Whakapoungakau is a rhyolite dome on the shores of Lake Okataina. The track starts from the Outdoor Education Centre, which is just off Lake Okataina Road. The first part of the route follows the Western Okataina Walkway. At the top of the hill, the track to Whakapoungakau turns off to the right. At the summit there is an open clearing and a radio mast, and great views of the surrounding Rotorua Lakes district and out to the coast.
|Elevation||758 m (2,487 ft)|
|Location/List||North Island, New Zealand|
|Region||Bay of Plenty/East Coast|
|Location Coordinates||38° 5′ 37″ S, 176° 23′ 47″ E|
|Translation||Place of Heart’s Desire. Tane Whakaraka was a great hunter, a bird-spearsman and snare-setter. Tane pointed to the blue mountains and said to his sisters: “I am going up yonder. I may be a long time away. I have fixed my heart upon those hills. Remain you here and I will bring you the spoils of the forest.” (Source: NZETC)|
From Rotorua, take the main road that leads to Rotorua Airport. Go past the airport and turn right when you see the sign that points to Whakatane. Drive 15-20 minutes until you reach a sign that points to Lake Okataina. Turn right and drive down this road until you reach the Outdoor Education Centre (turn right into the driveway), where you can park by the start of the Western Okataina Walkway/Whangapoungakau track.
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Start the walk from the Outdoor Education Centre near Lake Okataina. There is a wooden archway and some information boards at the start of the track. The track first meanders along flat land through grass and forest. There are a couple of turns-offs early on which take you to Lake Okataina, but keep following the signs along the Western Walkway and to Whangapoungakau Trig. After about 15-20 minutes from the start of the walk, the track starts to get steeper as you begin walking up the side of a rhyolite dome. The track is well formed and wide but could get slippery after heavy rain or in winter. Beautiful bush surrounds the track with native birds chirping in the background.
After about 1.5-2 hours of walking, you reach a junction. To the left the Western Walkway carries on, but turn right to go to Whakapoungakau Trig. The track narrows, but is still well formed and relatively easy to walk along. From the junction it takes about another 20 minutes to reach the top.
At the top there is a trig and a radio mast (and associated building). A large grassy area makes it a great place to have a snack or a picnic. There are great views on one side looking toward the Rotorua Lakes district and the coast to the north.
After taking in the views, return to the Okataina Outdoor Education Centre the same way you same. A return trip for this walk should take about 4-5 hours. If you haven’t eaten already, drive on a bit further to Lake Okataina and enjoy a relaxing picnic by its shores!
There are a number of walking options in and around Lake Okataina ranging from as little as a 20 minute stroll to all-day or multi-day tramps. See the DOC website for Lake Okataina walking and tramping tracks.