Okere Falls rafting, kayaking or sledging is not everyone's cup of tea but it doesn't mean you have to miss out on the fun or the spectacular beauty of the waterfalls.
Okere Falls Whitewater Rafting and Viewing Platforms
I was out there recently with my niece and it was great fun to watch the adrenaline junkies screaming and whooping as they came over the falls.
The only ones we didn't get to see were the sledders. Actually, I am quite tempted to have a go at that. I will let you know if I can work up the courage to do it.
The whole area is generally referred to as Okere Falls by locals.
There are four beautiful falls located on the Okere River and just to make it confusing the Okere River is an 11km (6.8mi) stretch of the Kaituna River.
Okere Falls. Believe it or not, there is a raft in all that foaming water
I can't say that I have ever heard it referred to as the Okere River. We mainly call it the Kaituna.
There is a lovely little easy walk through bush (left side of the main carpark). It takes in the waterfalls all the way through to the Trout Pool. The track is 1.2km (0.7mi) long and takes about 30min one way. You can then either wend your way back via Trout Pool Rd or backtrack and take in the falls again.
This would be an easy walk for children if you have them. When I was out there I noticed parents pushing prams as well so you don't have to worry on that score.
As with most places you will visit whilst here there are information panels along the tracks. As a local even I find them very informative and learn new things all the time.
There is also a grassy picnic area overlooking the carpark if you want to have your lunch or just a rest.
In case you haven't got any food or drinks there is a very good cafe out on the main highway just before you get to Trout Pool Rd. It is set back off the road so is easy to miss if you are driving from the direction of Rotorua.
Although the track is easy; you veer off to go down timber steps to the viewing platforms for one of the falls.
They change to steepish rock steps (called Hinemoa's Steps) taking you further down towards the water and these can get slippery when wet.
Hinemoa's Steps at Okere Falls
Tourists have long been fascinated with this area and back in the early, early 1900's a photographer was present at the bottom of them all the time.
I can just picture the ladies in their crinoline dresses, little boots and parasols getting their photos taken with the falls as a backdrop. Even then there were fun free things to do.
Tutea's Cave is at the bottom of these steps but they are fenced off because of the danger. You can only see a wee way into the cave which is named after one of the local chiefs; Tutea.
One of the stories about the cave is that women and children would make their way down by rope to hide out in times of war.
That would have been so scary because they would have been hanging out over the swiftly-flowing river while descending.
At the entrance to the walking track there is a hulking great turbine. This was part of the Okere Falls Power Station that began operating in 1901 and closed in 1939.
It's hard to believe that the turbines were brought to the area by bullock teams only 110 odd years ago. It's amazing how far we have come since then.
On the right-hand side of the main carpark you will find the original steep flight of steps to the power station. Be careful on these as they get slippery.
If you have children with you hold tight as you go down and even at the bottom because you are literally on the river and it's moving fast. There is a barrier though so just make sure they don't climb it. I know what little monkeys children can be.
I took this pic of my daughter when the Kaituna was in flood. She's on the viewing platform at the bottom of the steps and the water is up over the top.
Lake Rotoiti flows into the Okere River to the left of the pic
Okere Falls is located about 20mins out of Rotorua. Take SH33 heading towards Tauranga until you get to Trout Pool Rd.
Once you see water on your right hand side you are not far from a sharp right-hand bend in the road. While still on the bend look for a left-hand turn which will be Trout Pool Rd.
It is sign-posted on the opposite side of the road but there are no BIG signs saying Okere Falls so you could easily overshoot.
Zoom in on the google map if you want to see what I mean.