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One of four small crater lakes lying between Lake Tarawera and Lake Rotorua in the Rotorua District of the Bay of Plenty, Lake Okareka has always been known for its natural beauty. Lying only eight miles southeast of the city of Rotorua, the lakeshore has become an upscale bedroom community of Rotorua and favored vacation spot. Lake Okareka and its neighbors, Lake Rotokakahi (Green Lake), Lake Tikitapu (Blue Lake), and Lake Okataina all lie within the Okataina caldera. Less than a mile to its east, famous Lake Tarawera may draw more visitors but Okareka's year-round residents don't mind a bit. They have the best of both worlds; an un-busy lake paradise yet close to the 'big city'. That's not to say they don't welcome visitors - many vacation rentals exist along the southern part of the lakeshore, including very exclusive lodges, spas, bed-and-breakfasts and other types of lodgings to suit every fancy and budget. The 600 villagers of Okareka are perfectly willing to share the lovely vistas and activities found at the lake, as long as everyone respects the clean clear waters and the pristine wetlands.
The crater lakes around Rotorua are unique in that most have few inlet streams and many have no surface outlet streams. It has been found that most of these lakes in close proximity exchange water via subterranean channels. Near Lake Okareka, an underground outlet stream springs from the rocks to form Waitangi waterfall half a mile from the shore. An artificial valve-controlled piping system has been built to help to control lake levels by diverting excess water into Waitangi Stream in rainy weather. This stream empties into Lake Tarawera a short distance away. Most of the shoreline of Lake Okareka is former farmland that has been replanted in native bush to restore the natural flora of the area. A great many walking trails have been developed in the area, many accessible from the loop road around the west side of the lake. Part of the trail system is boardwalk, providing access to those with disabilities.
Trout fishing is what brings anglers to Lake Okareka; as with most lakes in the Rotorua District, there are few native game fish so trout is heavily planted in area waters. Rainbow trout here grow to excellent size feeding on the native smelt. The small sheltered lake is an excellent spot for family fishing. A boat launch facility is located on Acacia Bay for lake access. All water sports are engaged in at Lake Okareka, including swimming, power boating, water skiing, jet skiing, sailing and windsurfing. Those who wish a larger lake usually head for Lake Tarawera only a mile away, leaving Lake Okareka to quiet fishermen, canoes, kayaks and pontoon boats. The heavy bush of the shoreline makes for excellent bird watching from the many walking trails near the lake. East of the lake an area of native forest is held as public land. Mountain biking trails are a popular attraction and there are many in the area.
Many visitors to Lake Okareka want to visit Mount Tarawera just east of Lake Tarawera. A semi-active volcano, Mount Tarawera last erupted in 1886 with the loss of over 150 lives and made many changes to the local landscape. The buried village of Te Wairoa is near Lake Okareka and well worth a visit to see the partially excavated village and interpretive exhibits. The crater left by the eruption can best be viewed by taking a guided tour which can explain the geothermal features and geologic changes caused by the eruption. Many natural features and historic Maori locations exist in the area and are available for visits.
West of Lake Okareka, near the road leading to Rotorua, Whakarewarewa Forest contains a large stand of California redwood trees. Planted in 1901, many of the trees are over 180 feet tall. The area is popular for hiking, mountain biking and picnicking. Other lakes near Lake Okareka, particularly Blue Lake and Green Lake, are popular tourist spots with many walking trails around the area. One popular trail travels from the Blue Lake area nearly to Lake Okareka.
Heading into Rotorua, there are plenty of adventures for the visitor to embark upon. Extreme sports are popular here, including bungee-jumping above the lake and rolling down a mountain strapped securely into a large plastic ball. The Rotorua Museum is the best place to locate local attractions and schedule cruises on Lake Rotorua to the Wildlife Reserve on Mokoia Island. The Reserve, under Maori tribal control has become a breeding ground for rare and exotic birds and is available only via chartered tour by registered guides to protect the island from invasive species and pests. Several geothermal features within Rotorua include the historic mineral baths and spas at the Bath House and the Blue Baths, boiling mud pools, active geysers and steam vent areas are available to delight the visitor.
Real Estate at Lake Okareka is sometimes available. After spending a week or more at one of the vacation rentals, the wise visitor may wish to buy a piece of Lake Okareka for their own. It's a rare visitor who doesn't want to become a permanent part of the Lake Okareka community. Come and see it all for yourself!
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