Eastern Okataina Walkway

Eastern Okataina Walkway is a walkway through the Okataina Scenic Reserve connecting Lake Okataina at Tauranganui Bay at the southern end of Lake Okataina Road and Lake Tarawera at Humphries Bay (also known as Humphrey’s Bay). The walkway is about 10 km long, following the eastern shores of Lake Okataina for a large part of the way, crossing over a ridgeline with a climb of about 100 metres, and with a low saddle between Lake Okataina at Otangimoana Bay and Lake Tarawera at Humphries Bay. The walkway is mostly easy walking with no steps, but with a few short, steeper sections and some fallen trees requiring rougher, short detours.

There is access to the lake in several locations, and not far from the start at Tauranganui Bay there is a side track to Te Koutu Pa site. There is a short description of the walkway on the DoC web site. and in a brochure Walking and Hiking in Rotorua available for download from the Rotorua Lakes Council web site. There is a link to the brochure under the Brochures heading.

Due mainly to time constraints this walk was done from the carpark at the end of Lake Okataina Road, turning around and returning from Otangimoana Bay, just before the start of the saddle across to Lake Tarawera. It included a side track to Te Koutu Pa. Total distance walked was 18.1 km, with 9.6 on the outbound leg which included the pa site, and 8.5 on the return. Time was almost 3 hours outbound and 2 hours 30 minutes on the return. According to DoC the extra crossing to Lake Tarawera from Otangimoana Bay would add about 1 km and 20 minutes in each direction. That last part will have to wait for a time with more daylight hours.

There is parking and basic DoC toilets available at Tauranganui Bay at the southern end of Lake Okataina Road, where the walkway starts. There are separate small parking areas, as seen here, with the toilets off to the left, and the entry portal to the walkway at picture centre.

The portal has information panels about walks in the area, and some of the history and geology. The map shows the locations of the walking and mountain biking tracks, with the Eastern Okataina Walkway shown as numbers 9 and 10. Mountain biking is not permitted on the Eastern Okataina Walkway.

The walkway starting point.

For a large part the walkway is a benched track along the side of hills sloping down to the lake. The lake can be seen through the trees on the right.

Occasionally there are better views of the lake and the hills on the western side of the lake through the vegetation.

After about 875 metres the track continues straight ahead to a small beach at Ngahaua Bay, beside Te Koutu peninsula and the pa. The walkway continues on the left.

The small beach at Ngahaua Bay, with Te Koutu peninsula and pa site on the right.

From the beach a track on the right accesses Te Koutu Pa. A fence crosses over the peninsula to keep out animals, and a sign which can be difficult to read mentions some storage holes which can still be seen on the edges of the pa site.

Two of the many holes in the side of the hill with the pa site, used for storage.

Back on the walkway there are some vertical rock faces alongside the track. This is not the soundshell mentioned on the DoC web site, which is between the car park and the track to the pa site. However it was not prominent enough to be noticed on this walk.

In several places there are tree roots across the track, making it slippery, especially when wet. Here the start of one of the steeper descents back down to lake level.

Lake Okataina at Kaiwaka Bay. The sign shows there are 5km to Otangimoana Bay.

From Kaiwaka Bay the track follows alongside the lake for a while before starting an ascent to the  highest point on the walkway. The track can be fairly uneven in places, with steep faces on one side, and steep dropoffs to the lake on the other.

In several places fallen trees lie across the walkway. This one being one of the worst and probably most recent, since the detour track above the roots off to the left was not very obvious.

As the walkway returns back down to lake level after the climb over the saddle there are some more open areas with mossy undergrowth.

Some of the birdlife on Lake Okataina, at Oruaroa Bay.

The lake at Oruaroa Bay. From here the walkway continues fairly close to the lake edge, with no long, steeper climbs.

However there are still a few rougher track locations with cliff faces alongside.

The track returns back to the lake edge before the final walk to Otangimoana Bay.

Probably one of the oldest, and one of the most convoluted, trees seen alongside the track.

At Otangimoana Bay at the southern tip of Lake Oktataina the track continues on to Humphries Bay on Lake Tarawera, with a very short track to the right leading down to the water’s edge.

The sign at the junction shows 1 km to Humphries Bay, and 9 km back to the carpark.

Otangimoana Bay. The sign had fallen over, so was left leaning against a tree.

The small beach at Otangimoana Bay. A great spot for a late lunch, with the clear water showing reflections of the tree-covered hillsides alongside the lake. This was the turnaround point for the walk back to the parking area at Tauranganui Bay.

The GPS tracklog shows the track followed for the outward leg from Tauranganui Bay to Otangimoana Bay, including the side track to Te Koutu Pa. The total distance on the outward leg was 9.6 km, with a time of 2 hours 55 minutes. The return leg was a distance of 8.5 km, with a time of 2 hours 25 minutes.

The profile shows the height variations along the southbound leg of the walk, The lake level is about 325 metres above sea level, and the highest point on the track about 440 metres asl.

The topographic map excerpt shows about the same area as the tracklog, but with the extra part to Lake Tarawera. Here the Lake Tarawera location is shown as Humphrey’s Bay.

The aerial image from Google Maps shows a similar area.

The track was walked on May 11, 2019.

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