Shrouded by bushland, Lake Waikaremoana fills a huge scalloped bowl at an altitude of over 585m, precariously held back by the Panekiri and Ngamoko ranges. The lake came into being around 2200 years ago when a huge bank of sandstone boulders was dislodged from the Ngamoko range, blocking the river that once drained the valleys. The Maori have a more poetic explanation for the lake’s creation. Hau-Mapuhia, the recalcitrant daughter of Mahu, was drowned by her father and turned into a taniwha, or “water spirit”. In a frenzied effort to get to the sea, she charged in every direction, thereby creating the various arms of the lake. As she frantically ran south towards Onepoto, the dawn caught her, turning her to stone at a spot where the lake is said to ripple from time to time, in memory of her struggle.

Lake Waikaremoana Track

The Lake Waikaremoana Track is one of New Zealand’s “Great Walks”. It is also the most popular multi-day tramp in the North Island and often compared with the South Island’s renowned Routeburn and Milford tracks, although, with the exception of an exhausting climb on the first day, this is a much gentler affair, with plenty of opportunities to fish, swim and listen to the plentiful and melodious birdlife.

About sixty percent of walkers prefer to travel clockwise around the lake, getting the challenging but panoramic ascent of Panekiri Bluff over with on the first day, though if the weather looks bad there’s no reason why you shouldn’t change your bookings (through the Aniwaniwa visitor centre) and go anticlockwise in the hope that it will improve.

Three days is enough for fit walkers, but it’s normally done in four, spending nights in the five Great Walk huts or five designated campsites scattered around the lakeshore. When tackled clockwise, as outlined below, the first leg is the toughest, so carry plenty of drinking water.