Waikaremoana: Also Steeped in Māoritanga

November 15, 2020
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AS A CHILD I gained a strong connection to Lake Waikaremoana, the lake of rippling waters, which is located in the Māori stewardship area of Te Urewera (formerly Te Urewera National Park). Since Waikaremoana is only a few hours north of Hastings, my family used to camp out at the lake every Christmas holidays from when I was six years old until I was about sixteen. I tramped the area extensively in 1995 and 1998 and redid it in 2008 and in 2012 – I always seem to keep coming back there.

The area is home to the Ngāi Tūhoe people, a local Māori tribe, and even as a young child I recognised their strong presence in the area. I remember that when we would drive into Murupara we would always being amazed at how everyone working in the shop spoke Māori.

Here’s the DOC information page for Lake Waikaremoana and Te Urewera

The path trampers take around the un-roaded side of Lake Waikaremoana. Source: DOC Website, 2017.

The remote Te Urewera area has been home to Ngāi Tūhoe, meaning the Tūhoe people or tribe, for centuries; and it was they who named the lake ‘Waikaremoana’, which means ‘sea of the rippling waters’. Tūhoe were one of the Māori tribes who did not sign the Treaty of Waitangi, and have a strong history of seeking independence from the Crown.

A short hike from the visitor centre takes you to the nearby Lake Waikareiti, meaning the little rippling waters. It’s a great place to for kayaking, and if you kayak out to Rahui Island and climb the metal ladder, you can see the beautiful Lake Tamaiti o Waikaremoana, or little child of the rippling waters – a lake within a lake!

My friends and I had stopped by Tamaiti o Waikaremoana to camp out, and another tramper on the island came up to me and gave me some trout, so I gave him a bag of marshmallows and some biscuits in return. He told me that he was fishing and hunting, and was planning to take some of the extra venison he’d caught to another island on the lake where local Māori were camping. He said that the Tūhoe had a tradition that if they turn up three weeks before Christmas and name their campground by staking their rights to Māori land, they can stay there for free.

I tramped the Waikaremoana Track, which leads around the lake. One of the few New Zealand Great Walks in the North Island, the track cuts its way through the thick bush surrounding the lake.

The Lake Waikaremoana track reminded me of Mount Pirongia inthe Waikato area, as they both have cabbage trees and Dicksonia ferns. These beautiful native trees can be seen all over New Zealand in areas ranging from home gardens to wild bush. The cabbage tree tends to prefer wide open spaces such as farms where it gets full sunlight. The area around Lake Waikaremoana is also home to many other native New Zealand plants and birds.

We took the roughly nine kilometre route from Onepoto to Panekire Hut, which takes about five hours according to DOC and is the only major uphill part of the walk. However, the views from the top of Panekire make it worth it – on a good day you can see right out to Wairoa and Gisborne.

The next day we continued our tramp, walking mostly downhill in the seven-and-a-half kilometre stretch from Panekire Hut to Waiopaoa Hut,which takes about three to four hours. This section of the tramp is filled with beech, podocarp and kāmahi trees, and it was just beautiful. From Waiopaoa Hut we carried on to Marauiti Hut for the second-longest stretch of walking through just over twelve kilometres of forest alongside the lake. This took us a little over five hours to complete, and along the way we passed some private baches owned by some renowned Hawkes Bay families, where we stopped and had lunch.

We had an uneventful stay at Marauiti Hut before the final stretch to Hopuruahine Landing, which, at 17 km, is easily the longest section of the Waikaremoana Track. Still, it was a lovely, moderate walk by the lakeside that only took us about half a day to complete. When we finally arrived at the landing, we decided to finish our tramp with a swim, which was very refreshing after the long day.


This post is referenced in my new book The Neglected North Island: New Zealand's other half.


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