Lake Waikaremoana, one of the Nine Great Walks, is not a highly-visited track in a remote location on the North Island. Located in the Te Urewera rainforest, this walk brings you through an area that is highly spiritual for the Moari people and still home to several Moari tribes. While this track is one of the least popular among the great walks, it is a unique walk around half of Lake Waikaremoana through a lush rainforest. Unless attempting to complete all Nine Great Walks, this was our least favorite walk in New Zealand.
Where Is It
Located three hours southeast of Rotorua towards Napier, Lake Waikaremoana is within Te Urewera National Park. This rainforest is only accessible by 70km of gravel roads. The roads can get muddy and very slick when wet. This park was once managed by the DOC, however it was recently given back to the local Mauri tribe to manage all of the huts.
Lake Waikaremoana is a year-round track. Huts and campsites require prior bookings. Summer is the best time to visit Waikaremoana, when it is not rainy season.
How Many Days
This hike is a two or three-day hike. The track is easy with only one incline/decline up the Panekiri Bluff. For more details on hut locations, distances and maps, check out the DOC website for the Lake Waikaremoana Track.
How to Book
Huts and tent camping must be booked prior to hiking. Campsites cost $14 pp and huts cost $32 pp year-round. Book online for in season at the DOC’s website.
Big Bush Holiday Camp is the best in town for boat transportation on the lake. The Great Walk is half the lake, entirely inaccessible by road. Big Bush offers freedom camping or dorm rooms and a boat transfer to or from Hopuruahine. The cost to leave your car at Big Bush, a van dropoff/pickup, and boat transfer to/from Hopuruahine costs $50 per person. But with full disclosure they forgot to pick us up on or last day and we had to hitch a ride.
Distance: 27.6 miles / 44.4 kilometers
Elevation: 4,659 feet (1,421m) ascent, 4,724 feet (1,440m) descent
Time: 2 days (11 hours 50 minutes)
From Hopuruahine dropoff too Waiopaoa Hut
Distance: 17.6 miles / 28.3 kilometers
Elevation: 1,690 feet (516m) ascent, 1,765 feet (538m) descent
Time: 6 hours 50 mins
From the dropoff at Hopuruahine, it is three and half hours to Marauiti Hut, the midpoint and a good place for lunch. It is another three hours to Waiopaoa Hut. This hike is moderately flat through lush rainforest with a couple viewpoints of the lake.
From Waiopaoa Hut to Onepoto and shuttle back to Big Bush Holiday Park
Distance: 10 miles / 16.1 kilometers
Elevation: 2,969 feet (905m) ascent, 2,959 feet (902m) descent
Time: 5 hours
From Waiopaoa Hut, there is a two and half hour incline up the bluff to Panekiri hut. Panekiri hut is atop the bluff and a good place for a stop, hopefully with clear views. This is known as the best view of the hike. From Panekiri, it is another two and half hours descending to the Onepoto track entrance.
Day Hike Alternative
With good weather, a day hike option would be to park at Onepoto and day hike up to Panekiri hut and return to Onepoto. This is the best place on the hike for views. Expect this return hike to take 5-7 hours including breaks.
Important Things to Know
Be prepared for rain and mud. This track is in a dense rain forest. With heavy rain, mud can be ankle deep.
Bring dry socks and clothes for each day of the hike.
The only phone signal that works in Te Urewera National Park is vodophone.
Food is very limited and extremely expensive, do not expect to make any purchases around the lake. Stock up before you come.
Make sure to fill up on petrol in Wairoa or Murupara. It costs $4 per litre in Te Urewera.
Huts do not have cooking stoves on this track.
Water is available at each hut. Water is not filtered and you can filter/boil for your own precaution, however hut water is almost always drinkable in all of New Zealand.
Read more about all our posts on New Zealand:
- Backpackers Guide to Buying a Campervan in New Zealand
- Nine Great Walks of New Zealand
- Ultimate Guide to Backpacking New Zealand