Turning up the volume
Free attractions are hard to come by in Rotorua, so it was nice to find this refuge of natural beauty that doesn’t cost a cent.
Okere Falls is a dramatic section of the Kaituna River – the main outflow of lakes Rotorua and Rotoiti. The best way to take it in is via the Okere Falls Loop Track, which offers three stunning lookouts over the high volume white water, popular with rafters and kayakers.
From the main car park, a well-formed bush track leads left at a fork, up and over a ridge and down to the trout pools – it’s an easy walk of around 15 minutes, but there’s little to see from below the canopy.
By the trout pools – a popular fishing spot – is a second car park and the lower falls, which are impressive in their own right but are just a taster of what’s coming.
To complete the loop, return via the undulating scenic track which hugs the true left of the Kaituna River.
Around halfway, a short sidetrack leads to a viewing platform overlooking the lush bowl of Tutea Falls, the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world.
At 7m, they’re not overly high, but like the Huka Falls of Taupō, it’s the volume of water that’s impressive.
If you’ve timed your visit, you’ll see (and hear) the rafters squeeze through the narrow chute.
From the platform, well-worn steps have been carved into the cliff edge leading to Tutea’s Caves.
Local stories say Māori would scale ropes to hide in these caves in times of trouble, and in more recent history, a photographer stationed himself here in the early 1900s to take photographs of tourists.
From here, the track returns to the car park, where a short trail leads to the hydro-electric power station – definitely worth a look.