or through the Great Walks website.

Expect to four to six hours of walking each day – the ridge above Panekire bluff involves climbing and descending approximately 600 metres. If you start the Lake Waikaremoana walk from the Onepoto end, you get this strenuous section over with on day one.

What are the huts and campsites like on the Lake Waikaremoana track?

There are five DOC huts along the multi day Lake Waikaremoana track: Panekire Hut, Waiopaoa Hut, Marauiti Hut, Waiharuru Hut and Whanganui Hut.

They have bunks with mattresses in communal sleeping areas, tank water and toilets.

There is no electricity, so bring along you head torch or some candles for reading at night.

And just like  each day of the walk is different , each hut it too. Panekire Hut is the highest one as has amazing views; Waiopaoa Hut, at the mouth of the Waiopaoa inlet has a great big veranda for relaxing at the end of the day; and the Waiharuru Hut is a bit further along the track than the Marauiti Hut, where a lot of people stay, but you can sometimes hear and see Kiwi in its vicinity, so worth the extra trek.

Campers can also stay in one of the five campgrounds (Waiopaoa, Korokoro, Maraunui, Waiharuru, and Tapuaenui), but make sure you bring everything you need, because campers can’t use the hut facilities.

Where should I stay before walking Lake Waikaremoana?

The  Waikaremoana Holiday park is a good place to stay, either in your tent at a campsite or in a cabin, before or after you do the Lake Waikaremoana walk.

The North Island city of Gisborne is only half an hour away, and there are lots of accommodation options there as well.


Can I do Lake Waikaremoana as a day walk?

The huts and campsites along the Lake Waikaremoana walk can all be accessed by boat, except for Panekire Hut, so you can do small sections of the track. Book a water taxi to drop you off and pick you up.

Waiopaoa to Maranui is a good option because you can check out the extra side track along the Korokoro Falls trail, or go from Onepoto to Waiopaoa Hut to take in the lake views from a higher elevation.

Which direction should I walk the Lake Waikaremoana track?

The Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk isn’t a circuit. You can walk the Lake Waikaremoana track from either the Hopuruahine in the north or from Onepoto in the south.

If you start at Onepoto, you get the walk up the big climb to (and amazing views from) the top of Panekire Bluff done on the first day.

There are water taxi pick-up and drop-off points at both Hopuruahine Landing and  Onepoto Shelter. You can book water taxis by getting in touch with the Te Urewera Visitor Centre.


What should I take on New Zealand’s Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk?

You should expect to carry a full pack weighing about 15 kilograms to do the the Lake Waikaremoana track. Head to the Great Walks section on the Department of Conservation website for a full gear list.

This includes the usual New Zealand tramping kit like a sleeping bag, pack liner, waterproof jacket and overtrousers, toilet paper (it’s not provided in the huts), cooking utensils (also not provided), extra food and matches or a lighter in a waterproof container.

Basically, be prepared for any kind of weather, from brilliant sunshine, to rain, to hail.

You also need to be able to carry all of your rubbish out.

And here’s a good suggestion: ear plugs for communal bunkrooms in the huts!

Can children do the Lake Waikaremoana track?

Some New Zealand Great Walks are great for children, but this Great Walk is not recommended for under 10s because of the changeable weather conditions and the exposed environment.


Is there cell phone coverage at Lake Waikaremoana?

Cell phone coverage is limited, which is great news, because we would rather listen to the birds than the ping of emails from work.

Can you swim in Lake Waikaremoana?

You can swim in Lake Waikaremoana, and it’s a lovely feeling to take a daily dip and the end of each day of tramping.

Lake Waikaremoana is also a well-known New Zealand destination for trout fishing. New Zealand fishers visit the lake for the wild brown and rainbow trout, many of which reach 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms).

Large brown trout cruise the shoreline, while boat anglers go after the rainbow trout found deeper in the lake.

How was Lake Waikaremoana formed?

About 2200 years ago, New Zealand scientists think a huge landslide (like really huge – four kilometers wide and eight kilometers long) blocked a point on the Waikaretaheke River. Because of the sudden rise of the lake level, there is a petrified forest under the surface of the lake, which is up to 256 metres deep in places.

It is possible these trees could be studied for “paleo-climatic research” into ancient climate patterns, which might help us understand our changing climate today.

You can see the prehistoric trunks if the light is right and you tilt your head just so.

Well that’s cool. We know, so what are you waiting for? Book a hut, sort out a water taxi and head around the lake to the end of the track. The Lake Waikaremoana trail is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks for a reason.

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