The Pori Pori swimming hole is legendary in these parts. People rave about the beauty and diversity of fun. Small, shallow rock pools for safe swimming and exploring. Deep water and high rocks to jump from for the more adventurous, strong swimmers. There always seem to be a crowd of cars parked at the gravel patch on Poripori Road when we drive past and we have long looked forward to checking it out ourselves.
We headed to Poripori Road on a humid Sunday morning in February, parked next to the only other car and walked along the river armed with directions from our friend Inga, "Cross the river along the rocks, then continue along the track until you get to the swimming area downstream."
We walked along the track beside the Wairoa River intent on finding the spot to cross. We checked upstream, we checked downstream. There were no rocks to cross. Instead, there was deep, quickly moving water upstream and a waterfall downstream. At a loss and unable to reach Inga, we got back into the car and headed to another favourite swimming spot.
Inga was a bit perplexed with our confusion with her straightforward directions so she offered to take us on a guided swim. When we turned up late she was unexpectedly still sitting in her car. "Did you bring a boogie board?," she asked. Huh?
Inga had arrived to find the water level was high so she asked around. On Sunday mornings, they open the dam for the kayakers and rafters. The mystery was solved! And we'd need a boogie board to get the kids across the river safely. Luckily, our car is fully stocked for spontaneous beach trips.
The kids rode high on the boogie boards propelled by one-armed swimming parents. We started upstream and let the current help us along to the rocks on the other side. The kayakers came along without notice, but easily navigated around us as we swam across and encouraged us along.
On the far side, we walked along the rocks and through the forest, past some little falls and some larger falls. We waded through the calm water next to the roaring falls along the graffitied rocks until we reached a deep, calm spot. The usual shallow rock pools were completely covered by several extra metres of water. Big kids were jumping from the large rock over our heads.
We were already wet from the river crossing so no reason not to jump in!
So how do I rank a visit to Pori Pori on a Sunday morning?
- It's great fun to watch the kayaks and the rafts navigate the rushing water. Equipped with helmets and other safety gear, the rafters also jump from a very high spot.
- The wet adventure starts from the carpark.
- There are more options for swimming. Once you reach the immersed rock pools, you can stroke across the deep water to access rocks on the other side.
- The bush feels wild with the waterfalls raging.
- Non-swimmers can't join in without getting wet.
- In some spots, the dark water makes it hard to see shallow rocks.
- It's not easy to safely cross the river with young children or poor swimmers.
Having not yet made it to Pori Pori when the water levels are low, I have no official verdict for the best time to visit. But I can say for sure that it's a beautiful spot for a refreshing dip, even on a Sunday morning!
Pori Pori Swimming Hole: <2km (round trip, approximate)
Time: 30 minutes walking, endless swimming... or until your lips turn blue.
High water difficulty: Difficult. Recommended for older children and confident swimmers only. Life jacket or other floatation devices may be helpful.
Low water difficulty: To be determined.
A note about the photos: I attached my waterproof camera to my togs with a carabiner for the initial river crossing and, sorry to say, there are water smudges on some of the photos.
Looking for more great swimming spots? Check out my growing list.