Lake Ōkataina

Lake Ōkataina

Lake Ōkataina is one of a number of lakes to the east and southeast of Rotorua. It sits within the Lake Ōkataina Scenic Reserve, a large area of native forest that survived earlier logging. Today the lake is surrounded by mature native forest down to the water’s edge, including rimu, tōtara, rātā and kahikatea. In addition to the lake, the reserve has a number of excellent walking tracks. At the time of writing, the Eastern Ōkataina Walkway to Lake Tarawera was closed due to a major slip.

The name Ōkataina means “the lake of laughter”, shortened from “Te Moana-i-kataina-a-Te Rangitakaroro” or “the ocean where Te Rangitakaroro laughed”. The story is a bit prosaic. While resting by the lake, one of Te Rangitakaroro’s warriors referred to it as an ocean. The rest of the group’s laughter echoed around the lake, hence the name.

The most interesting feature of the lake is probably the lack of any significant inlets and outlets. In dry periods, it shrinks. But if it’s wet enough, the pier disappears into the water, as it had in these photos. It is also part of the 450 square km Ōkataina caldera which extends from Lake Rotoiti and Lake Rotomā to the north and northwest to Lake Tarawera and Lake Rotokakahi to the south and southeast.

From Rotorua, take the Rotorua-Whakatane highway (SH30) for 24 km to Ruato Bay on Lake Rotoiti. Turn right onto Lake Ōkataina Road with parking by the lake near the sandy beach after 8 km. There is boat access and lodge accommodation at the end of the road, overlooking the lake. The Outdoor Education Centre is about half way along. All of the tracks are accessed from the road, around the Centre, or near the lodge.

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