Just 25 minutes drive from the centre of Rotorua on Trout Pool Road is Okere Falls Scenic Reserve. With lush New Zealand native forest, trees abundant with native birds, crystal-clear waterfalls surrounded by emerald-green ferns and the clean, flowing waters of the Kaituna River, the reserve is stunning in its beauty.
To local Maori, Okere Falls Reserve has significant historical, cultural and spiritual value. The Kaituna (Kai meaning food, tuna meaning eel) was and still is a significant food source for the Ngati Pikiao, the traditional owners and caretakers of the river.
Abundant in trout, whitebait, koura (fresh-water crayfish) and eels, the reserve’s fairytale setting belies the many violent battles that were fought along the Kaituna to protect this important food source. Behind the reserve’s waterfalls are caves where women and children hid from invading tribes, in fear of their lives. Now home to millions of glow worms, the caves are magical grottos delighting young and old.
To thrill seekers, Okere Falls means whitewater excitement. The Kaituna River boasts the highest commercially rafted waterfall (7 metres) in the world. With another three waterfalls among the 14 rapids, this is truly an exhilarating white water ride.
Adrenalin specialists, Kaitiaki Adventures, are local white water rafting and sledging operators. Kaitiaki means guardianship and with Kaitiaki, your safety is of prime importance. Kaitiaki also respect that the Kaituna River is sacred to local Maori and show respect by beginning each trip with a karakia (prayer). With Kaitiaki Adventures, you’ll be treated to an unforgettable day of culture, adrenalin and history.
For walkers, Okere Falls means marvellous bushwalks leading to the falls themselves plus the site of Rotorua’s first hydro-electric power station, the Tutea Caves and Hinemoa’s Steps. There are scenic lookouts over the river and smaller waterfalls plus many information panels along the way describing the natural environment and human stories of the reserve. From the main lookout platform, you can view rafters and kayaykers taking the 7 metre plunge down the Okere Falls.
For the fishing enthusiast, the Kaituna River and Trout Pool are popular fly fishing spots where trout are often seen swimming against the river current.
Okere Falls even has something for foodies. The Okere Falls Store is more than just a store, it’s also an upmarket deli stocked with delicious organic and freshly made food and a German beer garden. Each year the store holds a week long German Beer Festival starting in October at Labour weekend. This popular local event features loads of beer, bratwurst and live music from a German style ompa band.
No matter what your perspective; historic, cultural, spiritual, sporting or gastronomic, there’s one absolute certainty and that is you’ll find Okere Falls is a very special place to visit, one of incredible beauty and tranquility.