Shelters surrounded by native bush over looking the water at Opotaka

An introduction to Opotaka

From the historical Māori kāinga (settlement) of Opotaka near National Park you look directly out across lake Rotoaira to Motuopuhi Island, where Ngati Toa Rangatira (chief) Te Rauparaha took refuge from his pursuers by hiding in an underground kumara pit. The experience of emerging from doubt and darkness into the light of day sparked his composition of the iconic haka ‘Ka Mate’, which is often performed by the All Blacks.

But a sighting of the legendary island is by no means the only attraction of Opotaka, an historic kāinga (settlement) on the shore of beautiful Lake Rotoaira, midway between the southern end of Lake Taupō and Mt Tongariro. A significant site for Ngāti Tuwharetoa and Ngāti Hikairo that was probably occupied from the 1820s onwards, Opotaka still bears traces of storage pits and whare sites, with other archaeological remains below ground. There are interpretative panels on site telling the story of this strategic spot.

Enjoy the history and the stunning lake and mountain views, then drive on into Tongariro National Park, home to some excellent short and full-day walks. Among them, the first section of the celebrated Tongariro Alpine Crossing from Mangatepopo to Soda Springs takes about three hours return and includes tussock and close-up views of Mt Ngauruhoe. Taranaki Falls is an easy walk through tussock country and bush to a beautiful waterfall with wonderful views of Tongariro and Ruapehu, while the 17-kilometre hike from Whakapapa Village to Tama Lakes and back is described as a less arduous near-rival to the Alpine Crossing.