Otanewainuku is a pretty special spot. It's a virgin podocarp forest overflowing with native flora and fauna and, if you're quiet, you may hear the call of a kiwi in the evening. The Otanewainuku Kiwi Trust is run by volunteers who support the forest, the kiwi, the kokako, and many other species of native species. Fun fact: Volunteers trained to as listeners estimate the number of kiwi in the area by identifying unique calls.
I love Otanewainuku for the beautiful bush and technical trails, the Whataroa Falls with swimming hole, and the view from the summit. The doc website says you can see all the way to Mount Ruapehu, which I never have, but one more reason to keep going up.
The Waterfall track starts in the same place as the Rimu Loop track on the carpark side of the road, with entrances slightly north of the carpark and slightly south. For the Summit track, the toilets and the picnic area, cross the road carefully as trucks sometimes go by quickly by without much notice.
The Rimu Loop track takes you north in a subtle downhill until about the halfway point when you reach the fork to turn off to the Waterfall track, before it continues in a loop back to the carpark. The Waterfall track is a bit wilder than the Rimu Loop track with a few extra fallen trees to hop over and clusters of root steps. Just before the falls, you cross a small stream then follow the signs down to the first tier of the Whataroa Falls and the swimming hole. There are other, less accessible tiers to the waterfall, further downstream.
Last time I went, it was hot and humid, so I hoped the swimming hole might be deserted on my arrival only to find a crowd of people, including a photographer with a tripod set up aiming at the falls. On that day, I wasn't feeling my inner naturist, so I hopped in with my clothes on before continuing on my run. Would you have taken a naked plunge?
On the way back, you'll note the massive carpark sign, put there because others have inadvertently continued along the track to Otawa Trig, which is much longer and more difficult to navigate. It's recommended for experienced trampers with appropriate equipment and supplies.
From the carpark, you can do the Summit track in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction. It's uphill either way you go. Every step is stunning with a rewarding view from the top. It was on this track that my children discovered yoga as a motivational tramping tool. Once tree pose was suggested, the kids started running along the track looking for more spots to pose. Yoga tramping? Yamping? Troga? Whatever you call it, it just might be the next big thing.
Route choices: Rimu Loop, Summit, Waterfall Location: Mountain Road, Oropi, Tauranga
Summit (Trig) Distance: 3.4km (round trip)
Time: 1-1.5 hours
Difficulty: Easy. Though persistence is required for the persistent uphill. There are roots to navigate and a few steeper sections with steps over big boulders and fallen trees. Toddlers and young children may need help for these, but will appreciate the challenge.
Rimu Loop Distance: 1.7km (round trip)
Time: <1 hour
Difficulty: Easy with up and downhill sections and roots to navigate. A good option for the littlest trampers who want to walk the whole way.
Waterfall Distance: 6.4km (round trip)
Time: 2-3 hours
Difficulty: Easy in consideration of the roots and big boulders/trees to hop over.
Buggies: No. Backpack child carrier okay.
Toilets: Yes. Beyond the entrance to the summit track.
Barefoot: The track has many roots, leaves, and sometimes mud. It is easy for the experienced barefooter and a good first track for those adjusting to barefoot.