Located just 20 minutes away from the town of Rotorua you will find the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world at 7 meters / 23 feet high. To witness these white-water rafters going over the waterfall (and mostly flying out of their rafts), you can take part of the Okere Falls Walk, which will bring you all along the river, including a viewpoint area of the waterfall. Read on to learn more about this one of kind track and what you will need to know to take part.
1) What is Okere Falls
When researching this 7 meter / 23 foot waterfall, odds are you will continuously come across the name “Okere Falls”. What is a bit confusing here though, is that the main waterfall is not named Okere Falls – it is actually called Tutea Falls. Okere Falls is a separate waterfall right nearby.
If you take part of the official Okere Falls Walk, you will be able to visit Okere Falls, Tutea Falls, Tutea’s Cave, Trout Pool Falls, among plenty of other scenic spots along the Kaituna/Okere River.
Here is a quick breakdown of some quick helpful notes about the area:
» Everything mentioned above is part of the Okere Falls Scenic Reserve. There is a parking lot at the south end of the reserve, where you can park your car and then begin to explore the area from there.
» The Okere Falls Walk is the name of the official 3 km / 2 mile track that makes its way all around the reserve to different waterfalls, viewpoints, and even a cave!
» Okere Falls is the first waterfall you will come across, and was home to one of the first hydroelectric plants in all of New Zealand. You can still see the old remnants of the plant down below.
» About halfway up the track, you will find the turnoff for the Tutea Falls lookout platform. This is where you will want to wait for the river rafters, who will soon be barreling down the waterfall into the pool below. Right nearby the lookout platform you will find the Hinemoa’s Steps leading to Tutea’s Cave.
» After enjoying the viewing area, you can continue along the river, passing by other waterfalls, a cliff jump / rope swing spot at the Trout Pool Falls, and finally the Trout Pool itself.
At the end of the track near the Trout Pool, you can just make the turn around and head right back to the parking lot to end your successful Okere Falls walk.
2) How to Get There
The easiest and most efficient way to get to Okere Falls would be by having your own rental car. Not only would it be easiest to visit the falls and other places around Rotorua at your own pace, it would also make your entire New Zealand trip a lot less stressful.
If you would like to learn more about the New Zealand roads and renting a car, head on over to the New Zealand Driving Tips guide I put together, that should better prepare you for your trip.
While Intercity does run busses between Rotorua and Okere Falls as part of a longer route, there are only a couple busses going back and forth per day. This would make it pretty difficult to truly enjoy Rotorua and the rest that the area has to offer.
Below is a map of the Rotorua area and where Okere Falls is located. It is just a quick 20 minute drive from town center to the parking lot as you head around Lake Rotorua.
3) Where to Stay in Rotorua
Rotorua offers a variety of options for its visitors – everything from budget backpacker friendly to high luxury. No matter what you are looking for, there will be an option for you. Below are some highly rated recommendations based on price range, that are all located within or nearby town center.
Book Your Stay at Quest Rotorua Central Today!
4) Okere Falls Walk Map
Below is a photo of the official Okere Falls map that is placed right near the parking lot. You can see the route highlighted in red along with the several points of interest all along the trail.
To get to some of these spots (like Okere Falls and Tutea Falls lookouts), you will need to head on a quick detour from the main path onto the secondary paths. After taking in the views you will then make your way back on the main path to continue on with the track.
5) The Okere Falls Walk
Once you have made from Rotorua to the Okere Falls Scenic Reserve parking lot, you can begin your walk along the river by following the trail signs.
Right as you begin the trail on the north end of the parking lot, you will see a sign pointing you to the Okere Falls and Power House Viewing area.
This short detour will bring you down to a nice viewing area, where you can enjoy views of Okere Falls and the old hydro electric power station.
After that quick detour, it is back on the main path, where you will follow signs to Tutea Falls.
NOTE: THERE IS A CLOCKWISE LOOP TRAIL OPTION THAT FIRST BRINGS YOU ON THE OKERE FALLS RIDGE TRACK, WHICH IS FURTHER INLAND, BEFORE LOOPING AROUND TO THE OKERE FALLS RIVER TRACK. YOU CAN DECIDE TO DO IT THAT WAY OR JUST HEAD THERE AND BACK ON THE RIVER TRACK. THIS TRAIL IS NOT SHOWN ON THE MAP ABOVE.
I just stuck with the trail closer to the river in both directions but either one can work for you.
Just another 10-15 minutes further along the river track, you will see another detour point, where you will be directed to the Tutea Falls Lookout, Hinemoa’s Steps, and Tutea’s Cave.
Follow the path here and you will soon come to the platform, where you will have the best view of those river rafters.
Usually, the official photographer for the river rafting company will be set up in the same spot here. So, if you see one of these photographers, then you know the river rafters wont be too far behind.
It is then just a little bit of patience, before you see the safety kayakers come down first followed by warning whistles and then finally the rafts shooting down the 7 meter falls. Be sure to have your cameras ready as it is a super quick drop.
Odds are several of these rafters will fall out of the rafts as the kayakers sweep them to safety. When I visited I saw 4 groups of rafters make their way down, and just one raft had no one fall out.
Once you have had enough time watching the river rafters, head down the Hinemoa’s Steps to Tutea’s Cave before making your way back on the main path.
From Tutea Falls, it is another 10-15 minutes through the forest and along the river as you take in some more views from different angles alongside some smaller waterfalls towards the end of the track.
You are sure to pass Trout Pool Falls alongside its rope swing and cliff jump area, before coming across the final Trout Pool itself. After enjoying all these different scenic spots along the Okere Falls Walk, you can simply head back in the same direction you came and back to the parking lot.
» Remember you can also take part of the loop track, where you will first head on the inland ridge trail, followed by the Trout Pool and Falls, and then onto the river track to see Tutea Falls.
6) Other Rotorua Activities
While a visit to Okere Falls is a great place to visit during your time in Rotorua, there are many other attractions nearby to visit nearby on your trip. The Rotorua Activities guide on the site goes over all of the following places around the area:
1. Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland
2. Waimangu Volcanic Valley
3. Rainbow Mountain Scenic Reserve – Learn more about the hike up Rainbow Mountain
4. Hamurana Springs – Learn more about the Hamurana Springs Walk
5. Blue / Green Lakes Viewpoint – Learn more in the guide for the Green & Blue Lakes
6. Whakarewarewa Redwoods Forest – Learn more about Walking the Rotorua Redwoods
7. Kerosene Creek
8. Polynesian Spa
9. Rotorua Museum
10. Rotorua Waterfront
11. Kuirau Park – Learn more in the Kuirau Park Guide
One potential day itinerary could look something like this -> Start the day at Hamurana Springs, then head to Okere Falls to take in walking track, followed by the Blue and Green Lakes Viewpoint, and ending the day with a stroll through the Whakarewarewa Forest. There is just a ton to do all over Rotorua and I am sure you will have a great time enjoying it all.
That about does it for a Okere Falls Walk guide and how to take part of it for yourself. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to add them in below. Also, be sure to check out the other New Zealand itineraries and guides up on the site like this New Zealand North Island Itinerary. Have fun out there and safe travels!