If you're looking for something to do over the weekend, grab your fam, jump into your walking shoes and head out to one of the many – hundreds of kilometres’ worth, in fact – walking and running trails we have right here in our backyard.
Not sure where to start? Not to worry, here’s a bit of help. Oh, and please share your experiences with #RotoruaNZ on Instagram – we’d love to see you out and about, enjoying our beautiful parks!
Whānau hikoi (family walk)
The inspiration: you’ve got a backpack loaded with snacks, water and spare nappies, possibly a runner bike or two, needing to get out of the house and burn off some energy. With kids strapped to you or sprinting ahead, you need the right trail for the mammoth effort to even get to the entrance!
Where to go: Mokopuna Trail, Lynmore. Accessible from two points on Tarawera Road: opposite Selwyn Road, and at the intersection of Tarawera and Long Mile roads.
The Redwoods Forest is always a magical place for kids. Mokopuna Trail is an easy, hard-packed, gravel track designed specifically for families. At 3.6 kilometres, it’s a decent walk, but there are many exit points to shorten it if the kids run out of steam.
The relaxed walker
The inspiration: you’ve already worn a deep rut through your usual spot and craving a new space, no need to work up a sweat, just a gentle stroll will do.
Where to go: Centennial Park, more commonly known as the Tree Trust. Head up to Tihiotonga at the southern side of the city, just up the Mokoia Drive past Toi Ohomai.
Twenty beautiful, grassy, tree-dotted hectares of rolling hills and steep gullies await. Autumn is probably the best time to view the colourful Maple Grove, the gingko-lined drive, and the Peace Memorial. Thousands of Tui congregate in spring when the trees are in flower, happily singing their little hearts out. Sheep are the eco-friendly grounds keepers here, so be sure to close any gates you go through.
Time for couples
The inspiration: you and your favourite person just need to get out of the house for a change.
Where to go: Lake Okareka boardwalk (photo below and at top), just 12 kilometres from town. Drive to Lake Tikitapu via Tarawera Road; at the lake, take the left turn onto Okareka Loop Rd and park at the lakeside reserve on Acacia Road.
Starting with a coffee in one hand, your bestie’s hand in the other, go for a gorgeous stroll along the lake. The walk meanders 2.5 kilometres around the shore to the outlet, taking about 90 minutes through native vegetation, farmland, beach, lake and wetland scenery, and features expansive views and wildlife, including our much-loved dabchicks.
The inspiration: you're keen to check out some pretty epic terrain while channelling your inner explorer. Hint: Pack your togs and a towel.
Where to go: Tarawera Trail. Start at Te Wairoa car park on Tarawera Road, an easy and scenic 15-minute drive from Rotorua past Lake Tikitapu (Blue Lake).
Following the shores of Lake Tarawera, this advanced tramping track has everything from bridges and natural springs, to native bush and gorgeous views of Lake Tarawera and Lake Rotomahana. Spanning 15 kilometres, the finish offers relief with a hot water beach to enjoy.
If the return trip by foot is too daunting, pre-book a water taxi to take you back to the start.
The inspiration: you’re amped to give the treadmill a rest and put in a solid effort outside in nature.
Where to go: Blue Lake Track, circling Lake Tikitapu, about 10 minutes’ drive from town heading down Tarawera Road.
Park near the ski club or holiday park, and head in a clockwise direction around the lake. Following a brief roadside section (watch for oncoming traffic) the track enters the bush where you’ll feel miles away from civilisation. The 5.5-kilometre undulating track follows the lake, takes you past a secluded beach at the south end, the up some stairs to a car park, then a right-hand turn to continue around the lake before it slowly descends into native bush to the lake level and exits at the north-eastern side of the beach. Most people finish up in about an hour and a half, and dogs on leads are welcome.
The inspiration: Views to inspire, looking out on the wonders of the world below is a pretty cool reason to just stop, appreciate life and breathe.
Where to go: Rainbow Mountain, about 15 minutes’ drive south of town. Follow the signs, the car park is on your left.
This 2.8 kilometre track will give the lungs a good clearing out but you’ll get those spectacular views you’re after, from 743 metres up, to be exact.
The 1 hour 30 minutes the climb takes will fly by as you check out this amazing geothermal mountain, with crater lakes and magically coloured earth. At the summit, 360-degree views reveal Mount Tarawera, three lakes, forests, ranges and even the volcanic peaks of Mount Tongariro to the south.
For the dogs
The inspiration: your pooch needs some space for off-lead zoomies, so pack a water bottle and a couple poo bags and head out.
Where to go: Whakarewarewa Dog Park at Scion’s Sala Street entrance, or from nearly anywhere along Longmile Road.
Within Whakarewarewa Forest, the area across the road from the Redwoods i-SITE and Visitor Centre is made available by Scion for dogs to run off lead. Wander between various plots of planted native and exotic trees and open spaces while your dog enjoys this heavenly treat. Toward the Te Ngae Road side of the forest is a river dogs can’t resist – so either pack an old towel, put your dog back on the lead, or avoid this area altogether, depending on your prevalence for wet pooches.