Okere Falls is a small dot on the map between Tauranga and Rotorua, on the shore of Lake Rotoiti and the Kaituna River. It's a gem of a spot with a little something for everyone. The lake offers the full gamut of fresh water activities: fishing, kayaking, swimming, jet skiing, and hot pools. For the more adventurous, the Kaituna River boasts some excellent white water kayaking and sledging. It also home to the best cafe and beer garden ever, The Okere Falls Store. Okere Falls Store has delicious food, funky ambience, and is touted as New Zealand's most eco-friendly cafe. It's a mandatory stop after a day of riding in the Redwoods, but in truth, everyone loves it - if you're driving by, stop in. Or if you're cycling, pop onto the cycleway from Papamoa as the track from Paengaroa, to Okere Falls is finally open.
Just around the corner from Okere Falls Store is the Okere Falls Scenic Reserve, with several short walking options. Perfect for travellers to stretch their legs, families with small children, or those wanting just a taste of a tramp. It's also an excellent vantage point for watching the rafters, kayakers, and sledgers as they navigate the strong currents of the Kaituna River. There are a few side trips from the main walk, including to the old powerhouse, to Hinemoa's Steps and Tutea's Cave, and across the bridge to the track on the other side of the river. Need more options? Try out some modern day treasure hunting: geocaching.
Top tip: It's not safe to go inside Tutea's Cave and it's been fenced off. You can still peak inside so bring a headlamp for a better view. Or keep it switched off and spot some glow worms.
Okere Falls Scenic Reserve, Okere Falls
Ridge Loop to River Loop
Distance: 2.4km return
Time: 1 hour
Buggies: River track, yes. Ridge track, no. Over the bridge, no. Hinemoa's Steps and Tutea's Cave, no.