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Lake Maraetai in the Taupo Region of New Zealand's North Island is a little-known vacationer's dream. The 1013 acre reservoir just 33 miles north of Lake Taupo is a new lake; completion of the dam and power stations that form Lake Maraetai occurred in 1971. Created by the third dam on the Waikato River power generating system, the reservoir is only seven miles downstream from Whakamaru power station. The short stretch of the Waikato river is very remote and is accessible only by boat. The two power stations at Lake Maraetai produce the largest electricity output on the Waikato power system. The deep narrow reservoir that was formed when the dam was built across a narrow gorge provides a valuable side benefit in recreational opportunities for visitors to the area.
When the Waikato system was built, the location 53 miles southwest of Hamilton was difficult for workmen to get to. The temporary village of Mangakino was built to house workers and after completion, much of the village was returned to farmland. However, many of the workers had fallen in love with the scenic area and saw in the village the ideal location to own a vacation 'bach' or cottage on Lake Maraetai. Mangakino was kept alive and has transformed into a small vacation village that acts as tourist center for the reservoir. The village serves as headquarters for mail delivery, fuel, supplies and information in the area. A surprising number of vacation rentals, many the traditional Kiwi baches of the 50s and 60s can be rented by the week or month for very reasonable prices. Mangakino has developed a reputation as the traditional fishing or family lake vacation destination of choice.
Both brown and rainbow trout are sought by fishermen at Lake Maraetai. The narrow arms of the reservoir offer secluded fishing spots accessible only by boat. These same arms provide quiet waters for canoes and kayaks paddled by bird-watchers and nature lovers. The main body of the lake is favored for water skiing, jet skiing, sailing, windsurfing and power boating. an annual power boat regatta is held here every January. A jetty in Mangakino provides boat launch facilities for visitors. Whakamaru, Maraetai and Ohakuri hydro lakes and dams are nearby, all of which are popular for swimming, boating, fishing and hiking.
The area around Lake Maraetai has other attractions of interest to visitors; there is a golf course nearby and the town sports a small private museum dedicated to the building of the Waikato power system. River canyon tours via classic jet boat are available to tour the remote canyon of the river upstream to the Whakamaru dam. Southwest of the lake, Pureora Forest Park is well-known as one of the finest rain forests in the world. The thousand-year-old podocarp trees of giant totara, rimu, matai, miro and kahikatea, tower high into the canopy, providing cover for the rare kokako, kaka, kakarihi and North Island robin. The park has extensive trail systems for the explorer's pleasure. The Waikato River trails meander along the river system and are favorite spots for hiking and mountain biking.
Craters of the Moon geothermal area is located about 30 miles south of Lake Maraetai, near Taupo. This new geothermal area was created in the 1950s after the use of geothermal power lowered water pressure in the area so that it no longer held back the underground steam. Board walks have been built to give the viewers safe passage through the changing boiling mud pools and steam vents. Another favored sight in the area is the majestic Huka Falls, a short distance downriver from Lake Taupo. Nature loves will enjoy the Waipahihi Botanical Reserve at Taupo.
Vacation rentals at Lake Maraetai thus provide a wide variety of activities for every member of the family. Lodgings secured here can act as home-base to a selection of lakes and a range of activities. If the visitor watches real estate listings, he may be lucky enough to find the perfect traditional bach, farmhouse or cottage for sale. One thing is certain: once you visit Lake Maraetai, you'll want to come back often!
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