We stand on top of Mount Maunganui, breathing in the fresh air blowing towards us from the east. A few meters from where we’re sitting for a water break stands an eighty year old man who is about to jump off with his parachute. ‘The wind isn’t good yet’, he tells us. ‘I know when it’s just right, I’ve been doing this since I was young’. The wind doesn’t change and eventually we have to keep going, so we don’t see him jump. But when we reach our car and look back up the old man is gone.
We set off for Tauranga, specifically Mount Maunganui. The hike up to the summit takes about 40 minutes and is rewarded with a stunning view of the Bay of Plenty and the city, but also up north towards the Coromandel area. We didn’t go to the centre of Tauranga, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you came for a nature experience – this place was crowded and full of tourists.
The next stop were the Karate Falls, which are impressive and pretty to look at but not safe to swim in because of microorganisms multiplying in the water. If you have the time you should stop here, but if you don’t then you didn’t miss out on anything major.
The Okere Falls on the other hand are definitely worth your time and were our next stop on the way to Rotorua. You can look at the falls from several different view points, with the closest being just two minutes from the car park. Check out the Hinemoa’s Steps, the Tutea’s Cave and the Trout Pool Falls as well!
After exploring the falls we made our way to the Lake Okareka Campsite, which is located just 15 minutes out of Rotorua directly at the shore. This campground is a real gem, with a stunning view over the lake. Public toilets are available, but no fresh water supply, so make sure you bring enough for the time that you are staying (not only for drinking but also for cooking).