Tarawera Outlet to Tarawera Falls - One of our favourite short walks.
The falls defy logic and burst forth mid-way up a vertical cliff tumbling 65m to the bottom - a unique spectacle, arguably Bay of Plenty's most impressive falls.
This is a very pretty walk through native bush, scrub, ferns, moss and trees; past cascading waterfalls and tranquil, calm, pools where trout are often visible in the clear water. It is a lovely track that can be walked from either end. In winter, I like to start from the Falls Carpark, have a picnic at the lake and return. It's also a great option for a summer walk, as for most of the track you are in the shade, under a canopy of foliage, and there's a choice of cool swimming spots. In the warmer months, I prefer to start from the Outlet at the Lake edge, walk to the Falls, swim in the waterhole on the way back and then finish with lunch and a swim in the lake at the end.
From the Outlet at Lake Tarawera to the Falls return is approx 10 kms and takes about 3 hours. If you start at the Falls end, add an extra 10 – 15 mins each way for the walk down from the carpark to the Falls. Irrespective of which end you decide to start, the driving distance from Kawerau is similar at around 25kms. Alternatively, if in a group, you can leave a car at each end and run your own shuttle, or swap keys half way. Access is via working forestry roads, so you need to get a permit. These can be obtained from the Kawerau Information Office for a small fee.
Starting from the lake edge at Tarawera Outlet, head over the bridge and turn right. The majority of the trail meanders alongside the river. It is quite fast flowing and strong currents can make swimming difficult, however there is a large, safe swimming hole about 1 hr from the lake. Once past this point, the flow of the river starts to change and swimming becomes too dangerous. At various spots, significant volumes of water disappear underground, the river eventually re-emerging through a narrow fissure towards the top of a fractured volcanic cliff face, creating Tarawera Falls.
The DoC camp at Lake Tarawera Outlet is a large area situated within a scenic reserve and a great spot to camp for a few days. Close to the lake front, this is great spot for kayaking, boating, tramping, walking, swimming or just relaxing. Outside the summer school holidays and Easter, it's easy to find a nice private spot. There's lots of shade trees, composting toilets and a boat ramp.
From the lake edge reserve, a track on the left will take you to a safe swimming sandy beach, about a 10 minute walk. For those looking for a longer walk Tarawera Outlet to Humphries Bay is about 7kms one way.
From Tarawera Outlet it's a short boat trip, or a 2 hour kayak trip over to Hot Water Beach, a natural geothermal area on the Southern shores of the lake where you can soak in the hot water around the lake edge.