Beauty on the Beaten Track

Beauty on the Beaten Track
  • Written by
  • Dyani Van Basten Batenburg

Lake Rotopounamu . . . what fairy tales are made of

The enchanted forest may be the whimsical creation of famous author Enid Blyton – but if there was ever a magical place to visit, it’s well and truly founded close to home. Just a short venture from Turangi – a mere 11 kilometres – you’ll find a hidden treasure of botanical beauty, wispy waters and birdsong in abundance. Lake Rotopounamu – ‘roto’ meaning lake and ‘pounamu’ meaning greenstone – is nestled into the side of Mount Pihanga, and many of us tour past it on our way to the slopes and mountain biking trails of the great National Park.

Keep your eyes pierced
So ‘tucked away’ is this wee lake that it’s hard to know it’s even there unless you look for it. You may even be forgiven – like myself – to assume the cars parked on the side of the main road, opposite the walkway’s entrance, are pulled over for a toilet break or pitstop.

In some ways it’s the anonymity of this walkway that actually gifts it more of a ‘wow’ factor when you start upon it. Legend tells the lake was forged by a landslide around 10,000 years ago. The lake itself is a mere kilometre in size and nine metres deep, is fed by four tributary streams, and it also boasts three beaches which are easily accessed as you stroll around its perimeter.

Everyman’s walk
Strolling is definitely the word on the lake here – no unsightly steep uphills or downhills await you – it is a gentle meander from start to finish. Hubby and I kept a steady pace – with a few stops to admire the beaches and flora and fauna along the way – and we were surprised to find ourselves back at the car within an hour and 20 minutes (sign posts indicate two hours to walk the entire loop).

Break into song
The lake itself is breath-taking – still like a mill pond on the day we gazed upon it – with a ‘Lord of the Rings’ air about. Long Beach flanks the eastern side of the lake and is perfect for eats and drinks replenishment – plus there’s a toilet! Whilst it was definitely a special moment admiring the waters, it was the birdlife that took me by surprise. Kereru, falcon and kaka all call Lake Rotopounamu home and aren’t afraid to make themselves known! The North Island robin also thrives in this habitat thanks to the commitment and the dedication of Project Tongariro team who work to preserve this World Heritage area.

Our takeaways from this lake bliss? Definitely pack a picnic, the camera and gift yourself enough time to soak in the stunning scenery that unfolds at each turn.

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