Picking up where I left off, I set out from Mount Maunganui toward Taupo. The drive was just over two hours, so I scouted out where I could stop along the way. I came across Okere Falls when looking on Google and decided I had to stop to check this spot out.
The Okere River has great cultural and spiritual significance to the Maori people, and the river is also home to the historic Okere Falls Power Station. It brought electricity to Rotorua, only the fourth town in NZ to have this new luxury, in 1901. It operated until 1936 and is now swiftly being reclaimed by the falls and forest.
I set out along the path to the furthest falls first.
I was able to skirt around to the other side of the falls via a bridge and rocky path. On the way, I came across my favorite subject of all, a lone tree.
I was able to get relatively close to the falls for some good shots of the gushing water.
I then doubled back to see what else this gorgeous area had to offer.
I headed down the path towards Tutea Falls, touted as the tallest commercially rafted waterfall in the world (7 meters/23 feet). No one was rafting, but I showed up just in time to see some kayakers take the plunge. Yikes, not for me!
Next, I ventured down Hinemoa’s Steps. These steps are over a century old and hewn right into the rock. They descend down to Tutea’s Cave, where Maori women and children are said to have hid during times of war. Only then, they didn’t have the stairs and had to use a rope to get down.
The steps were by far my favorite part of the day.
Tutea’s Cave was definitely a bit creepy. I can’t imagine hiding out there.
The view looking out was great, though.
I was lucky enough to have the steps to myself to get human-free photos.
This last one is my favorite.
I made my way back along the path towards the carpark and took the last turnoff to see the ruins of Okere Falls Power Station.
It was incredible to see something that was once a feat of human engineering now being entirely reclaimed by nature.
What an amazing place!
I made it to Taupo and checked into my hotel (decided to splurge my last night and have a room to myself). I got some Thai takeout and watched movies in my room before turning in for an early night. I had the longest drive yet ahead of me the following day.
I woke up early and had a delicious breakfast in town before starting off south for Wellington. The drive is about five hours, and I wanted to make good time. Not far outside of Taupo I hit the Desert Road, which goes through the heart of Tongariro National Park. At first it was raining, but then the skies cleared, and I was lucky enough to catch a spectacular rainbow. Of course I had to pull over to get some shots.
What a perfect way to end a fantastic trip.
The rest of the drive went by surprisingly quick, and I was in Wellington before sunset. I really got a good feel for the vastness of the North Island on this road trip. I’d love to visit some of these spots again if I have a chance.
Here’s a map of the trip, to put everything in perspective.
I love you, New Zealand!